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Android apps are coming to Chromebooks later this year

Users will be able to run multiple Android apps simultaneously.

Google Developers Event Held In San Francisco Justin Sullivan / Getty

Google confirmed on Thursday its plan to allow Chromebooks to start running the bulk of Android apps starting later this year.

"Developers can start to optimize their app for the Chromebook form factor in advance of launch later in 2016," Google said in a blog post ahead of a session at its Google I/O event.

Google has been talking about this for a while, but has held off giving app makers the details on just how the move will work.

Android apps can run in three different window sizes, Google said, with users able to multitask among multiple windows using keyboard, mouse and touch input.

Our colleagues at sister site The Verge got some hands-on time with an early version of the Chromebook-Android mix and agree with Google's assessment that Chromebooks are plenty speedy when running Android apps.

Update: Hiroshi Lockheimer, the senior VP in charge of Android and Chrome, said that Google has clearly been working for a while to bring its two consumer operating systems closer together.

"The approach we've taken, generally, is to take the best attribute of each and share it," Lockheimer said, noting that yesterday Google announced plans to handle Android updates more automatically, the way Chromebooks have done for years.

Chromebooks have been a quiet hit for Google, gaining a particular foothold in education but also popular with consumers and some businesses. Google said that, according to IDC, there were more Chromebooks sold than Macs in the U.S. during the first quarter of the year.

By bringing Android apps to Chromebooks, Google now is able to power computers that have access to apps previously only available on phones, like Instagram and Snapchat, while also boasting a total catalog of programs that surpasses that on Windows.

The key will be if Google can maintain the simplicity and security that have been the key selling points for Chrome OS even as it brings the Play Store over from Android, which has been prone to any number of significant vulnerabilities.

Google, naturally, maintains it can have its cake and eat it too, insisting that it is bringing key security features over from both platforms and won't forsake the always-up-to-date nature of Chrome OS.

Lockheimer said the biggest security issue with Android comes from the fact that many devices are not updated, something that Google can control with Chromebooks in a way it can't on phones and tablets.

Schools and businesses will also have the option not to allow the Play Store at all, or to just offer a select group of white-listed applications.

App makers will have access to the Google Play store in the next developer build of Chrome OS to start testing their apps, while consumers will get access via an update later this year along with what Google says are a new generation of Chromebooks that have been designed with Android apps and the Play Store in mind.

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