Robby Payne of Chrome Unboxed seems convinced that Google will drop Android 7.1 Nougat to Chromebooks, possibly as a build for Chrome OS version 55 that’s coming out next week. Of course, at this point, we don’t know exactly when that might be, but he points to a major indicator that this is actually going to happen sooner rather than later. That clincher appears to be a commit on a code-review (Change 414836) uploaded by Nicolas Boichat. Here’s an excerpt:
“Some build systems for the graphics libraries need to be aware of
which Android version is being built. Currently, we have been
hard-coding version 6.0, but we need to be able to set the version
to 7.1 when building for N.”
Though there’s still no timeline commitment, this certainly shows that something is in the works.
Nougat will be a refreshing addition to Chromebooks, and not least of all for its ability to bring in windowed apps that are resizable, rather than what you see on the latest builds for smartphones – a side-by-side view. Payne and others believe that this will eventually come to tablets based on Android documentation released so far. Current versions allow users to lock the windowed app in either portrait or landscape orientation, with a 50-50 probability of it working on full-screen mode.
On the one hand, Android 7.1 Nougat could be released to Chromebooks once Google Play store support evolves beyond its current beta status. The hope right now is that Play Store won’t be on beta on R11, Flip and Pixel, but that’s still no guarantee that we’ll see Android 7.1 Nougat drop to those models. It could be pushed to Chrome OS 56 that’s coming in January. Either way it’s great news.
On the other hand, there’s a big problem that needs to be fixed first, and that’s the external storage issue for Android apps. Though Android 6.0 on Chromebooks does bring in adoptable storage, there’s still a problem with Android settings not being able to read external devices such as SD cards. With internal memory on Chromebooks typically only being 16GB, there’s not a lot of space for large Android apps.
If this issue can be fixed ahead of the Android 7.1 Nougat rollout to Chromebooks, that would be the ideal scenario.
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