App Development

Google I/O Conference: Takeaways Part Three - Chromium Overview

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Google I/O has ended, but some interesting news is still coming to light. This blog post highlights one of the biggest opportunities Google announced. While this particular announcement wasn’t highlight in a huge way, it could have a tremendous impact on your company strategy. The big news?

Android apps are coming to Chromebooks.

Chromebooks

Chrome OS is Google’s secure laptop solution that has, in the past, only been able to run web apps. This might not sound appealing, but in the winter of 2014 Chromebooks were one of the top 3 best-selling laptops on Amazon. Moreover, they accounted for 14% of laptops shipped in 2015 and are poised to make a huge impact in the education space. All these numbers were great if you had a web app that could take advantage of the increase in Chromebook shipments and sales, but not so great if you had a mobile app and were looking to grow your user base. Fortunately, the announcement out of I/O changes all of this.

New Changes

At I/O, Google announced it had successfully customized the Chrome OS to allow Android to run alongside it. This means Chromebooks now have the ability to run the millions of apps available in the Google Play store in addition to all of the web apps it has historically run. The apps from the Google Play store will coexist with existing Chromebook apps and even have some cross-platform communication. The best part of the announcement, however, was that Google didn’t have to change any Android APIs to make it work. For the vast majority of apps, there should be no code changes required to run on Chrome OS. But there are some important things you should do now to make sure your app’s experience is as good as it can be if you want it to run in this new environment.

What You Should Do Now:

It’s too early to tell what the in-depth technical challenges will be for each app, but there are some things you should know.

  1. Your app should support non-touch devices. Some Chromebooks launch without touch-screens and your app(s) won’t be installable on those.
  2. Your app should have good key bindings to support keyboards and mice. Most of this will come for free, but if you haven’t tested how arrow navigation will work in your app you should try it out.
  3. Your app should support multi-window. Chromebooks will let you switch between landscape and portrait mode, and allow you to just have a freeform window.
  4. Get ready for Instant Android Apps. In our earlier blog post , we talked about how clicking on a link will launch the Android app associated with that link without installing it. As you might guess, running a laptop OS that consists entirely of web apps creates a great opportunity for those users to click on links that will launch your app.

The most important question you may be wrestling with is, “How long do I have?” Well, the Chrome OS team is opening this up to developers starting in July. The final user release is slated to go out by Septemeber, so start planning now and get ahead of the curve!

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