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Tighter Android Integration with Chrome OS Demoed at I/O

Android apps on Chrome OS

Android apps on Chrome OS

Sleek new smartwatches, a revamped Android TV and an early look at the revolutionary new ‘Android L’ release were the attention grabbing announcements at this week’s I/O summit. But Google’s Chrome OS also managed to draw a few ‘wows’ of its own.

Sundar Pichai, the Senior VP of Chrome, Android and Apps at Google, used the latter stages of the inaugural keynote address to demo a handful of new features coming to the company’s web-centric operating system.

Lazy Easy Unlock

easy unlock 2The first to get a mention was ‘Easy Unlock’, a proximity-based way to unlock Chrome OS without having to manually sign in.

“Users almost always have a smartphone with them. We want to connect these experiences together,” Sundar explained. Using some clever, contextually aware APIs in Android L,  the easy unlock feature means you can sit next to your Chromebook with your phone in your pocket or bag and have it ‘unlock’ automatically and seamlessly.

‘Chromtinuity’

But unlocking the door isn’t where the cooperation between Mountain View’s two operating systems will end. Android will be stepping inside.

The upcoming Android L refresh will integrate with Chrome OS in a way not too dissimilar to Apple’s Continuity.

Android will be able to relay incoming call alerts, text messages and low battery warnings to the Chrome OS desktop through the Chrome Notification Centre.

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 21.02.12

There’s no word on if these notification will be ‘actionable’ (e.g., answer a call alert from your desktop or reply to a text message) but since this work is still in the early stages, never say never.

Android Comes to Chrome OS

But for all the innovation (I’ve chosen to skip over ‘Material Design’, a new design language for all of Google’s platforms) the biggest ‘wow’ — as well as the one to cause the biggest head scratch — came towards the end of the pitch: Android applications running on the Chrome OS desktop. 

Pundits have long posited that a merging of Google’s two operating systems was an inevitable conclusion. Google has always insisted that each OS has its own unique benefits, but that some shared ‘commonality’ between them was likely to happen at some point.

I/O saw the biggest step towards a unified partnership with a demo of three Android apps running on a Chromebook. Official Android applications for Evernote, Vine and Flipboard were shown off in their various tablet and mobile form factors, with launcher icons in the Aura app shelf and native Chrome OS windowing appearing around all.

The apps can access local hardware and files, meaning you can, for example, film a Vine using your Chromebook webcam, or paste links and other content from the Chrome browser straight into the Evernote app and have it sync back to the same app running on your tablet.

What’s not clear is precisely how this is possible. At one stage Sundar used the word ‘port’ to describe the apps as they ‘run within your Chromebook’.  Is it down to some clever Google Cast mirroring? Or is it a lightweight emulator at work? That we just don’t know at present.

Sundar did stress that the project was still in the ‘early stages’ of development. It may be a while before we learn more about the implementation or potential limitations in scope. But it doesn’t seem like it is just a novelty in the eyes of Google, with Pichai saying:

“Our goal is to bring your favourite Android applications to your Chromebook in a thoughtful manner. We want this to be intuitive for users. These were built for Android…for the phone…We want them to work with a mouse and keyboard, and for developers to [have to do little to get them working]”

Summary

The Google I/O keynote clearly, cleanly and succinctly made Android the centre of everything we do — the sun that the watches on our wrists, the computers in our cars, the way we watch TV all orbit around.

Even the Chrome OS features listed above and highlighted by Google in the keynote pivot on Android.

But in showing that they can work together to make our everyday lives easier and more productive, Google is sending out a powerful, positive message to developers: Chrome OS is here to stay. 

  • Kenny Strawn

    My now-updated post originally from March that detailed a leaked naclport of Bionic might be a good clue regarding this…

  • Kenny Strawn

    On a side note, if this means ART running as either A, a Native Client executable in its own right, or B, a Pepper plugin (very likely scenario), I wonder if it’ll also allow use of, say, Spark to develop Android apps…

  • http://www.live-craft.com/ Jonathan Alfonso

    Oh my.

  • Jeffrey Heesch

    My first reaction was “PocketCasts on my Chomebook!”

    I’m also excited to see text message & call notifications on my C720, and possibility of being able to accept calls and send text messages from my Chromebook as well. That’s one of the few things that made me jealous of OSX/iOS users.

    • Will Palmer
      • Heimen Stoffels

        I know you want Skype, but don’t post it three times please.

    • Heimen Stoffels

      You can’t accept calls from your Chromebook, it just notifies you that you have a call. At least, that’s what The Verge said.

