Google sets Android apps free to run on Chrome OS

After a slow start beginning last year, Google is now providing tools and store support for Android app developers to port their software to Chrome OS.
Written by Kevin Tofel, Contributor

Google's Chrome OS is about to become a little more interesting: The company is now accepting Android applications that will run as if they were native.

At last year's Google I/O developer event, Google introduced Android apps running on Chrome OS using an early beta of its Android App Runtime for Chrome (ARC). In September, the first four apps made the transition. Google slowly added a handful of Android apps for Chromebooks and Chromeboxes every few months since then but now, it appears ready for wider support.

Flipboard for Android converted for use on Chrome

OMG Chrome reports that although ARC is still in a beta status, Google will accept any Android app ported to Chrome OS in its Chrome Web Store. There are detailed instructions for app developers to use ARC and test their Android app for use on Chrome OS devices. The apps require testing not only because the runtime is still in beta but because Android software could rely on certain hardware components that may not be available in a Chrome OS device; think GPS or other sensors.

While many have dismissed Chrome OS as "just a browser," the software is actually a framework that runs atop Linux. It also has native apps available to it through Google's Native Client technology so that you can run compiled C or C++ code in a browser-based environment. Relatively few app developers have taken advantage of this, however, leaving Chrome OS with far fewer applications than on competing platforms.

The addition of Android apps changes the equation though. I found this out when ARC beta first surfaced, using a tool to convert Skype for Android on my own Chromebook. The software has worked flawlessly for months and adds a very useful feature to my Chrome OS laptop.

Considering there are hundreds of millions of Android apps currently available, Google's App Runtime for Chrome beta has the potential to make Chrome OS devices more desirable, both for consumers and enterprises.

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