The future of Chromebooks is Android

I’ve written about this speculation in the past, and today Google announced the change publicly. Coming this Fall, you’ll be able to run most Android apps natively on ChromeOS. They’re embedding an Android runtime into ChromeOS that will utilize what is currently being called Android N, the newest version of Android which will be launching soon.

I have to say that I’m excited about this. What this does is put Chromebooks on the same level as iPad Pro devices from an ecosystem perspective. Not only do you have all of the rich UI web applications that run tremendously well in Chrome, but you also get access to all of the Android Play catalog which extends the capabilities of a Chromebook tremendously. Because many Android apps are written to take advantage of lower power platforms like smartphones, they should run well on cheaper Chromebooks, which is the biggest selling point of many Chromebooks.

One example I saw today in The Verge’s preview video was running Microsoft Word’s Android version inside a Chromebook Pixel. It looked just like the type of app you’d expect to find on a standalone computer, which has always been the biggest knock against Chromebooks. There are tons of things that you can do with webapps and Chrome. The Polarr image editing software is a perfect example of an amazing web based tool. However, there are just certain things that a native app can accomplish much smoother and cleaner than any web app.

This is one of the reasons I hem’d and haw’d over getting a Chromebook vs a larger iPad with keyboard. Much of what I do, I can do with a Chrome browser, but there were still some apps that were just more fully functional on the iPad. One that I’m anxious to try on a Chromebook is Adobe Lightroom. Because the Android version of Lightroom supports Adobe’s DNG (RAW) format, I’m curious about the possibilities of doing photo editing on a Chromebook and still syncing the RAW files back to my main collection. Others have used their phone’s camera to capture in RAW format and edit in Lightroom Mobile, but I’m hopeful there will be some other import options in the future to pull from an SD card.

The first round of testing starts in June on the developer channel, with the beta channel following shortly after. General release of this functionality is slated for Fall, and I’m excited to try it out. It might even get me looking at upgrading my Chromebook, just a little bit, to a slightly nicer model.

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