Google I/O 2016: Every Android app – really – is coming to Chrome

Google’s bringing its entire Android mobile app library to Chromebooks

Google’s bringing its entire Android mobile app library to Chromebooks – the company announced today at its annual I/O developer conference, thanks to an innovative system of containerization.

Every Android app on Google Play will run on Chrome OS devices – as long as their hardware is compatible. (For example, an app requiring a cellular modem might not work on most Chromebooks.) A list of compatible devices will be maintained here. The feature will be rolled out to the developer channel within the next couple of weeks, and will be in the hands of users “later this year.”

The container is fully integrated with Chrome OS’s system services – like graphics, I/O and so on – giving Android apps access to the full capabilities of the Chromebook.

“We’ve basically built an Android hardware abstraction layer and we’ve put the Android framework on top of it,” said Kan Liu, Chrome OS project management director.

This means that the containerized Android apps ought to run at full speed – there’s little overhead required in terms of system resources, according to the Chrome OS team.

Characteristically, the capability seems well-integrated into Chrome OS’s existing services, with Android apps able to interact with each other and with Chrome OS native apps, as Liu demonstrated the system by editing a photo in an Android app, integrating it into a document in another, and sending it on via Gmail in Chrome OS.

Nor is this new capability simply a way to play Clash of Clans on a laptop – it’s a boon for enterprises running their own centralized instances of the Play Store, argued director of project management for Android and Chrome for Business Rajen Sheth. He said that the company has worked hard to make Chromebooks attractive to the enterprise over the past couple of years.

“The one big thing that was still missing was app compatibility,” he said. “This is where we think having Android apps on the Chromebook will be transformational. Now businesses can use all the apps that they typically use, things like Quickbooks or Office.”

Gartner analyst Mark Hung agreed that this is a significant new advantage for Google, and said that it broadens the company’s enterprise horizons, including for new verticals like retail.

“It opens up the whole gamut,” he told Network World.

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Jon Gold

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