It’s really happening. Android apps are coming to Chrome OS. And it’s not just a small subset of apps; the entire Google Play Store is coming to Chrome OS. More than 1.5 million apps will come to a platform that before today was “just a browser,” and Android and Chrome OS take yet another step closer together.
In advance of the show, we were able to sit down with members of the Chrome OS team and get a better idea of exactly what Chrome OS users are in for. The goal is an “It just works” solution, with zero effort from developers required to get their Android app up and running. Notifications and in-line replies should all work. Android apps live in native Chrome OS windows, making them look like part of the OS. Chrome OS has picked up some Android tricks too – sharing and intent systems should work fine, even from one type of app or website to another. Google is aiming for a unified, seamless user experience.
Interestingly enough, this project is actually not ARC, the technology Google used before to bring Android applications to Chrome. ARC wasn’t good enough for Google, as it still required developers to make changes to their code. In fact – and this is kind of funny – ARC didn’t even pass Google’s own Compatibility Test Suite Android variants have to comply with. So, they started from scratch, and used containers instead.
The new model dumps the native-client based implementation for an unmodified copy of the Android Framework running in a container. Containers usually bundle an app up with all of its dependencies, like the runtime, libraries, binaries, and anything else the app needs to run. This allows the difference between application environments to be abstracted away. In this case, Google is putting the entire Android Framework into a container, all the way down to the Hardware Abstraction Layer.
I’m hoping Google will eventually bringing Android applications to all variants of Chrome, including the one on Windows.