Currently, Chromebooks run apps off the Chrome Web Store, as well as select Android apps in an experimental runtime. But according to details in the latest developer build of Chrome OS, compatibility for Android’s millions of apps could be coming.
Users have spotted a glitchy check-box that appears momentarily when settings first load up. If ticked, it promises to “Enable Android apps to run on your Chromebook”. Thanks to the open-source nature of Chrome OS, it’s possible to see numerous references to compatibility with “over a million apps and games”.
It’s a move that makes total sense: opening up Chrome OS to the Play Store adds a ton of functionality to Chrome OS, and also gives a new market to Android developers.
It’s not a perfect solution to the problems of Chromebooks, though. Most Chromebooks use a touchpad and keyboard, whereas Android apps tend to be built for touch input. Anyone who’s tried to use Microsoft Office on a touchscreen PC can vouch for how badly those two experiences mesh. This also won’t make Android’s device fragmentation problem any better. (Too many devices makes developers’ lives difficult.)
Problems aside, Android apps coming to Chrome OS would be a big step towards maturity for an OS that’s really searching for an identity. There’s no word on when we can expect the feature to roll out to all users, but Google’s developer conference is just around the corner, and this would make for one hell of a One More Thing.