The Google Play Store…Coming to a Chromebook Near You
The idea of “Android for the Desktop” is not new to readers at the Dark Android Project. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a while, with Remix OS and others being the closest to bring it to full fruition. And over the past few months there had been some rumblings about a new Chrome OS/Android hybrid OS called “Google OS” (all of which I documented and theorized about here). And with Google I/O 2016 on the horizon in the next month and big announcements expected (as usual), looks like there may be glimpses of a Chrome OS/Android joined future…because it looks like the Google Play Store is coming to the desktop operating system that is Chrome OS.
Not that Android apps on Chrome OS are a new thing. Back in 2014, Google brought a few Android apps to Chrome OS – at first it was a trickle, and then more and more came, until an astounding 29 apps were available. Google then released ARC Welder, a tool that allowed developers to port their apps without Google’s involvement. But Android apps on Chrome OS have always felt like they didn’t really belong on Chrome. But this might change very soon.
Apparently in Chrome OS v51–only available on the Dev Channel for Chrome OS–there are mentions of the Play Store coming into the OS. This would definitely fall in line with the aforementioned Google OS, which apparently was/is an effort to make Android more desktop friendly. Well, bringing the Play Store to Chrome OS is certainly a way of doing that. This is also interesting in light of the fact that the oddball (Microsoft Surface-copycat) tablet from Google, the Pixel C, was clearly–but its own underpinning code–clearly supposed to be a Chrome OS device originally, and not an Android tablet.
Bottom line, the possibility and potential for the Play Store to come to Chrome OS is exceptionally high, and will likely get announced at Google I/O 2016. This is definitely going to be a big boon for Chrome OS and going towards it becoming a much more serious desktop replacement. The gaming options alone are intriguing, as many high-profile PC games are released for Android now.
I remember a couple of years ago that tech journalist extraordinaire (and past Sovryn Tech guest) Mike Elgan theorized that Google may eventually dump Android and have Chrome OS be their main operating system. This recent Play Store notation in the code for Chrome OS v51 may lend a lot of credence to that possibility again. Maintaining the (significantly lessened already) open nature of Android is a thorn in the side to Alphabet/Google, I imagine, so shifting everything to Chrome OS would certainly give them greater control, and would keep other tech giants like Amazon and (potentially) Facebook from injecting their own app stores onto Google/Android devices. It’s a problem that Google has yet to really deal with. The problem that, as popular as Google has helped Android become, Google has also created the infrastructure for other tech companies to easily lure customers away from Google’s services by allowing for apps/stores to be installed outside of the Google Play Store on all those millions and millions of Android devices in the wild.
If Google were no longer using the Android operating system and switched over to a newly Android app-compatible system like Chrome OS–with the Play Store and all (the real value of Android is those apps, not the OS itself) would solve the problem of companies like Amazon’s encroachment on Google’s customer base.
So while there’s a part of me that loves this new development of Android apps being available outside of mobile devices…this could mean that Android-as-we-know-it could potentially fall out of use, or become the OS of hobbyists, or get taken over entirely by Samsung (and Amazon, etc.), or–in the best case scenario–become the operating system (with serious modifications) used by companies like Blackphone or CopperheadOS that appeal to the “crypto economy”, which them and others are already doing with Android. Things are getting real interesting, either way.