It looks like Google is working on a new way to incorporate Android apps in Chrome OS, despite the search giant’s claim it has no plans to do so.
9to5Google uncovered a few bits of evidence on the Chromium Gerrit — an online collaboration tool for sharing, editing and merging code into Chromium — that point to a new way to handle Android apps. Dubbed ‘ARCVM,’ the new app handler borrows heavily from how Chrome OS handles Linux apps.
Currently, Chrome OS uses custom tools developed by Chromium developers called ‘crosvm’ and ‘Termina’ to run Linux apps inside a virtual machine (VM). The benefit of this is security, as a VM isolates the application from the rest of the Chromebook system, so if something goes wrong, Chrome OS isn’t affected.
However, there are some drawbacks as well. For one, apps inside the VM currently don’t have access to the GPU, so visually intensive tasks like gaming don’t work well. Further, using a VM can reduce performance.
As for Android apps, Chrome OS uses the Android Runtime for Chrome (ARC++) to run the apps. However, the Chrome team knows ARC++ is an imperfect solution with some security issues.
If you haven’t pieced it together yet, ARCVM stands for ARC Virtual Machine, and some of the Gerrit code suggests it’ll leverage crosvm and Termina to run Android apps in a VM. This should solve the security issues with ARC++.
Another bonus would be the ability to more easily sideload apps, as well as improve testing for developers. Like with Linux apps, if anything went wrong, users could just close the VM and not worry about adverse effects to the system.
ARCVM, however, is very much a work in progress. While the prospect is exciting, Google could cancel development before it sees the light of day.