Incoming Changes To Simplify Chrome OS Android Development – Google I/O 2019

Developers working from Google’s desktop operating system — Chrome OS — will soon find building out projects on their devices much easier following a string of Crostini announcements reported from this year’s Google I/O 2019 event. The search giant’s obvious goal is to help developers who are specifically working with Android since the first change is that installing Android Studio is now a “one-click” process. But the established or incoming changes reach far beyond mobile application building.

Aside from simplifying the method by which developers download and install Android Studio on the Linux side of things, Google’s I/O 2019 announcements stacked atop the company revealing that users will be able to organize and maneuver files between all of the available storage options in Chrome OS in addition to running web servers via port forwarding.

The latter of those changes will be enabled via the out-of-the-box Chrome OS Files application, with storage libraries showing up under the primary My Files directory for Linux apps as well.

Coupled with the announcement of secure USB support between Android gadgets and Chromebooks, developers will now be able to debug and test their applications more easily. It should also make developing other types of applications where Linux is a viable option — such as developing progressive web apps and associated experiences — more straightforward to begin with.

Building on Chrome OS 74 and other changes

The majority of the changes set to be released or already available are built on alterations that were implemented in previous releases to the Chrome OS platform. For instance, file management features were only just introduced as recently as Chrome OS 74. Via that change, users are finally able to create their own files and folders under the “My Files” directory of the Chrome OS hardware-based storage in the Files application itself rather than depending on the volatile Downloads folder.

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The subtle difference is that Google is explicitly making moving files around for use by developers an easier process. That’s somewhat more complicated due to how Linux apps are handled on the platform. Changes spotted in the Chromium Gerrit in the past have also indicated that things will be made even easier in the future with full Linux access to USB accessories such as hard-drives. USB access for debugging builds on that same premise.

Similarly, Chrome OS has already supported the use of Android Studio but that required a lengthy and often complicated installation process prior to Google’s announcement.

Growth leading the charge

One side effect of Google’s decision to make app development easier on Chrome OS is that developers won’t necessarily always be using USB support to install their apps for testing on external gadgets. The operating system itself does support Android apps and Google even noted that use of those has grown by more than 250-percent over the past year.

That means developers will be able to test their apps directly in Chrome OS and that a greater number of apps will likely be developed that take advantage of the screen real estate associated with those more efficiently.

At the same time, Google pointed out that the total number of Chromebooks and Chrome OS gadgets, specifically supporting the appropriate kernel to run Linux apps, has expanded to include more than half the devices available. All new devices launching this year will work with that kernel too, making it easier than ever for a developer to simply pick up a new Chromebook and start creating new applications.

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