After having a few days to decompress after Google’s hardware event, more and more details are becoming clear in the wake of all we saw.
One of those things we saw and had not yet considered was the inclusion of some exclusive apps that we aren’t currently seeing on other Chromebooks. We want to take a minute and discuss what those are, what this means, and what the future could look like because of it.
So, let us first talk about the apps we saw that currently don’t work on other Chromebooks. While there may be more, the most noteworthy of these are Microsoft Office and Adobe Lightroom.
First up: Microsoft Office. Yes, I launched it on the Pixelbook and yes it worked as expected. I’m not a user of the Microsoft Office suite, so I really cannot speak to whether or not this is enough for those needing Microsoft Office on Chromebooks, but I can say it runs fully and smoothly.
Yesterday, I attempted to install this on my Samsung Chromebook Pro and had no luck. It seems Microsoft is still limiting what devices can and cannot install Office and that is still just as confounding as it once was.
The ASUS Flip C101, on the other hand, was able to install Office with no issue. The theory up to this point has been Microsoft allows installation of the Office Suite for devices with screens 10.1-inches and under. It seems this theory is holding up.
So why does the Pixelbook have Office? Honestly, I’m unsure. When pressed at the event, Googlers simply rattled off a canned response about being glad to have software partners on board.
The other? Adobe Lightroom. Again, this is an app I can’t get to work in the same way I saw at the event on my Samsung Chromebook Pro.
Upon trying this yesterday as well, I found that the Lightroom that gets installed is the phone version with far less features than this desktop-class version we saw on the Pixelbook. I don’t use Lightroom at all, so I can’t definitely say how good it is.
I CAN say that we’ll be putting this version up against the MacOS version once we have our review unit in the office.
So, Why Are These Working?
That’s the question, isn’t it? Why are these apps available on the Pixelbook and not on a device like the Samsung Chromebook Pro?
While we don’t have a definitive answer, I can wager one: Google looks to be working hard with developers to leverage Android apps to bring desktop-class experiences to Chromebooks.
It seems Microsoft and Adobe are part of this, and that’s a great thing. Even though we couldn’t get a clear answer from them at the event, it seems quite clear that Adobe is actually pushing the Chrome OS team to get their products available in fully-functioning ways on Chromebooks.
Adobe knows that Google has won the classroom and they simply don’t want to concede that space any longer. Imagine a generation of students learning how to function without the need of Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or Premier. When they graduate, guess what they won’t rely on as professionals any longer?
Adobe sees this and is working hard to fix it. I’d assume that, though they would never admit it, Microsoft sees the same writing on the wall. They are, after all, a software company at the core. Selling Microsoft Office licenses for all Chromebook users is a way for them to stay in front of a new generation of students.
One thing is certain, though: The Pixelbook is a device that will be the hardware developers need to finally have a reason to build desktop-class Android apps for Chromebooks. This device, even before it has been launched, is clearly already doing this very thing. Microsoft and Adobe (and other big developers) might finally be seeing Chrome OS as a worthwhile target for development. Between the amazing hardware, stellar marketing and support from Google, and software developers seeing the possibility of this halo device, this could be a major tipping point for the Chrome OS ecosystem.
I don’t know how long it will be before these changes affect other Chromebooks and I sincerely hope that we never see a time where Pixelbook gets features and apps that never come to other devices, but I really think that this is a very, very important time for the platform.
We’ll obviously have to wait and see how this all plays out over time, but there’s a real chance this particular development could have a massive impact on Chrome OS and Chromebook users across the board. Later, we’ll talk about how in the world Microsoft, Adobe or any other software company will be able to sell high-dollar apps in the Play Store: where most apps are less than $10.