      • Denis

        Of fxxx, so I don’t have anymore the excuse of not seeing calls

      • https://plus.google.com/+JuanMadrigal Juan Madrigal

        it notifies me and i can answer my calls on my chromebook already. I think its because google voice though.

  • http://l0kust.deviantart.com/ L0kust

    So question: oveusly we don’t yet know how they are running android apps on chrome.

    But could this be something that evantuly can be dune on the chrome browser on other OSs? Much like how some chrome extantions work now.

    PS apologize if this is a stupid question. I don’t know alout about how chrome the OS defers from chrome the browser.

  • Richard Myerscough

    If you look closely at the screenshot during the presentation, the ability to reply to a text was there (it’s at 2:09:38).

  • Guest

    Skype on a chromebook finally?! Probably if microsoft don’t want chrome os to gain ground. Even still, vote for it here https://docs.google.com/forms/d/10mlIGJq2ENubhkvTJYk11ujckA8t-RYx06qr61EPI_g/viewform

    • Heimen Stoffels

      I don’t see Microsoft’s fear? In the past, they were screaming about Linux because they were afraid Linux might take over their market. But they’ve peen pushing many updates to Skype for Linux since they took over Skype development. So I don’t see them hating on Chromebooks. In fact, their OneNote Clipper bookmarklet is also installable as a true Chrome extensions because users wanted it. So clearly they do listen.

      • Mr Torch

        Well Chrome OS is a Linux distro, if Microsoft have any sense they’ll start selling all their non-OS software to Chrome OS/Linux and Android, because they won’t be selling many Windows pc’s soon.

        • Heimen Stoffels

          Also: the OneNote team makes very heavy use of Google+. So I don’t think there’s a bias against Google. I think they just haven’t found the time yet. I mean: that last Linux update was very big just to name one thing…

          • Mr Torch

            Good point, but what about Microsoft office? it’s still not available for Android tablets, only phones, which makes no sense to me because you are more likely to use office on your tablet than your phone. I just think they have joined the party too late. For example, instead of wasting a fortune developing the Windows phone that no one buys or wants, why not allow Nokia to build an Android phone, with the reputation of Nokia it could be a real threat to Samsung’s dominance. IMHO.

          • Heimen Stoffels

            MS Office Online works perfectly fine from any web browser on tablets since it uses HTML5.

            Btw: Nokia is coming up with an Android phone, they’ve even released a beta version of their own launcher.

          • Mr Torch

            You got me excited then! I’m assuming you mean the X2, tbh I thought the X series had been killed off, anyway that’s besides the point. The X2 is Android stripped of anything Google related and loaded with Windows apps and apparently Opera as the browser!

            But the bit that makes no sense to me, they are only allowing you to download apps from either the Nokia store or the Microsoft store, like Amazon’s fire tablet only allows access to Amazon app store. So what’s the point? It’s missing the most important thing that Android phones offer, Google Play and the million or so apps available on it. I realise this is a budget phone and may do well in developing nations, but it’s no threat to any of the major Android handset makers.

            I think this was inherited when they took Nokia over, so they decided they may as well release it. Again points to Microsoft not understanding the mobile market. If they want to be players they need to build a top of the line Nokia Android phone, load it with Microsoft apps and services but allow access to Google play. The danger as well is because it has nothing Google related, users won’t see it as an Android phone, they’ll see it as Microsoft Windows phone, and if it’s crap then that user won’t ever consider a Windows phone or service again and they’ll fall straight into Google’s arms. Microsoft seem to have lost all direction.

          • Heimen Stoffels

            I meant Z Launcher: www. engadget. com/2014/06/19/nokia-z-launcher/ Which is currently in pre-beta, presumably for a yet to be released Android phone. It’s actually being developed by the part of the company that MS didn’t buy.

          • Mr Torch

            That’s interesting. I’ll check that out thanks.

          • miri

            Nokia isn’t a hardware company anymore.

          • Heimen Stoffels

            I know that very well, but I didn’t know how else to refer to it. “The MS Smartphone and Tablet Hardware Department, formerly a company called Nokia” ?

          • miri

            I means the Nokia that made the launcher is what’s left. They have no hardware division

          • Denis

            The Office Mobile apk runs ok on my Kindle Tablet.

          • Mr Torch

            Did you download it from Amazon app store? Because it’s not on Google Play.

          • Denis

            I downloaded the apk from Google Play (italian market) and sideloaded to my kindle

          • Denis

            Nope, I downloaded the APK from Google Play and loaded to my Kindle Fire.

