Native Android apps are coming to Chrome OS

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Google is working to bring Chrome OS and Android closer together, and that'll eventually mean having Android apps running right on a Chromebook. "We're in early days," Sundar Pichai, Google's Chrome and Android chief, said on stage today at Google's I/O developer conference. Pichai didn't say when the feature would arrive, but he demonstrated it already working using Android apps for Evernote, Flipboard, and Vine. The apps can appear in a tall, phone-sized window, or they can be expanded to run as they would on tablets.

It's been widely expected that this would happen eventually, especially after Pichai — previously the head of Chrome alone — took control of Android too. Of course, there are still some big hurdles that Chrome OS will have to face when running Android apps: namely, they're designed for touchscreens, and most Chromebooks don't have them.

Chrome OS has worked with touchscreens since the Chromebook Pixel was released last February, but for the most part, the experience has been unnecessarily tedious. Some apps were touch-friendly while others weren't. And since not all Chromebooks ship with touchscreens, the feature has been more of an option than a necessary part of interacting with the operating system.

Touch is becoming far more important on Chromebooks

Earlier this month, a project for Google's Chromium called Athena pointed toward big changes to the touch aspects of Chrome OS. That included a virtual software keyboard, a card-based interface a la Google Now, and a new app launcher interface.

Altogether, it sounds as though touch input is bound to become a far more integral part of Chrome OS. Google didn't comment on what future Chromebooks will look like from its partners, but it wouldn't be surprising to see more and more shipping with touchscreens.

Google also said today that Chrome OS will eventually be able to display notifications from a paired Android phone, and that a paired phone will be able to unlock a Chromebook just by coming near it.

Josh Lowensohn contributed to this report.

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