3 ways Android apps make Chromebooks more like Windows PCs

Unfortunately for Google (and fortunately for Microsoft), Android apps on the Chrome OS chip away at Chromebooks' touted advantages. Windows PCs have been the standard for personal computing for decades. Apple's attempts to subvert Microsoft's PC dominance with Macs have succeeded in only carving out a tiny niche alongside Redmond's market dominance.

Google entered the fray with its browser-focused take on personal computing with Chromebooks in 2011. Despite Microsoft's disparaging ads mocking its "PC" claims, Chromebook's have slowly become a Windows PC alternative in schools, small businesses, and consumers. In fact, Chromebooks overtook Mac shipments in the first quarter of 2016, according to Google.

Though their small global market share leaves much room for growth, Chromebooks gained a foothold due to their appeal as a solution to problems that plague Windows PCs: security issues. Google used these weaknesses as a springboard to promote Chromebooks as "PCs'" with none of the issues of traditional PCs. Ironically, as Google's evolving personal computing strategy brings elements of its successful mobile platform, some Chromebook advantages over Windows PCs are lost.

The more variables, the more complicated

One of the endearing aspects of Chromebooks is their simplicity. Conversely, Windows PCs, with all of their required updates, introduced a level of complexity for average users. Chromebooks aimed to answer this problem with a simple web-based OS that is easily updated by Google.

Additionally, web apps work seamlessly within Chrome, and there is little for users to think about when using Chromebooks. With Android apps now on Chrome, users are presented with a choice that may introduce confusion, or a level of complexity not previously present, as they try to determine if they should use a Chrome app or an Android app. This is similar to the dilemma some Windows PC users face as they try to decide between using a Store or a legacy app.

Android apps on Chrome also introduce weaknesses that are common to Windows PCs.

Viruses and malware

Google likes to talk about all of the viruses and malware Windows PCs are prone. Android apps and the Google Play Store, are notorious, however, for the amount of malware and viruses. Android on Chrome presents Google with the challenge of ensuring that its purported virus-free and secure OS remains that way as it brings virus-prone and insecure elements to the platform.

Inconsistent app experience

Microsoft has been criticized for its legacy apps with tiny UI elements that are not optimized for the touch environment pushed in Windows 10. These older apps are not optimized for the experience Microsoft is trying to promote. This is why Microsoft introduced app bridges, like Project Centennial, to begin the process of modernizing these legacy apps by making them Universal Windows Platform (UWP) Store apps.

Android apps on Chrome introduce a similar problem: Many Android apps are not optimized for larger screens. Most Android developers code for smartphones. Whereas web-apps on Chrome are optimized for Chromebooks, Android apps introduce the same dichotomy found on Windows PCs, where a host of apps available to users will not be optimized for a particular scenario.

That's one pricey Chromebook ...


Chromebook (Image credit: Windows Central)

Finally, Chromebooks were initially touted as the inexpensive alternative to Windows PCs. This has one of the big selling points for cash-strapped school districts which have largely embraced Google's solution in the United States. There are still many cheap Chromebooks, but others are now comparable in price to higher-end PCs, eliminating another perceived advantage of Chromebooks over PCs.

Many of the advantages that inspired consumers, schools, and small businesses to embrace Chromebooks rather than PCs have been undone as Android on Chrome makes Chromebooks more like Windows PCs.

Of course, more apps on Chrome is advantageous for Google, but a more complex, virus-prone and inconsistent Chrome experience is beneficial for Windows, and for Microsoft.

Jason Ward

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!

