Google’s MacBook rivals will soon run Android apps

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Chrome OS is finally getting the Google Play Store.
Photo: HP

A Chromebook may be a super affordable alternative to the MacBook, but relying solely on web apps inside Google Chrome, they’re not ideal for those who have more than basic computing needs. Except they won’t just run web apps soon.

At its I/O conference in California today, Google announced that Chrome OS is finally getting the Google Play Store with full Android app support.

Without native apps, Chrome OS has a lot of limitations that put it out of reach for a large number of laptop users. Everything runs inside a browser tab — kind of like “apps” made for the original iPhone before Apple introduced the App Store.

But Google is changing that. Later this year, Chrome OS will be able to run all the apps and games you can currently get on your Android smartphone and tablet. Every single one of them. And they won’t be emulated; they’ll run natively, taking full advantage of your device’s hardware.

Android apps will run in windows — just like desktop apps — so you’ll be able to use as many as you want at once and easily switch between them. They’ll accept input from your Chromebook’s trackpad and keyboard, and from your finger if it has a touchscreen.

Over time, Android apps on Chrome OS will get even better as developers optimize them for larger displays, but Google has already made some changes. For instance, Android’s share menus — which will continue work exactly as you’d expect — have already been resized.

It’s important to note that Google isn’t replacing Chrome OS with Android; Chrome OS as you know it is going nowhere, and everything you get from it now will remain. It will just run Android apps as well.

Developers will be able to get their hands on the updated Chrome OS with Android app support in June, but they’ll need a Chromebook Pixel 2, ASUS Chromebook Flip, or Acer Chromebook R11 to run it. Google says it will be adding support for more devices later.

Later this year, Android app support will rollout to all Chrome OS users, and Google will be hoping that it can boost Chromebook sales. With support for apps, they finally become viable replacements to Mac and Windows machines for many more consumers — especially those who are already fans of Android.