Here's why 2017 was a great year for Chromebooks

It's the time of year to look back and reflect on all that's happened in the past 12 months. You'll see that sort of thing here and most everywhere for the next week or so, which is great because there was a lot to talk about. It's great to hear what people think about the products we love (or want to love) so we don't get mired down by our own thoughts alone.

For me, Chrome has been the big thing from Google this year. The new Pixel 2 and its camera are great, updates for Google Photos are awesome, and Oreo is polishing Android very nicely. But Chrome has all that and more, and most of what's really great about using it on a Chromebook happened in 2017.

Oreo has some great stuff for Chromebooks, too!

I'm talking about the way Android has been folded into the OS, of course. We've seen and heard about Android apps and Google Play on Chromebooks for a while now, but things kind of stalled at the end of 2016 and early this year. I'm a big fan of Chromebooks, and even I was getting to the point where the lack of, well, anything on the Android for Chrome front had me worried that the project was just dead like another Google Reader. The Chromebooks that incorporated it worked well enough but getting it on models slated for Google Play support had slowed to a crawl and it looked like not much was being done to make things any better.

More: These are the Chromebooks that can run Android apps

Google and its partners jumped in and sent a slew of Chromebooks to the table where Android apps were served in the middle of the year and we saw Oreo. Oreo has some great things when it comes to Chromebooks running Android apps, mainly the new split window views and support for extra-large displays and remote displays. These changes might not have much of an impact on our phones, but they are just what the doctor ordered when it comes to Chromebooks. Here's hoping we see it for Chrome soon.

Now developers need to get on board, and I'm hoping that happens. Google can jump start it all during 2018's I/O conference and get 5,000 or so devs excited like we saw when the first Chromebook Pixel was released. Android apps run well on Chromebook's engine but the presentation can be pretty bad. Apps were designed for a small screen and the same problems we saw (and still see) for tablets are present on Chromebooks — tiny apps on a big screen, stretched out apps with loads of empty space and a general mess when it comes to the user interface.

It's now easier than ever to support a big screen in an Android app, and tricks, like defining the size of the window and what display to show it on at launch, can be pretty awesome if done right I think. Not to mention a decent and dependable side-by-side view for apps on a 13-inch display. This is something Microsoft figured out years ago, Apple has done it wonderfully, and Chromebooks were a mess. It all needs to change and tools to present an app in a way that looks good and makes it easier to use were long overdue.

Those tools are here now, at least the beginnings of them. I expect we'll see more treats for developers in 2018 from Google, and a lot of them will be for Android apps on Chromebooks. The Pixelbook was clearly made to be a tablet and not have a tablet mode as an afterthought, so Google wants this.

I want it, too. Here's hoping it happens!

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • I bought the Asus Chromebook Flip about eight months ago, and I haven't flipped into tablet mode since about a month that I had it
  • I also found that, if I install too many apps, my Chromebook tends so spontaneously die, even with >90% battery life. I power washed it and installed the Google app and Gmail app only, and it seems to make a huge difference.
  • I have a C201, we were promised Google Play at the end of 2016--nope, here 2017 is about to end and still nothing. I love Android always have since Cupcake I will stick Android on the smartphone front, but I need a new computer soon and I am sticking with Win10 on this front. I am not losing more money on Chromebooks at this stage of the game.
  • I'm with you. I have the c201 also. I feel like we've been ripped off. There's no good reason why we don't have it yet.
  • Stop promoting Google products at Android Central. Alternatively, add "Sponsored by Google" to posts like this one.
  • Stop **** posting. Alternatively leave.
  • +100000000
  • +100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 😁 😎 If you don't like google...don't use it, and don't comment here!
  • Great article - couldn't agree more; just as my fatigue level with phones was rising and Android was beginning to loose some shine, along comes the new batch of chromebooks w/ seemless Android app integration! Super happy w/ my chromebook plus :-)
  • There needs to be some progress on the SD card permissions with apps on chromebooks. File explorer apps, media player apps, photo developing apps, none of them can access the extra memory from a micro SD card... so essentially, the SD card is really just a storage place to offload things when not in use. Really a pain when the functionality exists in Android's phone counterparts.
  • I want a chromebook, i am going to hold out for the new batch landing in the new year. There is only 2 highend ones available in the uk pixelbook a bit to expensive and the asus flip which i am expecting a new version being released in the next few weeks.
  • Jerry, I'd appreciate an article about why a Chromebook over Windows 10. I looked into Chromebooks a couple weeks ago, but they just didn't seem to have the features I want. My needs aren't high, I want full Microsoft office and full browsing. I know I can shoehorn office in, but I heard there is no support for Java, which I need for work.
  • The Chromebooks that uses Android apps, Microsoft Office is free and can be used through Google Play Store. Just like regular tablets and phones.
  • If you buy an Intel based processor Chromebook, you will be able to dual boot Ubuntu Linux (or Khali or Debian) using crouton. Then you will be able to use Java and LibreOffice. If you really need full MS Office, you can always use PlayOnLinux/Wine to do so.
  • I have the Samsung Chromebook Plus for work. I'm a Financial Advisor and Insurance Agent. It fits my needs perfectly. For all the personal stuff or when I need to work from home I still use my trusted 2014 Acer (bought at Costco) Windows laptop. Thanks to Chromebook I realized that I could uninstall most of the software in my laptop, therefore freeing much needed memory and better using RAM, while using online tools. Thanks to Google my Windows experience has also improved!