Android apps are finally coming to Chrome OS

On Wednesday, Google held its annual I/O keynote. There, the company announced various products, including: an Amazon Echo competitor (“Google Home”); some new messaging apps; the next version of Android, “Android N” (no name yet); and VR products.

Thursday’s news might be of equal interest to the above, however. Google announced that its long-developed plans to integrate Android into Chrome OS are finally going forward. The entirety of Android’s apps in Google Play will be available on Chromebooks released within the last few years. An initial set of models will get Android access in June, followed by the other models later this year.

Part of the delay in not implementing this sooner was from Google scrapping its initial plans on how to integrate Android apps. The new method basically puts Android apps on equal status (by running within what’s called a container, not some separate virtual environment) to the rest of Chrome OS.

My Toshiba Chromebook will be compatible with the new Android app availability, though my three-year-old Acer C720 (currently in storage) won’t be eligible.

This integration of Android with Chrome OS has been long anticipated, and so far, this news has near-universal praise from what I’ve seen. For awhile, people (particularly mobile gamers and power users) have been clamoring for Android app access in Chrome OS. This is in spite of Chromebooks doing pretty well without Android access so far. Still, access to the entirety of Google Play’s apps makes Chromebooks much more attractive as a platform. It’s also nice to have a wider range of options.

It also will plug in a few missing holes in Chrome OS. The biggest ones include access to the fully functional Android version of Skype. Users will also get access to the Android version of Microsoft Office (if Google Docs and/or Office Online aren’t good enough), as well as games like Minecraft.

My only concerns are whether developers will bother to update their apps to work better with a keyboard and mouse, as well as Android’s security track record. Security’s been a concern with Android, though Google says apps will be sandboxed from the start; Chrome OS updates will also include updates in support for Android, as well. Apps would also have the advantage of Chrome OS’ own security aspects. All of this should put things well above the average Android smartphone maker’s lackluster security concerns.

If you’re a Chromebook user, are there any Android apps you look forward to using?

Flickr photo by Laurie Sullivan (CC BY)

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