For the many, many students and other users who use Chromebooks for their e-reading, here’s some interesting news. According to a Reddit thread just revealed but already widely publicized, Google appears ready to enable the Google Play Store and its apps on Chromebooks.
Reddit user TheWiseYoda first stumbled on the feature. As he tells it, “For one second after opening settings on my chromebook this appears.” The interesting part of the “this” was “where it says “Enable Android Apps to run on your Chromebook.” Reddit user InauspiciousPagan was then able to bring up a dialog screen (see picture above) inviting Chromebook users to “Get Started” for “Google Play store now on your Chromebook.” As InauspiciousPagan pointed out, “Does not work yet, so don’t get too excited.” But people got excited anyway.
As it happens, the Chrome OS has had the capability to run a select few Android apps for some time, owing to the App Runtime for Chrome (Beta), or ARC, which “lets you run your favorite Android apps on Chrome OS.” Speculation that Google might merge the Chrome OS with Android, however, has been vigorously countered by Google, which continues to maintain that convergence in areas such as Material Design does not mean a merger is on the cards. It’s interesting, but probably coincidental, that the news of Google’s latest Material Design reworking of the Chrome OS broke just before the Reddit thread went public.
That said, we now apparently have the prospect of most, if not all, Android apps running on Chromebooks. As Reddit user VictoryGoth commented, “I’m still against a Chrome OS and Android merge, but if Chrome OS can run Android apps from the Google Play store while still remaining Chrome OS, I’m totally up for it. This is going to be interesting.”
For e-reading, the prospect of all your favorite e-reader apps from the Google Play Store suddenly appearing on Chromebooks could be magic. David Rothman has already posed the question at length of just how good Chromebooks are as e-readers, not least given the current fairly limited Chrome OS app options – including “Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader (the Chrome flavor) … Readium and dotEPUB and Cloud ePub Reader with Drive” or “the Google Books reader.” With full Google Play Store implementation, that whole question could simply vanish. And needless to say, that would probably lock in Google’s Chromebook dominance of U.S. education even more firmly …