Are Android apps for Chromebooks on the way?

Are Android apps for Chromebooks on the way?

Summary: The appearance of an Android robot covered in Chrome at the Google campus teases a synergy between the two products.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Android, Apps
44

The Google campus has Android mascots all over the lawn. Google has whimsically pushed the Android platform with these robots of all different colors. An eagle-eyed Google employee with a camera spotted a new robot across the lawn from the collection that gives food for thought.

image
(Credit: Paul Wilcox on Google+)

The newly spotted Android is covered in Chrome, leading to speculation that perhaps Google is teasing us with an upcoming synergy between Chrome and Android. While some are wondering if this means we may see Android apps running in the Chrome browser, which would be pretty cool, I'm thinking that a merge between the Chrome OS and Android makes more sense.

As a happy Chromebook user I can easily imagine the utility that would be added with the ability to run Android apps. There are thousands of great Android apps that could be leveraged nicely on the Chromebook.

This would not only add functionality to the Chromebook, it would also make offline use of it incredible. Chrome OS would go from a decent selection of offline-enabled Chrome web apps to a vast array of Android apps that don't need to be online.

The ability to run Android apps on Chromebooks would instantly make the devices perfect for bring your own device (BYOD) in corporations. There are great Android business apps in the market that would turn Chromebooks into great business laptops.

This is all speculation but Google is sly with its Android robots on campus. Maybe it is openly teasing us. I sure hope so.

Related stories:

Topics: Android, Apps

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

44 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Awesome

    I'm really happy with my Chromebook the ways it is, but still reach for my Surface RT and/or iPad several times a week. I've never been a fan of Android tablets (just the phones, I have a DNA), so having Android apps on a Chromebook would give me a tablet sized screen, but not in Android tablet form.
    NickA55
    • Touch?

      I assume Chrome would need to go Touch if Android were to be somehow ported in.

      That said, if this is any kind of hint, I would imagine it is more that ChromeOS-like-stuff is coming to Android (rather than the other way around). Adding Android apps to Chrome would completely defeat the point of Chrome. But making a major push for Web Apps to come to Android makes plenty of sense.
      x I'm tc
      • It's not a matter of IF, but WHEN...

        You're right. Chrome would need to go touch. And Chrome has been going touch. They've been experimenting with a touch interface for Chrome for a fairly long time now. Also, since Chrome (the browser) is available for iOS and Android and shares the same codebase with ChromeOS and Chrome (the browser) for desktops, they've already got plenty of touch functionality figured out. It would be the potential of a new wave of devices from hardware manufacturers, so I'm sure they'll love it.

        I'm not sure how adding Android apps to Chrome would completely defeat the point of Chrome. Chrome is a Trojan Horse. It starts out as a web browser, becomes a web-based OS, and will eventually be a full blown operating system, running native applications. Native application functionality is already baked in and thoroughly tested via Native Client. All they would need to do now is bake Android as-is (in some sort of quick loading way), or they could possibly build a version of Android that works via Native Client. That would be interesting.
        BIGELLOW
        • Probably full Chrome web app compatible browser on Android.

          ChromeOS's big advantage is that everything is in the cloud - your data, your settings, your apps - your entire computing presence is in the ether. This has tremendous advantages. First, being an ethereal operating system with data redundantly backed up every few seconds to several different geographical locales (at least the stuff on Google's servers), it transcends physical damage or loss. You can be typing something on your laptop, and have it snatched, run over by a steam roller or even be subjected to a tactical nuclear strike, and the most work you will ever lose is about 3 seconds worth. You can then buy another Chromebook, or go to a Windows PC, Macbook, or Android device or iPad, or a netcafe and all your data, apps, and settings and state are all there - and you simply carry on where you left off as if nothing happened. No other OS has this capability. This ability also gives you hyper portability - with a Windows or Mac laptop, everything is locked up on a particular device - you have to carry a heavy, hot, noisy and clunky laptop with all your data and your apps everywhere with you. Android and iOS smartphones and tablets give you a step up in mobility in that you need to carry a cooler, lighter, silent device with you, but you still need to carry it with you wherever you go.

          The ethereal nature of Chromebooks means you don't need to carry a device with you wherever you go - even all your apps are available everywhere. You can use use your home Macbook, your Work PC, your Chromebook, your Android tablet, a netcafe etc. to access your data, run all your apps, and with the same settings and preferences as your Chromebook, and it does transparently without any effort.

          Another advantage of Chromebooks' ethereal nature is that the client devices are stateless, which means Chromebooks are zero maintenance (and also zero touch for system admins). This gives Chromebooks a huge advantage in TCO, productivity, and ease of use compared to high maintenance operating systems like Windows PCs, especially in the home, education and business environments. While Android and iOS devices have a much lower maintenance overhead than Windows, they are still heavier on maintenance - especially for education and business where central management of the devices is required.

