Will Android Apps Make Chromebooks Worth It?

The crowd at Google's I/O developer conference got their hands on Chromebooks running Android apps, but now you can finally get your own look at a workflow using the best the Play Store has to offer. Google posted a video of a talk from the conference on YouTube showing Kan Liu, Google's  director of product, management for Chrome OS, showing the new feature off (you can start around the six minute mark).

Liu's demonstration shows off Photoshop Mix and Microsoft Word for Android running natively on Chrome OS as he makes a poster for his daughter's birthday. They're not full desktop programs (specifically Photoshop Mix), but it provides more utility than previously seen on Chromebooks.

The demo also made the case for touchscreen Chromebooks like the Acer Chromebook R11. as the demonstrator manipulated Photoshop layers with their finger. The Asus Chromebook Flip is another high-quality system with a touch display.

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Android apps are often better at working offline than their Chrome OS counterparts. Liu used a Chromebook with no internet connection to play a game, Galaxy on Fire 2 (again, with touch screen controls). You could also listen to music or watch movies offline. Only a spattering of existing Chromebook apps work offline (like the Gmail Offline, which lets you work on your email without a connection), so the Play Store should add a ton of functionality even without a Wi-Fi connection.

Chromebooks are known for their simplicity -- if you know how to use the Chrome browser, you can use one of these laptops. The introduction of the Play Store will make them more complex, and may also push up the amount of internal storage needed, since these apps run locally.

But after seeing them at work, there's no doubt that opening up Android apps to Chromebooks will make them more powerful and versatile. And since Chromebooks tend to be cheaper than competing Windows and OS X laptops, it's a heck of  a deal to consider.

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