Google Adds Android Apps Support to Chrome OS
Some time ago, Google decided to give up on Android and focus on Chrome OS as the main operating system for more traditional computing form factors. Since that time, we’ve seen Chrome OS ship on Chromebooks, Chromeboxes, and the like. It seems that the engineers at Google changed their minds and decided to Androidify their second operating system by allowing it to run Android apps.
This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, as Google first mentioned this possibility back at Google I/O in late June. Now, Google has made good on that concept by launching an app called App Runtime for Chrome, which currently is at the beta stage. Google didn’t decide to pack the full Play Store into every Chromebook. Their strategy is to manually bring certain applications into Chrom eOS world through Chrome Web Store.
As for now, the list of applications isn’t too long. Here’s the full set of apps:
Duolingo – a fun and free way to learn a new language before your next trip
Evernote – write, collect and find what matters to you, with a full-size keyboard and touchscreen
Sight Words – a delightful way for you to help improve your child’s reading skills
Vine – create short, beautiful, looping videos in a simple and fun way
The folks at Ars Technica managed to get some details from Google’s spokesperson about the technical side of the project.
The app code is all running on top of the Chrome platform, specifically inside of Native Client. In this way the ARC (Android Runtime for Chrome) apps run in the same environment as other apps you can download from the Chrome Web Store, even though they are written on top of standard Android APIs. The developers do not need to port or modify their code, though they often choose to improve it to work well with the Chromebook form factor (keyboard, touchpad, optional touchscreen, etc).
No porting is required to make these applications work. This gives us the assumption that Google put its efforts to build a virtual machine that runs Android apps and now we are seeing fruits of their hard work. It leads us to another question, though: Is Google planning to dump Chrome OS and replace it with Android–or perhaps merge the two into a single platform? For now, only time will tell.