As a follow-up to the release of Evernote, Vine and other Android apps for Chromebooks, Google is now giving users the option to run Android apps on OS X, Linux and Windows with Chrome.
Although this is still in beta, you only need to download the ARC Welder app in order to get the needed app APKs from Google Play.
Apps can be run in landscape or portrait mode and phone- or tablet-style. In addition, they can only be loaded one at a time, unless you choose the download ZIP option in ARC Welder, extract the ZIP file, and enable extension developer mode in Chrome to load the folder containing the extracted APKs.
ARC is based on Android 4.4 KitKat, ensuring compatibility with essentially every Android app. There are still some issues since this is a beta: trying to access the camera in apps apparently causes them to immediately crash. Keyboard commands aren’t always recognized correctly and some apps require an accelerometer.
Personally, I managed to get the USC’s Housing FIXX and Skype apps to run inside Chrome. Of course, I couldn’t risk testing the functionality of the former app since that would involve using fraudulent information and misusing the university’s resources. Nonetheless, the user interface matched that of the Android app. Instant messaging worked nicely on Skype, and the user interface was also identical to the app and performed properly, but I did not get the opportunity to test voice and video chat.
It seems as though Google is making this effort to bring Android apps to Chrome and Chrome OS in order to challenge Microsoft’s vision of Windows.
With Windows, Microsoft hopes to offer a platform where apps are universal, meaning they can run on all devices using Windows 10, including PCs, phones, tablets and the Xbox One. Microsoft expects to release its OS before the end of the summer.
One has to wonder what Google can offer not with Android but with Chrome and Chrome OS in these next few months in order to entice PC users, many of whom are Windows 7 and 8.1 users who plan to take Microsoft up on the free upgrade to 10, to its ecosystem.