The unification between Android and the desktop experience is something that Google has been working towards for a while now, and with the introduction of opening up the App Runtime for Chrome, otherwise known as ARC, Google is finally getting us to the point where a unification is possible. Google started making certain apps compatible with Chrome OS devices like Chromebooks and Chrome boxes last year, but they were only targeting specific apps, ones that were used quite frequently and pretty popular. Just recently, Google announced that it would be opening up the App Runtime for Chrome to all developers, allowing them to make their apps compatible with Chrome OS.
The best part about ARC is that it isn’t just capable of making Android apps usable on Chromebooks. It will allow for Android apps to be compatible and capable of running on Windows, Linux, and even Mac desktops or laptops which widens the spectrum. While most users will be interacting with their Android apps right on the smartphone or tablet they own, some users will have a need or a desire to use them on their computers for a simple ease of use. Yes, many popular Android apps already have web-based interfaces, but many people might only have an experience using some of these apps through the Android interface, so not only does having the capability to use virtually any Android app on the desktop become a convenience factor, for some it will be about familiarity.
ARC seems to work with some apps while not working so well with others, although this could have just been due to the apk files I was personally using to test out the functionality. YouTube would begin to open up and then crash, while Twitter pulled up just fine and would allow me to interact. What’s great is that even though this tool may be meant for developers to get their apps running and working with desktop interfaces, anyone can install the App Runtime for Chrome from the Chrome store and as long as they have the apk of the app they want to use on the desktop, they can easily attempt to get it up and running with little effort. It took less than a couple of minutes to get the Twitter Android app open and running on my Windows 8.1 desktop.
Short of making the developers job easier if they’re wanting to create apps for multiple platforms, regular users can benefit from ARC too and that’s part of the beauty of it. ARC even gives you the ability to choose the orientation of the app whether it be portrait or landscape or smartphone or tablet. So whichever orientation you may be use to with a specific application, you can set things up to view the same way with ARC. There will still be some apps that won’t work with ARC currently, so not all apps will be immediately available from the desktop, but this will be great especially for those apps that don’t have a desktop interface already through a website. Not all users will be interested in accessing Android apps from the desktop, but it’s a good bet there are plenty of people who wouldn’t mind having the option.