Chromebook Google Play Store installing web app versions of Android apps

Ewdison Then - Apr 13, 2020, 9:35pm CDT
Chromebook Google Play Store installing web app versions of Android apps

Chromebooks and Chrome OS have always been designed with a “web-first” experience in mind. Back then, however, that experience was less than ideal due to the lack of apps and immaturity of the web app ecosystem. Fast forward to today, Progressive Web Apps or PWAs have made significant headway into creating an experience almost on par with native Android apps. That, in turn, seems to have made Google confident enough to start making PWAs the default when you try to install an Android app from Google Play Store on Chrome OS.

Although also popular for its Android mobile platform, Google has always been an Internet-centric company, with its main products being Search, web services, and, of course, Internet ads. To some extent, Android was its strategy to prevent Apple’s iPhone from monopolizing the mobile market and make sure those services and products are accessible to as many users as possible.

The rivalry between native apps, both on mobile and desktops, and web apps has been swinging back and forth over the years and it seems that web apps are getting the upper hand this time. Not only have web apps themselves matured, the frameworks that make them possible have also become more mature and more useful as well. It doesn’t hurt that Google is also pushing the industry in that direction.

The latest example of that is making PWAs the default app experience on Chrome OS, even when you’re installing from the Android-centric Google Play Store. It’s not yet universal, of course, and so far only Twitter and YouTube have been reported to default to web apps instead of Android apps. We can expect more to follow suit over time.

This could mark a shift in focus that could eventually make its way to Android where PWAs are already getting a bigger push. Google’s latest changes to the Android platform itself has, in some ways, de-emphasized reliance on apps and more on surfacing apps’ information through Google Search.


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