The focus of Chromebooks has always been the Chrome web browser. Apps were always an afterthought, and ever since Google introduced the Android Play Store to Chrome OS, users have had three different ways to experience apps on their Chromebooks.
First, there are Chrome Apps, which are specially packaged and run inside the Chrome web browser. These are the ones Google is shutting down, with a final shutdown date set for 2022.
But with Android apps and Progressive Web Apps at your disposal, here’s why you’ll hardly miss these Chrome Apps once they’re gone.
Chrome Apps were first introduced by Google in 2013 as a way to expand the reach of a developer’s traditional apps to any desktop or mobile device. These apps were dubbed as convenient, as it essentially runs a somewhat of a webpage in Chrome.
Developers also didn’t need to maintain separate applications for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and could write a single application that runs anywhere Chrome runs. But, it never apparently took off and the state of the web has since changed.
The App section of the Chrome Web Store was discontinued on Windows, Mac, and Linux in 2016, and Chrome OS is currently the only platform that supports the feature. As Chrome OS is powered and run inside the Google web browser, you already could have used many apps or services online to begin with. Why use a specific Chrome app? That includes Office, Twitter, Facebook, and much more.
The state of the Chrome App store is also sad, and there aren’t many big-name developers up anymore. There are just a few solid options, including a multi-messenger, typing training app, and a game where you play landlines. We counted just 30 apps under the top picks category.
The reason for the demise? Progressive Web Apps. PWAs, have become a bigger deal. as Microsoft, Google, and Apple all came on board with PWA’s. In Chrome OS, you can install almost any website as a PWA, and they’ll behave just as a regular app would. Notifications, touch-friendly UI’s, it’s all here and some PWAs even work offline, too. There’s little reason for Chrome Apps anymore.
Another reason that there’s little reason to worry about Google shutting down the Chrome Apps store is Android apps and the Google Play Store. Currently, Chromebooks have the same access to apps that Android phones too. The Google Play store includes well over a million apps, and as there are some solid options.
Unlike PWA’s and Chrome Apps, these Android apps run in their own space, separate from the Chrome web browser. Some apps aren’t compatible with Chromebooks, and there are problems of apps freezing when you switch back into the Chrome browser. Android apps in Chrome OS still have a long way to go in terms of execution. However, the majority of apps that most people will need are there. You’ll find Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Microsoft Word, and more.
Google’s still working on the future of Chrome OS and there is plenty of hope for Android apps ahead. After all, Chrome OS tablets might be dead, but there are some awesome Chromebooks and 2-in-1s coming from Samsung, as well as Asus.
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