Tablets

It’s Time For Android and Chrome OS To Merge

The future of computing is hybrid. Phones have become tablets. Tablets have become desktop computers with keyboards. Hell, Microsoft even made
Windows phones powerful enough to be used as full-fledged PCs
. Bottom line: A gadget in 2016 needs to be flexible. That’s why Google bringing
every single Android app to Chrome would be such a big deal

.

The plan has seemingly been in the works for years. Ever since Chrome OS boss Sundar Pinchai
replaced
Android creator Andy Rubin in 2013 at the helm of the mobile OS, we’ve been predicting that the
two software monoliths would someday collide

. Google initially developed both operating systems in parallel, but now that Android is the
most widely used operating system in the world
(and Chromebook’s accounting for less than 3 percent of global PCs), the pressure is on Google to fold Chrome into Android.

On Sunday we got the latest piece of evidence indicating that a merger was imminent. Users in the Chrome OS subreddit
reported
a glitch which hints that Android apps will soon be available on Chrome.
InauspiciousPagan,
along with others, saw a popup box requesting permission to turn on the full Google Play store for Chrome. It looked like this:

Image: Reddit via Inauspicious Pagan

The option almost immediately disappeared, but not before rekindling intrigue among fans. If this is a forthcoming feature that Google accidentally leaked ahead of its developer conference next month, it would be a huge deal. Creating an easy way to run Android apps on a Chrome device would be a big upgrade over the limiting
Apps Runtime for Chrome
, which currently only works for a few lucky programs. There are other headache-inducing work arounds, but not the kind of native Google Play apps support you’re getting here.

Aside from the obvious benefits to normal Chromebooks, tablets could be the big winners from this software mash-up. Android itself has always been the problem when it comes to Google-powered tablets. Until Android N, which isn’t even publicly available yet, people couldn’t use two apps at once or make app windows smaller. It’s one of the main reasons why Samsung tablets, and now to a certain degree iPads, are more work-friendly.

On the flip side, you have Chrome OS, a lightweight laptop experience dependent on an internet connection. For what Chromebooks are, they work incredibly well. But as
Microsoft’s Surface popularity grew

and other 2-in-1’s began blurring the line between laptop and tablet, it became obvious that Chrome OS was
not
built to run on touch devices. Use a
Chromebook Pixel for like 10 seconds
, and you’ll know what I mean.

This Chrome OS update could be the foundation for whatever the hell it thinks “hybrid” means in 2016. Microsoft’s idea is basically a laptop that you can detach from its keyboard,
like the Surface

, and Apple’s vision is a souped-up mobile operating system attached
to
a keyboard,
like an iPad Pro

. Google, on the other hand, looks like it’s going for a third option: combining the best of both worlds.

Google already tried combining Chrome and Android in last year’s
Pixel C
. In a long breakdown,
Ars Technica
said the tablet likely evolved from a touch-optimized Chrome OS, to a dual-boot Frankenstein’s monster, to just a plain old Android. In fact, the software mix-up was almost universally
the biggest problem reviewers had with the Pixel C

. It felt like a machine that wanted to be more but scaled back at the last minute

This new leak could be what Google originally had in mind for the Pixel C-a Chrome machine that can run all of Android’s million+ apps at a moment’s notice.

We probably won’t know Google’s plans for certain until May 18th, the keynote for Google I/O. Anonymous sources
told 9to5Google
in March that Android has ”
something totally different
” for this year’s developer conference and this would certainly fit the description.