Google is dropping some big Chrome OS news on us at Day 2 of Google I/O, and in order to wrap our heads around all of the news we're putting together a running list of everything Google has to announce.
Android apps and Google Play on Chrome OS
Right at the start of the day, Google announced that Android apps are coming in full force to Chromebooks, Chromeboxes and Chromebases.
The apps will be distributed through Google Play, and will run and install on the Chromebooks just as any other app. Android apps on Chrome OS will run in one of three different layouts — portrait, landscape and fullscreen — and can be interacted with seamlessly using touch, keyboard and mouse. Users will receive notifications, and the apps will have proper network, file and inter-app communication access on the computer.
Chrome OS devices compatible with Google Play
Starting in June, developers will be able to get their apps ready to run on Chrome OS using one of a few Chromebooks — Google's own Chromebook Pixel, the ASUS Chromebook Flip and the Acer Chromebook R11 — running on the Developer channel (M53) of Chrome OS that will arrive soon.
For regular consumers, Google already has a running list of Chrome OS devices that will be compatible with Android apps when the feature launches later this year— there are plenty of popular models on the list already. Android apps can run on Chromebooks using both Intel and ARM processors with no differentiation in functionality.
The Play Store will arrive on these compatible Chromebooks through a regular Chrome OS update.
- Google Play Store will make its way to a Chromebook near you
- These are the Chromebooks that can run Android apps from Google Play
How Android apps are running on Chrome OS
You may remember that Google previously offered Android apps on Chrome OS running in what was "ARC" (Android Runtime for Chrome), which was basically running the app in its own separate silo. With the upcoming release of Chrome OS, Google has made the system completely compatible with Android apps so they run natively on the machine just like a Chrome app would.
In technical terms, the full Android framework is running in a container alongside the Chrome system and on the same level. That means there's no abstraction between Chrome OS and the Android layer, and it enables all Android apps to be installed on Chrome OS with full hardware access. So when an Android app runs on Chrome OS, there's no additional computational overhead.
Google Play is just for Chrome OS, not the Chrome browser
With the announcement of the Play Store coming to Chrome OS, it was a natural question to ask if this functionality could come to the Chrome browser for Windows and Mac OS X. Right now, Google describes this technology for running Android apps on Chrome OS as "an operating system technology right now" and there's nothing to announce in terms of bringing Android apps to the Chrome browser environment.
Chrome Web Store isn't going away
With Google Play coming to Chrome OS it puts consumers in a tough position considering that the Chrome Web Store is already available for downloading Chrome apps and extensions. Speaking with us after the announcement, Google's own Hiroshi Lockheimer said that the Chrome Web Store isn't going away.
The Chrome Web Store is still the place to go for Chrome extensions on Windows and Mac OS X, meaning it wouldn't make sense to deprecate the store at this point. As to the possible user confusion of downloading apps from both the Web Store and Play Store, Lockheimer said that Google doesn't see it as an issue — users will start to go to the Web Store for extensions to augment the browser, and then go to the Play Store for individual apps. In cases where there could be duplicate apps — like the offline Gmail Chrome extension and the Gmail Android app — they're working for a way to differentiate the two apps and surface to the user which is the best to use.
Chrome OS security isn't compromised by Android apps
Chrome OS is universally enjoyed because of its inherent security and quick updates, and Google is adamant that security doesn't take a back seat when you start loading Android apps on Chrome OS. With this implementation, Android apps are kept in their own containers and are sandboxed from the other apps and system in the same way they are on Android devices. Google can still roll out Chrome OS updates and keep everything secure, even with Android apps installed.
Chrome OS will also retain its device management policy features as well, meaning that schools and businesses will be able to manage Chrome OS devices, block installation of certain apps and manage data remotely.
Android Instant Apps should 'just work'
With the buzz over Google's new "Android Instant Apps" initiative that will enable Android devices to pull down specific parts of apps without downloading and installing a full app, it's reasonable to expect the feature will make its way to Chrome OS. Speaking at a Q&A session after the announcement, the Chrome OS team from Google explained that anything designed to work on Android "should just work" on Chrome OS — yes, including Android Instant Apps.
Manufacturers are free to choose between Chrome OS and Android
With the lines blurring between the experience of using Android and using Chrome OS, Google's Hiroshi Lockheimer also said that there isn't any specific screen size or device type where Google will tell a manufacturer whether it should choose Android or Chrome OS as their system of choice.
Chrome OS is still obviously tailored toward larger devices with a keyboard and mouse, while Android works best on smaller touch-only form factors, but if a manufacturer wants to cross the typical lines now that Chrome OS supports Android apps they're free to do so. There will continue to be mainstream Chromebooks out there that have convertible form factors and resemble something more like a tablet, and on the other side of things companies can still choose to make Android-powered laptops if they wish.
Keep checking back in here for the latest on Chrome OS coming out of Google I/O!