As Google I/O draws near, it looks like big things are in the works for Chrome OS.
Google has been working on getting Android apps on Chrome for a while. We saw the release of the ARC Welder tool in April 2015, helping developers port Android apps to Chrome OS. More recently, a new find by a user at Reddit might mean the entire Google Play Store is headed for your Chromebook.
After mentioning he briefly saw a mention of Allowing Android apps on the developer channel of Chrome in the settings page, another user provided a screen shot of a new dialog all about Google Play. A look into the Chrome source found more than one reference about both the setting and the new dialog, so something is in the works.
Many rumors about Chrome and Android merging have been heard, but Google always has maintained that the two will continue to be separate projects.
So what might be happening? That's the big question.
Right now, the Android Runtime for Chrome includes a rudimentary version of Play Services that allows Cloud Messaging, Google sign-in, a contacts provider and OATH2 support, as long as the developer does a few extra steps to set things up through the Google Developer console. For full access to the Google Play Store, this restriction would have to be lifted. This would mean a full version of Play Services either built into Chrome, or a bigger and better ARC module. Either of these two things could happen, but it would take Google building it and distributing it for it to actually work.
With Google I/O a month away, we expect to learn exactly what this means. We're pretty sure the end users would love to have access to a million or so Android apps on their Chromebook, but what will developers and publishers think? Having an app that lives right beside a web browser on a product with a full keyboard and mouse or trackpad means more thought goes into monetization and delivery, which means more work on one or both platforms. Teams working on social media apps, web portals and shopping apps (as well as any app that can also live as a web page) will have their work cut out for them, that's for sure. It's going to be an interesting ride.