          • Mr Torch

            It’s not showing because apparently it’s not compatible with with my Sony Xperia Z Tablet. Which beggars belief! I know it’s not the Android version that’s the problem, as it’s available for my S3 which is running KitKat, same as my Xperia. Suppose I can get the APK and try, but tbh I don’t really require it. The alternative I’m using is pretty good.

  • Denis

    Give me Evernote, give me a decent chromebook or a cheaper pixel, and I am all in!

    • http://www.jopv.net/ Jop
      • Denis

        That is just a weblink… I, we, want a proper packaged app.

    • uniquename72

      Yes – Chromebooks really need a middle ground. Not just very cheap and very expensive, but a nice selection of $600-800 laptops with a beefy processor, and enough storage to dual boot (for those just-in-case times).

      • Denis

        Storage is the thing that bug me less… Happy to have my external hd. Anyway, I want a Pixel! :D

  • Will Palmer
    • Denis

      I’ll vote against it… let’s move to Hangout!

      • Will Palmer

        I totally agree long term, but I want to talk to most people, like my ageing parents who don’t do change at our pace.

      • Heimen Stoffels

        I’m not a Skype devotee (although I like Skype), but Hangouts is not good at all IMHO.

  • Boothy

    Watching the I/O last night, I got quite enthused about the future of Android and Chrome.

    It also occured to me, that I might well have bought my last ever Windows machine for personal use.

    I have one at the moment, but only use it for a couple of games, and e few tasks that Chrome OS can’t do.

    Now as these “can’t do” tasks shrink in number (native Office now off the list), and more power to Android Games (the Razor micro-box has me excited), why keep paying a premium for that rarely used Windows machine?

  • Mr Torch

    Another nail in Microsoft’s coffin. Linux based OS’s are going to dominate the world. Well with Android they already are the most popular OS.

    • http://www.jopv.net/ Jop

      Recently Microsoft called Chrome a Windows “imitation”

      • Mr Torch

        Hahaha! Who would want to imitate the worse OS in the world? They are trying to fool people that Chrome is just a copy and that they’ll be better with the “original” well too late Microsoft, the horse has already bolted.

        • ldoodles

          Worst OS in the world? At least it can run programs.

          • Mr Torch

            lol. Nice one, unless were serious? Then it’s roflmao. Tip, before you comment do a little research on something you know little about, as if you don’t you tend to look slightly foolish.

  • Blake Hayward

    The ‘Chromtinuity’ feature is already possible using MightyText, granted it’s not stock, but have had this feature for a while now. I have a question about this Easy Unlock, what if we have multiple accounts? If I am in the same room as my sister, for example, and she has an account on my Chromebook will my account unlock when I’m in close proximity?

    • Boothy

      Yeah, I have mighty Text, and used to have another app that transferred all my Android notifications to the Chromebook, but got rid of it as it was just way too annoying.
      Text, calls and Now notifications is enough. Knowing an app was updating was not really “need to know” info

  • Cristian Otegui

    I wish the chromebook someday works as a chromecast all the way

  • http://leo-allen.tumblr.com/ Leo Allen

    While watching this, I couldn’t help but think that if Google keeps making this better I will no longer need my long-time friend Push Bullet.

    • Roland

      There’s one advantage to Push Bullet, Push Bullet allows you to send files to your Android or iOS device. I’ve not seen anywhere stating that the Android L/Chrome OS continuity will allow this

      Push Bullet is also more than just pushing Notifications to Chrome OS and sharing files.

      • http://leo-allen.tumblr.com/ Leo Allen

        Right. That’s why I said “if Google keeps making it better…”

  • http://www.jopv.net/ Jop
    • uniquename72

      Yeah, there are Android apps that I wish worked on Chrome, but Evernote isn’t one of them (since there’s already a Chrome app and the web client).

      • Zactu

        I would like Google to focus much development on ChromeOS. They are in a position to challenge Windows with more complex desktop apps on ChromeOS but Google doesn’t seem to want to go there. Simple web apps are not going to cut it.

  • James Castells

    I can’t believe it… they copied Apple again!

    • Boothy

      Really?
      I’m amazed that Google could develop all that they demo’d in the 2 weeks since WWDC….
      Or, just maybe, tech companies have a lot of similar ideas……

      • James Castells

        Bah, rumours about Continuity have appeared since at least four months ago… Google only needed to check the rumours and say, “Hey, let’s copy this as well.”

        • Boothy

          Grow up. What are you 12?
          2 companies that both have mobile and desktop OSs’ with a wealth of talent at both of them, and you think that they didn’t both have the vision to converge their respective systems?
          I should employ you with your obvious vision…….

