Chrome to get Android applications

Its being reported that the Chrome OS is set to get Android applications in the coming months.

This news probably has many people excited, firstly the non-tech folk who have a Chrome OS device and have looked in envy to the Play Store, whilst being on “show” for all Chrome OS users, doesn’t offer (at present) any compatibility.  It will also have the tech “experts” excited, who don’t actually own or use a Chromebook and see this as another string to the bow of Google’s offering over the evil empires of Microsoft and Apple.

Let’s get a few things clarified.  I’ve been using a Chromebook exclusively for the past four months so when it comes to added features and applications, I think I’m rather qualified to make comment.

Is this Android addition good news for Chromebook users? Well that depends on how you define “good”.  I’ve often commented about the pointless addition of the Play Store on the default ChromeOS install, because whilst you can use it to “instruct” an install on any of your other devices, every title in the Android catalogue is completely useless to the ChromeOS user – they won’t run.

Android devices, be it a tablet or Smart Phone have a touch screen.  The majority of ChromeOS books out there don’t, so the first barrier to running Android applications is presented.  Whilst many Android apps will happily run without the need of a touch screen, there are many which form an integral part of the app itself and its this lack of touchscreen which probably presents the biggest problem for ChromeOS, either operation of an app would need to be controlled by mouse/trackpad or Chromebooks will as a standard feature need to be touch screen devices.  We also need to take into consideration screen resolution of the ChromeOS devices, but lets return to how Google intends on bringing the Play Store to ChromeOS.

Its not coming.  Simple.  The Play Store is not coming to ChromeOS anymore than the Playstation Store is coming to the Xbox.  What is happening here (with the help of a runtime) is that Google is bringing over select applications to ChromeOS, presumably tested and optimized for Chromebook users.

So in this first “wave” of applications what can we expect?  It’s reported that the following applications are to be the first:

Duolingo – A language learning application

Evernote – Text editor/note taker/basic word processor

Sight Words – An education title for children, helping their reading skills.

Vine – Video editor

And here is where I believe, the news about the Play Store begins to lose more of its shine.

A language learning package? Is there not enough facility for people to learn languages?  What about the Chrome Store? Doesn’t that already have packages?

Evernote? The main selling point for many (including myself) of the Chromebook was the integration with Google services.  I use Google Docs, I bought the Chromebook to use Google Docs and in anycase there are already many alternatives available for the Chromebook, you’ve a selection of hundreds of text editors, note takers and there’s even a web-based version of Openoffice, if you use ChromeOS and are desperate to use something other than Google’s own offering.

Education packages are ten a penny on the store already and Vine? What of WeVideo? There’s nothing new offered here other than an alternative to a plethora of titles already doing the same thing.  The fact that they are Android apps executing with a new runtime is moot to the vast majority of users who use their Chromebooks for productivity sparing little thought or care for what is going on under the hood.

So no, the Play Store news is not exciting and rather than worrying about Play Store migration of titles that I don’t think ChromeOS users need, would it not be better to first focus on the Chrome Store itself and clean it up a little, there’s alot of junk apps on there which need Googles attention.  On the Chrome Store right now theres packages that offer themselves as ChromeOS apps, only for it to transpire that they are infact Windows binaries only. – Yes I know people will use Chrome on a Windows machine, but since Google knows I use a Chromebook, could it not filter those results from the Chrome Store when its presented to fellow Chromebook users?  Or even better, remove them from the store altogether. They are NOT ChromeOS apps, they are an entry in the Chrome Store which links to a Windows binary.

I won’t mention the spam on the store either, but suffice to say even a seasoned user like myself has been suckered into watching adverts on the basis of a misleading “app”.

I’m struggling to see the benefit in Google making this move.  If people want Android then they would have bought an Android device.  It’s should be quite clear what the ChromeOS offers and that, is the selling point to the many people who have bought a Chromebook.

I’ve been a supporter and advocate of ChromeOS since I had this device but I’m not going to give praise to Google when it seems to want to bring applications from Android that already exist (by way of alternatives) on the Chromestore – especially when Google has so much more work to do on making the Chromestore a more pleasant experience for those already established ChromeOS users.  In addition there are still MANY simple, basic features missing from the ChromeOS itself which Google, in my opinion has no excuse to have missed out.  The trackpad is one.  I dislike them, so do others, if you want to disable it in favour of the mouse, theres no one click option – you have to drop into the CLI (protected by a series of keypresses) and disable it there! It’s beggars belief that such a simple feature would require users (many of which have no CLI knowledge) to step up their computing knowledge just to turn off the trackpad.

Google, get the ChromeOS house in order first.



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