After Sundar Pichai announced at Google I/O in 2014 that Android Apps would start arriving on Chrome OS, the expected influx never arrived. Interim measures such as the release of the release of the ARC welder tool, which helped make an Android APK usable on Chrome OS produced more apps than their official program, but it looks like Google is set to take the bull by the horns and simply make Google Play and seemingly their over a million strong app catalogue, available for Chrome OS.
Over on reddit, user TheWiseYoda has noticed something new on his Samsung Chromebook, which is running Chrome OS version 51.0.2699.0 on the Dev Channel, which allowed him to see the ‘Enable Android Apps to run on your Chromebook’.
Other users on the same thread, such as InauspiciousPagan were able to tick the option and trigger a splash screen showing what appears to be a tutorial that introduces the new feature. Don’t get too excited though, the setting apparently disappears after a second, and the tutorial doesn’t actually run.
Over on the Google Source site, there’s actually entries for this which directly reference switching on the checkbox in settings, as well as launching the tutorial.
The setting doesn’t appear for everyone – after finally updating my Pixel it still isn’t there – but it may have been switched off at Google’s end after the report surfaced on reddit.
The release of Android apps on Chrome OS was a slow process with apps appearing sparingly at first which led to the release of the ARC Welder. The ARC Welder works well for the most part, but some apps fail when calling on some Google Play Services not available within Chrome OS. The inclusion of these missing services would go a long way to making Chrome OS infinitely more usable and answer a number of critics who argue that Chrome OS isn’t a ‘real’ OS due to a lack of apps – delivering an estimated 2 million apps to Chrome OS users.
Here in Australia Chromebooks are used quite heavily in schools, but at retail they have all but disappeared, though a number of JB Hifi stores still advertise you can order the latest models – they just don’t stock them. With a massive catalogue of workable apps, we could certainly see a more widespread adoption.
With Google I/O less than a month away, this is something that could be a major milestone in the development of Chrome OS – we’re definitely keen for this one.