          If Android was just shoved into ChromeOS and you introduce locally installed apps and data, then you lose all those unique advantages. Besides, you can get the same functionality simply by including a fully functional Chrome browser in Android. That is why Google has been slow to merge the two operating systems.

          If Android apps are to run on ChromeOS, without losing the advantages of ChromeOS, then the data, apps and settings must be stored in the cloud if a kind of virtual Cloud Android system, living in the cloud, although the apps and data may be cached locally. The fact that Android may run in a Chrome browser in a netcafe means care needs to be taken over what data may be permitted to be stored on the local device, and secure multi-user support for Android is also required - and this has only just arrived. It is probably a while off before all this comes together.
          Mah
      • Touch = Mouse

        Touch implementations are basically accomplished with a glorified mouse API. The touch overlays to the screen and the user calibrates the coordinates so the overlay and screen match up correctly. There are only a couple of gestures that require multiple touch, and could be emulated for devices without a touch overlay and a single click mouse.

        So it wouldn't be "required" per-say. It might be more comfortable. But adding a touch screen to some "professional" model of Chromebook would just be adding another input device.

        I imagine touch support will eventually be coming to ChromeBook anyway. It's probably not in them now to keep the price down, but the browser running the show under the covers already supports touch.
        PolymorphicNinja
    • You could accomplish the same thing...

      ...by buying one of the Asus Transformer Pad tablets and the keyboard dock.

      Personally I'd strongly prefer if Android OS and Chrome OS were kept separate, but that's just my preference.
      CHIP72
      • There is a lot of overlap...

        And for some reason, many users are brainwashed into thinking touch interfaces and keyboard/mice can't co-exist (even though they have for years, even before Windows 8). The real issue at the moment is the x86 version of Android isn't maintained by Google. But once they take that on, or Tegra processors become more of a standard in Chromebooks, we'll see a rapid merge of the two OS's

        The newer versions of Android ship with the chrome browser within it. So they are already on the road to convergence. From an internal management point of view, it doesn't make sense for them to have separate OS's with the same goal that could interchangeably run on the all the hardware they are attempting to target.
        PolymorphicNinja
  • big secret?

    This is not like Apple where the wraps are taken off for a grand reveal of a new gimmick. Go look at the Chromium code yourself. There has been touch development for months now.
    slackdragon
  • security

    For convenience this would really add a lot to chrome OS. The problem is if you can install apps doesn't this hurt security?
    Jeff Krogue
    • It will follow the same model as Android..

      Or in other words, you will be shown the list of privileges the application needs to operate. You opt in by allowing it to install. Chrome actually asks things like this already as well if a site wants to see your GPS coordinate, or remember a password, access your web cam, or run java in the browser.

      Apps on their own aren't any more of a security threat than a server-side web browser app. Every time you transmit sensitive data over the wire, there's a window of opportunity for security threat. And just because the application runs on the server you can't see, doesn't mean it's necessarily doing what it says it's doing.

      The secret to security is the same. Be diligent about what you share. And only share it with applications you trust.
      PolymorphicNinja
      • They are a trojan risk.

        If you can install apps which can run locally and get access to your device's local resources, then you can mistakenly install trojans and malware. This means there is a higher security risk on Android than ChromeOS.
        Mah
  • I don't like the idea of emergeance

    systems i have used with this idea
    Unity=crap
    Gnom3 shell=crap
    Nautilus = crap
    metro=crap
    chrome+android=most probably crap
    L3thargic
    • emergeance=merging

      sorry not a native speaker & no editor
      L3thargic
    • I too don't like this idea

      BlueStacks on Windows to run Android apps - Crap idea.
      Ram U
  • Read this earlier...

    Read this on engadget and I think this would be awesome.

    BYOD is a pipe dream but, you guys keep smoking it so, whatever.

    Chrome needs an IDE to make this convergence successful so, watch for that because the ideal would be a complete Desktop, Tablet, and Phone OS solution.
    slickjim
    • I think that is inevitable

      The question is when, in what from and from whom. That is probably the holy grail of personal computing, and will include other devices such as TVs.

      The winner will be dominant for a long time.
      D.T.Long
  • James, you fanboism is getting worse

    "The ability to run Android apps on Chrome books would instantly make the devices perfect for BYOD in corporations. There are great Android business apps in the market which would turn Chrome books into great business laptops. "

    - What an ignorant and silly statement

    CHrome and android apps are so far crap, and simply not suited for business.

    CRAP + CRAP = 2* CRAP
    Owlll1net
    • You missed one

      Owlll1net posts = more CRAP
      D.T.Long
  • Are Android apps for Chromebooks on the way?

    Great, now you can get force closes on your chromebook that's not supposed to run apps anyway. Nail, coffin. You figure it out.
    Loverock-Davidson
    • Yep

      Just like windows still bluescreens every time you click the mouse.

      Oh wait, that doesn't happen either any more.
      Little Old Man