Google’s plan to bring Android apps and the Google Play Store has remained largely unfulfilled to date. But this summer, suddenly, Android support on Chromebook has accelerated. And it’s possible that Google has finally gotten on top of the problems that have plagued this integration.
It started off so promising.
Google announced in May 2016 that it would bring Android apps and the Google Play Store to Chromebook. At the time, it said that the integration would occur in 2016, but by the time that year ended, only a tiny number of Chromebooks could access Android apps, and then only in a very early preview. A year later, I questioned whether Google could even pull off this feat, and I openly wondered about the technical issues it must have run into.
But Google eventually fessed up: The work of integrating Androids apps with Chromebook proved to be far more difficult than Google had originally expected.
Lost in all the doom and gloom here, however, is a simple fact: Integrating Android apps with Chromebooks is highly disruptive, and it could lead to the quickening decline of Windows-based PCs. So I’ve been watching this development closely, and I have recently finally started testing Android app support on an Acer Chromebook 14 for Work. Surprise: It’s pretty amazing despite the bugs.
Coincidental to this, it appears that Android app support on Chromebook is finally starting to accelerate. This takes a few different forms: Some new devices are finally getting access to Android apps and the Google Play Store via the pre-release Beta channel that Google offers (similar to a ring in the Windows Insider Program. But many are shifting from the Beta channel to the Stable channel too, indicating that Google may have finally figured this out.
Over the summer, Google added support for Android to over a dozen different Chromebooks. And according to separate reports in Android Police and Chrome Unboxed, the Acer Chromebook R13, ASUS Chromebook Flip C302, Dell Chromebook 3189, EduGear R4D, Lenovo Chromebook Flex 11, Lenovo Chromebook N22, Lenovo Chromebook N23, and Lenovo IdeaPad N42 Chromebook all have Android support in the Stable channel now, meaning that this support is available to everyone. And the Dell Chromebook 13 7310 and Acer Chromebook 14 now have access to Android in the Beta channel too.
So is it happening? Is it finally happening?
Looking over Google’s list of Chromebooks that do or will have access to Android apps and the Google Play Store, the availability of this functionality breaks down as follows:
Available in Stable channel: 12 Chromebooks
Available in Beta channel: 20 Chromebooks
Planned but not yet available: 65 Chromebooks
Put another way, the majority of Chromebooks out in the world do not yet have access to Android apps. But there are over 30 Chromebook models that can access this functionality today, and of course all new Chromebooks now and going forward will offer it too. The situation has improved dramatically since last year, for sure, but it’s also improved markedly just since the beginning of the summer.
And with that, it’s time to switch from the current “nothing to see here” mode and accept that the Chromebook threat to Windows is real. It’s also time to wake up and acknowledge that Windows 10 S, as currently designed, represents the weakest possible response that Microsoft could have offered. And unless and until this situation changes, I expect Chromebooks, and other Chrome OS devices, to continue eating into Windows 10’s usage and market share. This is Microsoft’s market to lose.