Until now, Google has meticulously been adding to the list of Chromebooks that can run Android apps. That list has been growing for some time now, but as of this year, they may not need to keep updating the list.
A single addition of text to the list page has been made:
“All Chromebooks launching in 2017 and after as well as the Chromebooks listed below will work with Android apps at a time to be announced in the future.”
With a plethora of touchscreen Chromebooks coming out soon, it was widely known that this change would come sooner or later. And what better timing than the start of 2017 for Android apps from Google Play Store to make their appearance on every single Chromebook moving forward?
Of course, there are also the non-touch-screen Chromebooks, and even they will get access to Android apps. Naturally, the experience won’t be the same as using a touchscreen, since most apps are purpose-built for touch interaction. However, the support for apps is definitely going to be there, should you need it.
How to Install Android Apps on your Chromebook
Google has stated that this new change will only come at a later time, but if you currently have a supported Chromebook running Chrome OS v53, you can access Android apps from Google Play Store right now.
- Click the status area, where your account picture appears.
- Click Settings (the gear icon)
- In the “Google Play Store” section, check the box for “Enable Google Play Store on your Chromebook.”
- In the window that appears, click Get Started.
- You’ll be prompted to agree to the Terms of Service. Once you’ve read and agreed, click Agree.
- To confirm your current Google account, click Sign In.
- You’ll see the Google Play Store app open. In the box that appears, click Accept.
And you’re done! But remember, your Chromebook won’t automatically download all the Android apps you have on your Android mobile devices. Also, certain apps don’t work with Chromebooks so you won’t be able to download them.
For developers, Google has provided a set of guidelines on how to optimize their apps for Chromebooks.
Why is Android Apps Availability on Chromebooks a Big Deal?
Although Google basically announced the change via a single line of text, this holds massive implications for not only Chromebooks, but for the Android market in general. Until now, these two market segments have pretty much been segregated because of application incompatibility.
Chromebook apps don’t work like regular desktop apps because they work through the browser. And because there aren’t any traditional “native” apps, as such, the total list of apps exclusively for Chromebooks has been limited to a handful. Some Chromebooks users may disagree, but it’s irrefutable that the Chromebooks environment is extremely limited when compared to apps for, say, Windows PCs or Mac Desktops.
What Android apps availability will now do is to open up that relatively closed ecosystem to a massive pool of apps that Android mobile device users take for granted.
While Google is attempting to bring the Android mobile experience to desktops, Microsoft is feverishly working from the other end of the problem. They’re trying to bring the traditional desktop applications experience to mobile devices.
There’s huge potential for both approaches. If Microsoft succeeds, we’ll be seeing a lot of native desktop apps make their way into the mobile environment; and if Google can bring more Android apps to Chromebooks, that segment will start growing faster as well.
As it stands, it looks like the war for device-agnostic dominance is limited to these two players. Apple isn’t even looking in that direction for now because they’re very clear about keeping iOS completely different from macOS. But for Microsoft and Google, it is imperative to their future revenues (for Windows 10 and compatible devices, as well as Android and Chromebooks) that they completely erase the thick line between mobile and desktop.
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