A glimpse of Google Play in Chrome OS beta could relieve an app-starved ecosystem

An amazing, disappearing checkbox tantalizes Chromebook users pining for Android apps.

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Chromebook owners pining for Android apps could get some relief, if an amazing, disappearing checkbox means anything. Chrome OS fans claim they’ve seen a one-click option to allow apps from Google Play to run on Chromebooks.

Reddit user TheWiseYoda was the first to post a screenshot of the option. Running the developer build of Chrome OS, TheWiseYoda spotted a checkbox labeled Enable Android apps to run on your Chromebook on the Chromebook’s Settings page. The option appeared for only  a second, however, then quickly disappeared.

Later, TheWiseYoda dug around the Chromium source code and found references to the checkbox. Based on what users have found so far, once you click the checkbox a new window opens, allowing you to access Google Play on your Chromebook.

The new feature will apparently use Google’s App Runtime for Chrome (ARC), which the company introduced in early 2015 to run Android apps on Chrome OS. ARC was originally envisioned as a way for Android developers to bring their apps to the Chrome Web Store. Developers, however, haven’t been as enthusiastic about the option as Google had hoped. 

Bringing Google Play to Chrome OS would make life easier for users and developers. But it’s not clear when Google might launch Google Play for Chrome OS—or if it even will.

Also, you shouldn't expect to run every single Android app on your Chromebook, however, at least not without some tweaks by the developer. Last year, we played around with downloadable APK files (the package file format for Android apps) and a developer tool called ARC Welder. The tool allows APKs to run on Chrome, but we found that any app requiring Android’s location service, a rear-facing camera, or a specific screen orientation wouldn’t work on Chrome OS. That may have changed in the past year, but it’s unlikely that a Google Play for Chrome OS would be a mirror of every app built for phones and tablets.

The impact on you at home: Chromebooks may be great for web-browsing, but the lack of apps has made users restless. This elusive checkbox could hint at exciting news for Chromebook users at the Google I/O 2016 developer conference starting in less than a month. Google’s annual developer conference runs from Wednesday, May 18 to Friday, May 20.

[via XDA Developers]

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