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Adding Android support could finally give Chromebooks mass-market appeal

New models will feature more sensors and better screens and come in new shapes and sizes.

The arrival of Android support could mean more 2-in-1 Chromebook models like the Asus Flip.
Asus

The arrival of Android app support is prompting a rethink of what a Chromebook can be, with computer makers expected to add more sensors, better screens and new shapes and sizes when they introduce new models this fall.

Starting in September, new Chromebooks will feature sensors such as gyroscopes and accelerometers, displays with wider viewing angles and even two-in-one designs that let the machines act as both tablet and laptop.

"There's some very, very interesting stuff coming," said Felix Lin, the VP in charge of Google's Chromebook effort.

For years, computer makers building Chromebooks focused on the most basic of machines, seeing Chromebooks mainly as a low-cost option for those who didn't want the expense of a big PC.

In 2013, Google took to building its own Chromebook, the Pixel, just to show what its operating system could do when paired with a touchscreen and high-end hardware.

"We couldn't get anyone to build a really nice Chromebook in the early days," Lin said. "Now there is so much interest."

Two-in-ones, in particular, represent largely new territory for Chrome.

Microsoft has been pushing hard in that area, with both its homegrown Surface as well as designs from the leading PC makers. But despite nice hardware, Windows has struggled due to a rather paltry selection of tablet apps. The new Chromebooks, by contrast, will have all of Android to offer when the device is used as a tablet.

The addition of Android support also could help expand the geographic reach of Chromebooks.

The limited offline capabilities of Chromebooks has largely confined interest in the products to the U.S. and other developed countries with abundant access to high-speed internet connections.

But now that the devices will also run Android apps, the appeal in emerging markets should grow significantly, according to Google senior director Caesar Sengupta. Downloading Android apps will require an internet connection, of course, but from there apps will run offline just as they would on any phone or tablet.

Google also hopes the devices will appeal to the billions of internet users around the world who have used a phone or tablet, but never owned a PC.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.