        • Heimen Stoffels

          If they copied it, then why is a Mac able to take phone calls and ChromeOS isn’t? On ChromeOS you’ll only get a notification, nothing more than that. At least according to The Verge who were at the keynote.

          • James Castells

            Exactly, it’s not just a copy, it’s a bad copy.

    • Mr Torch

      Slightly unrelated, but I use both Android kitkat and IOS 7 and IOS 7 is completely blown away by Kitkat. Android is so much more flexible now. Apple really need to up their game.

    • Heimen Stoffels

      Apple is the master of copying. Icon grid as a homescreen? PalmOS. Notification bar from the top? Android (and I’m not even sure Android was the first with that). Taking phone calls from your tablet? webOS (my HP Touchpad with webOS can do that). Swiping back in views (whenever there’s a back button)? BB10 and SailfishOS. Running 2 apps at the same time on an iPad? Windows 8 Modern UI.

      Just to name a few things, but the list goes on…
      Not to hate on Apple, just sayin’ that even Apple ‘steals’. Every company ‘steals’ some things from one another.

      • James Castells

        And did that work as well as it does in Apple products? Not even half as well.

        • Heimen Stoffels

          Who’s talking about working well? I only said where they got their ideas from, not whether it worked well on other products or not. But I’ll not feed the Apple fantroll anymore…

          • James Castells

            Ok, Android fanboy, peace

          • Heimen Stoffels

            Ha. That proves even more that you’re just a troll. One last post then: I don’t like Android at all. I tried using it once but I couldn’t get used to it. I’m a webOS fanboy (since that’s what I used until late last year) and a SailfishOS fanboy (since I’m rocking the Jolla phone since January).

        • Lee LG

          LOL.Palm is one of best phones during the cell phone history.WebOS group is now working at google to design android UI.

    • tux234

      I rather think that Apple copied a feature from Pushbullet. (Notification mirroring)

  • Heimen Stoffels

    I would love to know when this functionality is gonna hit the dev channel! (and “love to know” I mean anyone, not OMG! Chrome per se)

  • moe

    i was hoping for some real change to chrome os, a UI overhaul not some apps.

  • mrmcq2u

    If I was a betting guy I might say that those android apps are built with dartlang and polymer and deployed with paper elements.
    By the way, you can now deploy dart apps onto android without the need for javascript and the ide the dart team were working on(spark) is now available on the chrome app store under the new name of chrome dev tools.

  • syntheticMedia

    Wondering if the Chromtinuity will actually install android apps to the chromebook, or if possibly they will be completely cloud based? Cloud based would certainly make sense…

    • syntheticMedia

      What would be really cool is if Chrome would detect your phone and somehow *magically* make all of the apps on your phone available in the browser without installation…ie casting or remote desktopping apps so to speak. Which would make sense- it would keep the chrome and android environments/experience/meaning separate, but offer complete integration. Whatever they have planned Im excited to see how it takes shape.

      • miri

        Apps need to be modified/ported to work in Chrome.

        • syntheticMedia

          Currently, yes, but we are talking about the future way of doing things here, ie beyond the current model/thinking.

  • syntheticMedia

    I also question the need for evernote as a demo app (vine and flipboard make sense)…seems like google would seek to improve Keep and promote it. Furthermore, seeing as evernote is completely usable via their website, why make an app? Then again, the user base of evernote is so large it may be a good way to market the concept to devs and users. What would be really cool is if Chrome would detect your phone and somehow *magically* make all of the apps on your phone available in the browser…casting apps so to speak.

    • miri

      1. Evernote Web isn’t full-featured and no offline support.
      2. There’s already a proper Chrome app for Keep.
      3. They could have ported 3 first party apps but it serves them better to work with third parties.

      • syntheticMedia

        1. Makes sense
        2. Yes, but it could be vastly improved to become a real competitor to evernote.

        • https://player.me/nickpreveza nick preveza

          Works better than evernote tho already

  • miri

    Fingers crossed that OnLive jumps on-board.

    • João Victor Schiavo

      For god’s sake. *—*

  • GiannisT

    The Chrome notification center exists on Windows installations of Chrome. I’m all for closer integration with ChromeOS, but if Google exclude the vast majority of machines (Windows PCs) from this functionality (not system unlocking, obviously, but push notifications, texting from the pc, etc), I believe it will be a mistake.

  • LiamTHX

    What if someone got ahold of your phone, ran to your Chromebook, logged in, then deleted everything

    • Josh Lam

      They would need your Gmail password to do anything like that. And at that, Chrome OS itself is just a thin client to the “cloud,” so you wouldn’t really be “deleting” anything not backed up somewhere else on the internet.