A hidden feature in the Chrome OS settings panel reveals upcoming support for Android apps. The feature is only implemented at the UI level, and Google has not officially confirmed anything yet.
The possible integration between Google's two main projects was spotted yesterday by a Reddit user who noticed a quick flash of text in his Chromebook's settings panel.
Taking a closer look, he discovered that Chrome OS was loading his settings page and then hiding one option. That option was filed under a new section called "Android Apps" and read "Enable Android Apps to run on your Chromebook."
Chrome OS is based on the Chromium project. The user dug around in Chromium's source code, and he discovered two clues of this feature already in the base project. One is in the UI translation section, and the other is in the "strings" section, a file holding a collection expressions that Chrome OS pulls and displays as labels next to UI elements.
Checking the "strings" section Git file history, we can see that these changes were added starting with February 1, 2016, and continued for the last three months.
Some of the strings found in this file reveal that Google is testing a Google Play Store integration inside Chrome OS. One line reads "Google Play store now on your [device version] Chromebook."
Checking this option started a Google Play Store window, which at the time of writing was not working, never going beyond a landing page.
Google I/O, the company's annual conference where it announces most of its major services is scheduled on from May 18 to May 20.
In October 2015, there were rumors of Google merging ChromeOS into Android, which the company crushed a few days later. At how things are looking right now, it appears that Google may be testing a way to make the two OSs inter-operate, not merge.
At the end of 2016, we reported that Chromebooks were a hit in the educational sector where they provided cheap portable laptops for students and university personnel. With a fully-working Play Store integration, Chromebooks may also become appealing to users that might need a cheaper laptop for home use. Softpedia has reached out to Google for comment.