Ever find yourself browsing the Chrome Web Store while you’re out, and then you stumble upon a really awesome extension or app, and wish desperately that you could install it right that minute to your idling home computer? It may have once been the stuff of dreams and science fiction, but on Thursday, Google introduced a new Web Store feature that accomplishes exactly that: a button which installs extensions to the desktop or laptop Chrome installation of your choice.
It’s simple, in theory. As Android Police uncovered, when you visit an extension’s Web Store page on your phone, you’re presented with two options: sharing it with a friend via e-mail or social media, or “adding it to your desktop.” If you opt for the latter option, an informative pop-up will alert you to the fact that the extension in question will be installed “[to] any computers where you are signed in to Chrome.”
Dismiss it, and the extensions will automatically begin downloading on any Windows, Mac, Chrome OS, or Linux machine on which you’ve configured — and associated your account with — Chrome.
The feature is not unlike Google’s remote app installation for Android. Users of Google’s mobile operating system have the ability to install apps and games from the Web to a signed-in Android smartphone or tablet. But remote Chrome app installations, unlike the Play Store feature, appear to lack any sort of management capabilities beyond simple installation. In 2012, Google introduced a “My Android Apps” software management section to the Play Store (which has since become outmoded), that allowed the remote uninstallation of apps on Android devices.
Remote Chrome extension installations are relatively painless right now, but are also clunky. There’s no way to trigger remote installations to individual machines rather than to every instance of Chrome to which you’re signed in. And worse, there’s no way to browse the Chrome Web Store from a mobile device — as of publication time, you get an error message suggesting you use a “supported” operating system such as Windows, Mac, Chrome OS, or Linux. But it’s early days.
The new feature might be perceived as another step toward a long-rumored merger of Chrome OS and Android. Earlier this year, in May, Google rolled out the Play Store on Chrome OS devices — an addition which saw Chromebooks gain the ability to install and run Android apps.
That’s no accident. Last year, Google CEO Sundar Pichai named Hiroshi Lockhimer senior vice president of Android, Chrome OS, and Chromecast. And in 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google had been working for years to merge Chrome OS and Android, and that it planned to launch the result — a new, unified operating system that worked on PCs — in 2017.