Google’s Chrome OS is one of the easiest OSes out there to deploy and administer for enterprise computing fleet purposes, and a small change in the Chromium code gerrit implies that the people doing the administering will be able to load up Android apps without going through the Play Store or flipping on Developer Mode on Chromebooks in their fleet sometime in the near future. While the code does not specifically say how administrators will be able to do this, it is quite likely that the sideloading will be done simply by feeding an APK file to Google’s web-based Chrome OS management console. There is no indication as to when these changes may actually become a part of the user-facing iteration of Chrome OS.
The current method of sideloading APK files, being kicking a Chromebook into Developer Mode, has more than a few caveats. For starters, boot verification is disabled in Developer Mode, and the security risk that presents is all but unacceptable in nearly all enterprise scenarios. On top of that, opening up a Chromebook for Developer Mode will erase all data on it, meaning it will have to be set up again, and the user will have to make a backup of their own files and load it up. Naturally, this also presents the possibility of the end user sideloading something that’s either not work-related or is actually either loaded down with dangerous malware that could even affect every Chromebook on the network, or pirated, which can get a company in serious trouble. This new solution is a much more elegant approach to sideloading in an enterprise environment, by comparison.
This move is the latest in a fairly wide-reaching push to make Chrome OS a better option for enterprise customers. It has already largely taken over the education sector in major markets like the United States, though it does have some tough competition on the horizon. In enterprise, creating a customized Linux distribution to fit the needs of a company or simply falling back on Windows as a default seem to be the most popular options, but Chrome OS is gaining ground on those by setting itself apart with a large number of small moves like this one.