Google formerly announced Chrome OS back in 2009, about a year after the Chrome browser was announced and then released. Chrome OS is a pretty simple operating system. Instead of having all of the features of the major operating systems like Mac and Windows, Google made their browser the OS. So with Chrome OS, you basically just have the Chrome browser and that's about it. With the state of the internet these days, and a lot of services transitioning into web apps, it actually makes a lot of sense to have a browser-based operating system. It also means that users can get a Chromebook with decent specs for a fraction of the price of a Windows laptop or even a Macbook Pro. A big reason for that is the fact that Chrome OS doesn't need as much RAM or processing power to get things done.
Chrome OS has gotten a lot of flack for not being a complete OS. And many users – including myself – cannot use a Chromebook full time, because of the lack of support for programs like Adobe Lightroom, Adobe's Premiere Pro and many others. However, a rumor came out last week that may change everyone's opinion of Chrome OS and Chromebooks in general. It looks like the Google Play Store is coming to Chrome OS. That includes all of the apps and games that are available on the Play Store. According to the image that was posted on Reddit, it appears that there are over a million apps and games in the Google Play Store right now. Bringing all of that functionality on over to Chrome OS would be a pretty big deal.
Some rumors and reports we see are just so outlandish, that we don't think it'll come to fruition. However, this report seems like it'll definitely happen. Since we already have a number of Android apps available on Chrome OS, and the fact that there is visual proof of the pop up announcing Google Play on Chrome OS. Which pretty much means the launch is imminent. And with Google I/O coming up later this month, it is pretty likely that the announcement will come then.
Ever since Sundar Pichai was put in charge of Android, in addition to Chrome and Apps, many thought that we would see the merging of Chrome and Android, into one OS, essentially. Which is how Microsoft does mobile and desktop, basically. However, Google execs have long denied that the two would completely merge, but some aspects of the two would merge. Seeing Google Play on Chrome OS would definitely be part of merging the two platforms. It would also leave a lot of people wondering if the Chrome Web Store is going to merge with Google Play. Otherwise, you're going to have two app stores on Chrome OS devices. Now admittedly they do serve two different purposes, but it is still a bit of fragmentation within Chrome OS. And could be a problem, especially for users that aren't tech enthusiasts, but just want a computer to check their email, and browse the web.
Google Play on Chrome OS is like a Google fanboy's dream. Think about it, this would allow you to use the Twitter app on Chrome OS, as well as the Instagram app. It's especially interesting with Instagram considering the fact that you can only post pictures and video from their app. But with the Google Play integration, you would be able to upload pictures and videos from a desktop. Think about all of the apps available on Android, they would instantly be available to Chrome OS. Things like Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Premiere Clip and so much more. Now while these won't be as robust as what you get on Windows or Mac OS from Adobe, they are definitely better than nothing. There are tons of games out there that would be pretty fun to play on a larger display, like Crossy Road, or the new Angry Birds Action. Now it would take some getting used too, especially with the fact that most of these Chromebooks don't have touchscreen displays. So that you would need to use your mouse or trackpad to interact with these apps. Games could be quite interesting unless Google does something to change how they would work on a Chrome OS device like a Chromebook or Chromebox.
Over the years, Chrome OS has morphed from being just a browser that is an operating system, to more of a traditional operating system, but still relying heavily on the cloud. For instance, we now have a dedicated desktop, allowing you to have multiple windows open in Chrome OS. We also have a file manager and a built-in video player. Something we didn't have in the early days of Chrome OS. The operating system does already rely pretty heavily on the cloud, saving most things into your Google Drive account. This raises the question, how would Android apps work on Chrome OS? Are we going to see more space available on future Chromebooks so that we can actually have space to install apps? Currently, most Chromebooks come with 16GB or 32GB of SSD storage. Considering the OS is mostly cloud-based, that is plenty of room for most people. But with Android apps, especially some coming in at a gigabyte or more, we'll definitely need more space. Which is often a complaint of Chromebooks already, as most people are used to laptops coming with 256GB or more, of storage. Even though you typically don't need more than a gigabyte or so of storage on Chromebooks and Chromeboxes.
Perhaps more interesting, would Google be able to allow us to run apps from the cloud? Obviously, you'll need an internet connection to be able to "stream" these apps and games, but it could be the start of something pretty cool for Chrome OS that could also come on down to Android (perhaps negate the need for storage on smartphones and tablets). Of course, streaming apps over an internet connection is going to come with its own set of issues, like data connection speeds, bandwidth usage, security and so much more. It would also be taking a page out of Nextbit's book, seeing as their smartphone, the Robin works off of the cloud, pretty seamlessly. With data usage, Chromebooks won't be as big of a deal as a smartphone, considering Chromebooks are typically connected to WiFi connections, and occasionally hotspots from your smartphone. In that case, Google would definitely need a setting to only stream apps, or backup data on certain networks. Like your home WiFi network. That way you know it's secure – as free and open networks can usually be unsecure – and also won't use up your data when you need to hotspot your phone to your Chromebook to send a quick email or something.
Chromebooks have steadily gained in popularity. Google has also worked with numerous school systems around the world to outfit classrooms with Chromebooks instead of iPads. With Chromebooks being entirely cloud-based, it solves a lot of issues for schools. Like getting viruses and malware on these machines. And the fact that multiple students can use the Chromebook without using any of the storage really. Which is all the more reason to bring Google Play on over to Chromebooks and Chrome OS in general. Think of what schools could use these machines for with the Google Play Store being on them. It would instantly make them more usable.
Google hasn't officially confirmed that Chrome OS is getting the Google Play Store just yet. There's likely all kinds of kinks that need to be worked out (especially where most Chromebooks use Intel chips that are more desktop oriented than mobile, like most Android devices). But it does appear to be set in stone that Google is going forward with this plan. However, when we will actually see it in action is another thing. We'll likely see it on the developer channel of Chrome OS, then graduate to the beta and finally the stable channel. As is the case with most new features coming to Chrome and Chrome OS.
As mentioned already, Chrome OS isn't the perfect OS for everyone's needs. But with the addition of the Google Play Store, it could serve a lot more needs than previously. With Google I/O coming up in just about two weeks, things could get very interesting on the Chrome OS and even Chromebook front. Google did just announce a new Chromebook with HP, which is somewhat high-end, but in between the price of the Chromebook Pixel and all of the lower-end Chromebooks out there. We'll have to wait and see what Google has up their sleeves, but it's definitely looking like it could be an exciting future for Chrome OS.