Android Apps Arrive On The Asus Chromebook Flip Dev Channel

Asus Chromebook Flip running Android Play Store

During Google I/O, Google said that all Play Store apps would soon arrive on some existing Chromebooks, as well as on all future Chromebooks. According to Francois Beaufort, a Google engineer, the Asus Chromebook Flip is the first such device to get support for all Play Store apps in the dev channel (which means most Flip owners will still have to wait a few more weeks to get it).

Google has avoided optimizing Android for the desktop environment, likely because the company didn’t want it to compete with Chrome OS directly. However, Google has been working for the past few years on a way to make Android apps run inside Chrome OS, and to deliver an experience you’d expect from a PC-optimized Android OS.

The initial method to achieve this, called ARC (Android Runtime for Chrome), which was first previewed in 2014, ultimately failed. The method used Native Client, a technology residing in Chrome that allows native apps to run as web apps, but it required too much custom work to support all applications. Developers essentially had to port their Android apps to Chrome OS.

Google recently found an easier solution: it would put the whole Android framework inside a container running on top of the Chrome OS kernel. The users could then run the apps inside Chrome OS in a relatively native way. This method would also allow all Android apps to work by default on Chrome OS, without any porting work from the developers.

Not all existing Chromebooks will get support for the Play Store. Google would probably prefer it if only touch-enabled Chromebooks got it, but for now non-touch Chromebooks as well as Chromeboxes will work as well. The bigger issue seems to be with Chromebooks that come with an older Linux kernel. The Android container is likely optimized for the newer kernel, and it may also take advantage of security features that don’t exist in the older kernels.

Although the Asus Chromebook Flip is the first Chromebook to receive support for the Play Store in the dev channel, the company also made public a "non-exhaustive" list of Chromebooks and Chromeboxes that will be getting the Play Store support soon.

Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware. You can follow him at @lucian_armasu. 

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Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.