Google’s two-way app strategy: Android apps on Chrome and new APIs for Chrome apps on Android

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Credit: Janko Roettgers/Gigaom

So which app ecosystem is Google betting on: Chrome or Android? The answer is both.

On Monday, the company updated its existing effort to get Chrome apps on Android devices by making it easier for developers to bring their apps to mobile devices. This follows news in January when [company]Google[/company] highlighted a way to use Apache Cordova to make Chrome apps run and appear natively on Android; something Google demonstrated at its 2013 Google I/O developer event.

Photo by Janko Roettgers/Gigaom

Photo by Janko Roettgers/Gigaom

The updated Chrome Apps for Mobile project still uses Cordova but includes support for additional APIs and lets developers build apps faster:

The newest version of Chrome Apps for Mobile includes Chrome APIs for identity, Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) and rich notifications, as well as an improved developer workflow and modern WebView capabilities extended to older versions of Android.

The developer workflow for Chrome Apps for Mobile is now significantly faster and simpler with the new live deploy feature. With live deploy, you can instantly preview the Chrome App you’re editing, running right on your Android or iOS device. When you make a change to the code, you will be able to see it straight away. Live deploy is available in both Chrome Dev Editor (CDE) and the Chrome Apps for Mobile command line tool.

Chrome apps are typically built with web technologies such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript. By wrapping up the code in an Android package using Cordova, however, these apps appear like native Android applications. That expands the number of available Android apps, but more importantly, broadens the developer audience for Google’s mobile platform.

That’s just part of the overall strategy, however.

At this year’s Google I/O event, the company demonstrated how Android apps can natively run on Chrome OS devices such as Chromebooks and Chromeboxes. Last week, Google unveiled the next step in that plan, launching its App Runtime for Chrome (ARC); a method for Android apps to run on Chrome OS computers. While only four apps are officially supported with ARC, the tool was quickly tweaked to run nearly any Android app on Chrome OS and can now be used for Android apps on any computer that has Chrome installed.

Web technologies are still central to Google’s overall app strategy but the company is wise to bring cross-app functions to both its Android and Chrome platforms.

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