It seems like Google is finally all set to blur the lines of distinction between Chrome OS and Android. Big G may soon make Google Play accessible to Chromebooks, which will bring millions of apps available in the store to Chrome OS.
Since last few days Chromebooks running Chrome OS v51 are seeing a new option in their Settings that says “Enable Android apps to run on your Chromebook.” When checkbox for the option is ticked, it pops up a new window on screen saying “Google Play store now on your Chromebook.” The popup goes further saying that you can install millions of apps and games available in Play Store on your Chromebook. Although it only includes a tutorial for now and disappears automatically, the changes done to source code of Chrome OS show clearly that installing Android apps on this awesome laptop may soon become much simpler.
For now Chrome OS v51 is in Developer Beta mode. However, since now it’s becoming visible to developers, there’s a good chance that we may hear more info about it at this years I/O conference. The first time Google talked about making Android apps more accessible to Chromebooks was in 2014. It started doing that by porting popular Android apps like Evernote, Duolingo and Vine to Chromebooks. In the beginning these apps were available as limited beta versions, but later we saw a wider rollout in 2015 when Google launched App Runtime for Chrome (ARC).
Now availability of an “ARC_OPT_IN” message in the source code of Chrome OS suggests that Google may be expanding the same ARC functionality in a much broader way to bring entire Play Store to Chrome OS. Support for Google Play Services was already added to ARC around an year ago. Therefore, it makes sense to further expand it as a gateway to run Android apps on Chromebooks.
This move has come at a time when Microsoft is also busy in merging its Desktop and mobile operating systems. Last month Sebastien Gabriel, who’s a Senior Designer at Google, had also said that Chrome OS will soon get a UI similar to Material Design of Android. He had gone further saying that the team is engineering a complete overhaul of Chrome OS and more than 1200 PNG assets have been removed, which will be rendered programmatically in the new design.