I was fairly late to the Chromebook party; it wasn’t until April 2014 that I invested in one of Google’s other mobile products. And I was still unsure if I would be able to make the Chromebook work for me so I bought a used Samsung device, spending as little as possible on the hardware and hoping that it wouldn’t be a white elephant. You see, whilst I have invested heavily into Google’s infrastructure and services, it’s been the Android platform that has captured my imagination. I wasn’t so sure that the Samsung Chromebook could be as effective, overall, as my Android tablet. As it happens, I was wrong – even using one of the slowest Chromebooks available, I find the platform quite simply superb for much of my day to day computing needs.
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Whilst Google’s Chrome OS and Android work well together, they are still quite different operating systems. Google have said again and again that they have no plans to merge the two platforms together but instead wish to keep them separate. What we have seen throughout 2014 is Android and Chrome working closer together, such as the ability to run Android applications in Chrome. This ability is still very much in the early stages of development, but another improvement that we’re seeing is how Android development might soon be made much easier if Google includes two features of the Android SDK, Software Development Kit, as part of the standard Chrome OS installation.
Google is considering including the Android Debug Bridge (known as “adb”) and the recovery / flashing tool, “fastboot,” part of Chrome OS, accessible through the Chrome Shell (known as “crosh”). The adb is used for a number of things including sending information to and from a connected Android device whereas fastboot is used for repairing damaged devices or flashing new custom ROMs to your existing device. These additions to Chrome OS won’t make a Chromebook a full blown Android development environment but they’ll make life a lot easier for developers and hackers alike. Currently, developers can use the Chrome Dev Editor, still in beta but steadily improving. The adb is available via a third party application and the full Android SDK is accessible via Crouton.
We’ve no information on when the changes might happen, or indeed how seriously they are being considered. We’re also seeing new API, application programming interfaces, being improved in Chrome OS such as the “Android Runtime for Chrome,” which is part of the infrastructure necessary to run Android applications in the Chrome environment. However, when we have more news we’ll let you know.