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By | Neil McAllister 11th September 2014 19:07

Not appy with your Chromebook? Well now it can run Android apps

Google offers beta of tricky OS-inside-OS tech

To help bridge the gap between its two mobile platforms, Google has released a beta version of a technology that allows Chrome OS users to run Android apps on their desktops.

Google OS boss Sundar Pichai first previewed the tech in March, during one of the less buzzed-about segments of his I/O conference keynote.

Dubbed the App Runtime for Chrome, it's a way of packaging Android apps so that they will launch and run on Chrome OS, via a special runtime implemented using the Chocolate Factory's Native Client (NaCl) in-browser binary execution tech.

Google says developers don't need to do any porting to get their apps running on Chrome OS. Still, it's hardly click-and-go, at least for now. Google needs to finagle each app to get it working, and so far it has chosen only four Android apps to release in Chrome OS–compatible versions.

At I/O, Pichai also said that Android developers might prefer to modify their apps to make them more compatible with the different usage scenarios found on Chrome OS.

"These applications were built for Android for the phone, so we want them to work when there is a mouse, keyboard and touch events, et cetera," Pichai said, though he added, "For developers, we want this to work with as little modifications as possible."

During his keynote, Pichai demoed cutting and pasting from a Chrome browser window into an Android app running on Chrome OS as an example of how Google is working to make running the apps feel natural and seamless.

The lucky four Android apps launched for Chrome OS on Thursday via the Chrome Web Store are Duolingo, Evernote, Kids Sight Words, and Vine.

The apps aren't compatible with the standalone Chrome browser; you'll need an actual Chromebook or Chromebox to run them.

Getting them running must have been more work than Google is letting on, however, as three of the four are apps that Pichai demoed at I/O back in March. Curiously, a fourth app shown off at I/O, Flipboard, is not part of the beta.

We also couldn't help but notice that all four apps already have browser-based versions available in the Chrome Web Store, so it's not entirely clear why you'd prefer to run the Android versions.

Nonetheless, Google says it plans to offer more Android apps for Chrome OS through the store soon, and that customers can vote for the ones they'd like to see via a web form. ®

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