Android, ChromeOS, and the way forward for app discovery

Android and ChromeOS. ChromeOS and Android. Has there ever been a extra enigmatic and question-creating couple within the mobile-tech universe?

From the get-go, Google’s two number one platforms had been the topic of never-ending scorn and hypothesis. People who do not in fact use a Chromebook and have not skilled ChromeOS since its earliest days have lengthy been satisfied that the platform serves no sensible objective and is destined for demise. For ages, the preferred narrative revolved across the perception that Google was once gonna by some means “merge” the 2 right into a unmarried consolidated entity.

The true tale, after all, grew to become out to be a lot more nuanced. For years now, Google’s been slowly however indisputably bringing its two platforms in combination and aligning them to make ’em extra related, constant, and suitable. The objective, it sort of feels, is much less of a binary, one-or-the-other kind of choice and extra of a best-of-both-worlds, dual-pronged trail.

And now, it sounds as if that street is set to take a noteworthy new flip — one that might significantly shake up a core a part of the person enjoy on each side of the Android-ChromeOS equation.

All of it comes all the way down to apps and the way we find ’em. And if some fresh indicators on Android and ChromeOS alike are any indication, issues are about to get fascinating.

The ChromeOS app problem

Our tale begins at the ChromeOS facet of the mobile-tech divide. Within the land o’ Chromebooks, for any individual paying consideration, the query has shifted through the years from a snide “What are you able to even do on the ones issues?” to a much more intriguing “What can not you do on ’em?”

To wit: Chromebooks lately be offering a full-fledged desktop-caliber internet surfing atmosphere. They will let you set up modern internet apps, Android apps, Linux apps, or even Home windows apps, when you in point of fact need to get wild. You’ll use ’em as laptops, drugs, or anything else in between. ChromeOS can have began out being about sheer simplicity as a defining characteristic, however it is very a lot accomplished a 180 and remodeled itself into the “the entirety” platform.

In follow, that is confirmed to be either a blessing and a curse. Chromebooks lately are extremely succesful, as any individual who in fact makes use of ’em can let you know, and so they be offering a lot of horny benefits over extra conventional desktop setups. However on the identical time, all the ones chances have made it nearly inconceivable to grasp the place to start and what form of app to hunt out for what objective.

For one instance, when you sought after to make use of the duty control app Todoist on a Chromebook, you’ll want to:

  1. Open the Todoist website online (or create a shortcut to that website online for your desktop)
  2. Set up the Todoist modern internet app from the Todoist website online
  3. Set up the Todoist Android app from the Google Play Retailer
  4. Set up the Todoist Chrome extension from the Chrome Internet Retailer
  5. Set up the Todoist Linux app from the Linux Snap Retailer
  6. Set up the Todoist Home windows app from the Todoist website online (equipped you have got a company-connected Chromebook with Home windows get admission to to be had)

Head spinning but? Mine certain is. It is a ridiculous labyrinth for normal customers to take on, or even people who would possibly now not explicitly understand all the ones choices exist regularly in finding themselves dealing with vexing barriers after they set up an app sort that is not completely optimum for his or her meant objective.

Two years in the past, I first reported on clues that exposed a slowly shaping-up technique for solving this flaw — what I referred to on the time as Google’s “grand ChromeOS plan.” The theory was once virtually painfully easy: Google would place the Play Retailer as now not only a position for Android apps, as it is historically been, however as a broader one-stop store for more than one varieties of apps on Chromebooks — with the shop itself figuring out which app sort makes probably the most sense for any given objective after which routinely putting in the best choice for you.

We noticed early indicators of that plan stoning up on Chromebooks round that point, and Google later showed to me in an interview that it was once certainly operating on such an effort. The objective, two ChromeOS professionals informed me, was once to show the Play Retailer into an all-purpose discovery instrument the place Chromebook homeowners may in finding no matter apps they wanted — together with even Linux apps, in positive cases — with no need to take into accounts the underlying era.

Many months have handed since that unassuming get started. However this summer season, we are seeing some tantalizing indicators of growth that might propel the plan ahead and lay the groundwork for a a lot more intuitive app-discovering enjoy on ChromeOS — and, the large twist: additionally on Android.

The Android-ChromeOS app connection

So right here it’s: You would be forgiven for failing to note, however within the ChromeOS 104 replace that rolled out previous this month, Google quietly added within the talent to seek out apps within the Play Retailer just by looking on your Chromebook’s launcher — the freshly redesigned window that pops up whilst you faucet your Chromebook’s The entirety button (sometimes called the Seek or Launcher key).

One faucet, and growth: You’ll in finding after which set up any app you want proper there in the real working machine, with no need to determine which supply is acceptable after which open up and seek thru that individual storefront.

ChromeOS Launcher Play Store search JR

Easy. Streamlined. Consolidated. It is such a smart alternate, the one baffling factor is why it is taken this lengthy for it to occur.

To make sure, the paintings this is some distance from completed. The Play Retailer itself nonetheless must in fact make stronger and floor all the ones other app sorts intelligently, in some way that is smart for the Chromebook atmosphere. (As of now, that occurs most effective with an overly restricted set of particular systems.) However now, no less than, the basis is entering focal point — and the speculation of ChromeOS itself turning into the app discovery mechanism and getting rid of the wish to engage with any particular app retailer is beginning to take form.

Now for the in point of fact intriguing section: In Android 13 on its self-made Pixel telephones, Google is additionally now experimenting with surfacing app effects from the Play Retailer as a part of the principle house display screen seek machine — as soon as once more from proper inside of the real working machine. It is the identical elementary thought, in different phrases, most effective translated into Android phrases. And it, too, has the prospective to result in a good broader rethinking of what the Play Retailer represents and what an “Android app” even is.

Once I first wrote about Google’s grand ChromeOS plan, I finished with just a little of an speculative “what if?”-style situation. Move, move, Machine Quoting Device:

Believe this: Google’s been experimenting with the speculation of modern internet apps on Android for some time now. The corporate already makes it conceivable for builders to embed such systems inside of conventional Android app constructions after which put the ones into the Play Retailer. How some distance of a soar would it not be to begin providing up standalone modern internet apps immediately in position of Android apps for telephones, too, in cases the place that’d be optimum?

I will let you know this: I’ve some standalone modern internet apps by myself telephone, and … they are unusually delightful to make use of — in some way that virtually makes you overlook you are not the usage of an ordinary, local Android app. Simply sayin’.


As soon as once more, interesting issues are taking place on the intersection of Google’s two number one platforms. And now, the foundation is flowing freely in either instructions — from Android to ChromeOS and from ChromeOS again to Android.

The one actual query is how lengthy it will take for this newest piece of the puzzle to fall into position — and the way lengthy it will take for the Android- and Chromebook-carrying lots to conform to an entire new state of mind about apps.

Need much more Googley wisdom? Join my loose weekly e-newsletter to get 3 issues to grasp and 3 issues to check out on your inbox each Friday.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

Barbara Martin

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