Google has released an update for its Chrome OS that enables select Chromebooks to run apps designed for Google Android and access Google Play Store. Right now, only two mobile PCs, one from Acer and another from ASUS, are compatible with the new build, but the fact of the release confirms Google’s intentions to enable Android software on its OS for PCs.

Google has been trying to bring programs developed for Android to its Chrome OS platform for over two years now. At first, it tried to encourage developers to port certain apps to Chrome OS, but that only worked out for a limited number of programs. At its I/O conference this year, Google announced plans to alter Chrome OS to enable all Android apps from the Play Store to work in sandbox environments. Then, the company made its Play Store available to select Chromebook models running dev or beta channel builds. Finally, starting from this month, the Play Store is heading to stable Chrome OS builds.

Last week Google released Stable channel 53.0.2785.129 (Platform version: 8530.90.0) for the Acer Chromebook R11 (C738T) as well as the ASUS Chromebook Flip. The update contains numerous bug fixes, security updates, feature improvements as well as the Google Play Store (beta). Those, who have already received the new stable channel version, will need to enable the PlayStore in the Chrome settings.

It is not completely clear which kernel and security features are required to run Android apps in sandboxes, but at present the update is only available for the aforementioned two laptops and not even for Google’s own 2016 Chromebook Pixel. It remains unknown when and whether Google intends to enable the Play Store on other Chromebook devices. Meanwhile, one of the reasons why Google chose the Acer Chromebook R11 (C738T) and the ASUS Chromebook Flip as the first Google Play Store-compatible laptops could be their flip form-factor. It will be easier for consumers to use Android apps for tablets on a device, which can transform into a tablet.

Update 9/24/2016: In fact, Google plans to enable Android apps on multiple Chrome OS-based PCs in 2016 and 2017. The list is located here.

Android applications will make Google’s Chrome OS a bit more attractive to those who are looking for an alternative to web apps. Since there are hundreds of millions of active Android users, compatibility of Chrome OS with those applications could be good for Google's PC platform. However, keep in mind that many Chromebooks are built to rely on cloud-based services rather than on locally stored programs, which is why they only feature a limited amount of NAND flash-based storage. Therefore, to a certain degree, Android apps on Chrome OS will alter the concept of this platform and will require makers of hardware to take that into account when they design their next-gen Chromebooks.

Sources: Google, AndroidAuthority, Android Police.

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  • LVKen7 - Sunday, September 25, 2016 - link

    What will it be Chrome OS or Android OS
    does anybody know?
  • jabber - Saturday, September 24, 2016 - link

    This is taking soooo long.
  • lilmoe - Sunday, September 25, 2016 - link

    It took Microsoft ~6 years to build a "merged" OS. Lets see how long it takes Google.
  • Murloc - Sunday, September 25, 2016 - link

    and it's not really merged either, they have UWP but the OSes are different from each other. Only the apps are in common.
  • JudasGoat - Saturday, September 24, 2016 - link

    Will be interesting to compare the 2 Chromebooks selected for the google play update. Will Intel thrive in Android apps, or will the Rockchip's ARM support in Android be too much to overcome?
  • SquarePeg - Saturday, September 24, 2016 - link

    According to Android Police this is a precursor move to a more complete merger of Chrome OS and Android. This new merged OS is to be called Andromeda and will be revealed/discussed on Oct 4 at the scheduled Google event. I was just reading the story about it before coming over here to Anandtech to see what your write up contained.
  • Meteor2 - Sunday, September 25, 2016 - link

    That's interesting. My impression was that Google is moving away from packaged/downloadable apps to web apps in the browser for everything:

    Looks Google is pursuing both approaches to wait and see what sticks. Either way, *Chrome* apps have had it.
  • SquarePeg - Sunday, September 25, 2016 - link

    Thanks for the link, it was an interesting read. What I got out of it was that Chrome apps both packaged and hosted are being fazed out for the Chrome browser but not for Chrome OS. It appears Google is pushing web developers to make their current Chrome "apps" more browser agnostic by building the apps functionality into the developers web platform. I don't believe this has a lot to do with Chrome OS though as they specifically state that Chrome OS apps will be supported and maintained for the foreseeable future. Google certainly has something up their sleeve. The possible merger of Chrome OS and Android makes sense when you add in all the information that was released last month about Project Fuchsia.

    It certainly would be a welcome change for Android to take on some of Chrome OS's traits like automatic updates directly from Google. On the Chrome OS side of things being able to run native apps is the big game changer that has been needed since Chrome OS was first released. Chromebooks are the fastest growing segment of the PC market and one of the few bright spots left in an otherwise declining market. Chromebooks sails recently overtook Mac OS computer sails and it seems to me that Google is going to try to make a push for a considerable chunk of Windows sales too. It'll won't replace my Windows gaming desktop anytime soon but for everything else, yes it could.
  • shabby - Sunday, September 25, 2016 - link

    Shirley not on mobile.
  • LVKen7 - Sunday, September 25, 2016 - link

    I seldom understand what Google does - where is a good place to go to UNDERSTAND THEM BETTER? Do you know? Thanks

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