  • Jason... Off subject, but your next editorial should read "VR, the tech that everyone is already forgetting about"..😂
  • Microsoft isn't. And there's a LOT of new tech coming related to VR. Hardly dead as you say. You're not into VR at all, are you? Otherwise you wouldn't think this is the case.
  • Hold on.. Hold on, wait a minute, partner.. Stop jumping to conclusions about how "into" I am into AVR... And, I never said anything about it being dead.
    But, it is a valid question, seeing that even the big players like Apple, Google, and Samsung, aren't focusing on it as much as they were (with smartphones) in the recent past... Plus, just because you, and a relatively few AVR enthusiast follow everything that's going on in the AVR world, and realize it's relatively small progress (as far as the average consumer is concerned),, doesn't mean it's going as well as what we all suspected a few years ago.. The question is "Is AVR where we expected it would be in 2018? Did we exspect more by now? And, does the world really care yet?"".... Sorry, about the off subject matter of this comment again, Jason.
  • Perhaps that's because VR is crap on a phone. Maybe look at occulus, HTC, PlayStation and more powerful platforms rather than smartphones.
  • 2m PSVR units vs 70m PS4?
  • But, even those devices are popular with consumers yet.... Y'all do realize that only a very small crow is interested in this stuff right now. That's not a bad thing, but I think we all thought it would've gained more popularity by now... In all areas
  • He never once mentioned VR on a phone. I'm not sure where you're comment really fits in here.
  • VR is massive market wise compared to the smarthome stuff you always ramble about. Look at the numbers.
  • Smartphone stuff I always ramble about? What demision are you in?
  • And you're living in a closes, delusional, world if you think it's massive. Were you one of those WP fans that thought Windows Phone was massive as well? Probably so. SMDH
  • It really isn't. You are fooling yourself if you think it is.
  • I don't know, Chromebooks may be easier to maintain as they say but marketing them as secure is just too much.
  • Relative to Windows and even MacOS Chromebooks are secure.
  • The Crostini container layer on top of ChromeOS is the most vulnerable subsystem of ChromeOS today, unfortunately ChromeOS has low marketshare, so I doubt attackers will produce a big damage.
    This could be a problem for Windows, if Microsoft decides to support Containers in the next decade that allow running apps like snaps (snapcraft.io) in case Windows 10 Universal apps project fails.
  • It is NOT simply using a container. It is a VM and then a container on top. So completely sandboxed from ChromeOS. Plus Google hardened the KVM and does NOT use QEMU and written their own that is is hardened. The cloud operates in the exact same way. But suspect Google is going to move to Fuchsia with Zircon which will then increase security further. The Linux kernel is now over 15 million lines of code and Zircon in the 10s of thousands.
  • Microsoft will make .appx just as open .exe so failure is impossibe. One of the biggest steps Microsoft is taking to make this a reality is explained in a previous article: https://www.windowscentral.com/microsoft-adding-support-running-multiple...
  • Google in 2018 has surprised me, their ChromeOS is now capable of installing true Windows/OS X desktop productivity alternative open source Linux desktop based apps (Gimp, Inkscape, Linux Multimedia Studio (LMMS), Blender, FreeCAD, to name a few)
    All this can be a problem for Windows OS dominance in the next years where Internet of Things and 4th Industrial revolution are demanding technical skills for getting good jobs.
  • Iot is tiny outside of enterprise. It's mostly novelty and hype as yet. Linux is via an emulation layer so it'll be limited like woa. It's a good move but it doesn't entirely make for parity. Gimp for eg is no photoshop. It's not professional grade. Good for others tho.
  • Linux is actually GNU/Linux and is NOT emulated in any manner. They use a VM which is sandboxing the instructions in the processor but is native.
  • But, AVR is massive?🤔🤔🤔
  • Windows have a great idea for the universal app back then and macs are only trying to port ios apps into mac apps. And chromebooks are opening up android apps into chromebooks. I can’t wait for macs marzipan apps. I had a good experience just the other day on macs, I was searching on the mac for photo, saved it into the mac, without using Pushbullet or airdrop, it’s on the phone, used prisma on the phone and opened the photos soon in photoshop. I can’t wait for universal apps next on the mac. Especially like the panasonic tv app and prisma app which you know the app makers won’t make a mac app.
  • To bad macOS is a total pos. I would do the same thing. However, I can do the exact same thing with my iPhone and onedrive
  • Debunking the security myth of Chrome OS and Android: - Enabling the Google Play Store on Chrome OS is optional. - Chrome OS processes and services are sandboxed by default. - Android on Chrome OS runs in a containerized and sandboxed environment. - Android processes and services are sandboxed by default. - Android on Chrome OS will be updated directly by Google, not OEMs or carriers. For all these reasons and more, Chrome OS still remains more secure than any mainstream desktop operating system on the market, especially Windows.
  • lol Windows is secure if you use Windows 10 s
  • It's still not as secure as Chrome OS since you can still run unsandboxed win32 applications, processes, and services even on Windows 10s.
  • Google's pixelbook is idiotically expensive for what you get without android apps - a very expensive browser, in short you are better off using a xp netbook for better functionality.
  • @TechFreak1 - not sure I understand your comment? The Pixelbook does have Android app support...
  • Who cares if you didn’t, it’s still awesome.