Google opens Chromebook PCs to Android
Google’s ultra-affordable Chromebooks are set for major changes in the next few months.
Lacking in working with many popular software programs, the Google Play Store – and 2.2 million Android apps, are coming to Chromebooks.
This is an answer to one of the main issues with the machines – that many popular apps like Microsoft Word, Skype and the Dashlane password manager haven’t been available for use with Chromebooks, which starts as low as $400.
“It’s a game changer,” says Mike Phillips, chief executive of Sense, a company that offers a device for energy management. “I’ve had several Chromebooks, but while they did some things nicely, I was disappointed. They didn’t do the things I wanted.”
In the Play Store, Philips found several productivity apps he was interested and downloaded them to the Flip. “This is a big deal.”
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Android is the dominant mobile operating system, with an 86 per cent market share, according to market tracker Gartner, software geared to run on phones and tablets.
On several Chromebooks (only four models will be available in Google Play Store) Android will also be optimised for running on computers, with mouse and touch-screen.
Think of a Chromebook as a glorified tablet, a small computer with a physical keyboard, that’s light and easy to tote around.
Google’s Chromebooks have struck a chord with students.
Earlier this year they surpassed Apple MacBooks as the second best-selling kind of computers, after Windows.
The low price also entices consumers and IT departments.
The bad news: you have to be online, generally, to use them. The lack of software in the Google Chrome Web store was also an issue.
This is where apps like MS Word, Skype, Dashlane, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom were missing in action.
While the Chromebooks have slots for external hard drives, USB sticks and the like, the only way to add software to the computer is via downloading from the Google app stores.
Jarek Khan, a Los Angeles personal trainer, said he was interested in a Chromebook as a PC replacement, but the limitations of the software and needing to be connected stopped him from the purchase.
After trying out the Flipbook this week, he says it’s an “improvement…but still not for me,” he says. “I have some Windows specific programs that I still can’t use.”
Chromebook is a perfect first computer for the student, from the parent who didn’t want to spend lots of money, or the spouse or loved one who says they only use the computer for checking e-mail and surfing the web.
Web pages look better on bigger screens, and having the keyboard to type on makes for longer e-mail responses than you would give on a phone or tablet.
IDC’s Huang says the biggest issue confronting Chromebooks is the declining state of PC sales. The person who only surfs and checks e-mail is fine with a big phone or tablet, he adds.
Businesses and schools will continue to purchase computers, but the consumer market is facing a falling market.
“It was a huge milestone for Chromebooks to knock Macs as the no. 2 operating system,” he says. But with the dwindling size of the PC market, “I don’t know that adding Android apps can bring Chromebooks to prime-time for consumers.”
The Google Play Store will initially only be available on 4 models of Chromebooks: The Asus Flip C100, Acer Chromebook R11, Acer Chromebook C738T, Google Chromebook Pixel.
Google says it will roll out the software upgrade to more models in the coming months.