Well, Google’s done it. It’s gone ahead and killed the password, and the murder came almost unintentionally, as part of a larger ploy to tie Chromebooks and Android devices closer together.
During an early preview of the next-gen Android L at Google I/O, the company outlined plans to optionally tie authentication to a secondary device, letting you bypass your phone or tablet’s lock screen if, say, you were already wearing an Android Wear watch signed into your Google account. Later in the I/O keynote, Sundar Pichai, the head of both Chrome and Android, took the stage and announced that Chromebooks are getting a similar feature. If you open your Chromebook with your Android device in your pocket, the laptop will automatically unlock and sign into your Google account, no password needed (but Bluetooth presumably required). Nifty!
But the deeper ties don’t end with that clamored-for feature. While your phone is tied to your Chromebook, you’ll receive notifications about incoming phone calls and be able to see your text messages right on the laptop—Pichai says the system will even let you know if your phone battery is bordering on tapped while you’re on your PC. It’s not quite Apple-level Continuity, but it sounds like a big improvement over the dumb separate devices of old.
Along those lines, Google is also working to bring top Android apps to Chromebooks, where they’d be launched straight from the Chrome launcher. Pichai showed off Android versions of Evernote, Flipboard, and Vine running on a Chromebook; the previous two filled most of the screen, but the latter appeared as a small rectangular box, mimicking the look of a native Android app. All responded well to touch responses—maybe that’s why so many Chromebooks with touchscreens are being released these days—and, since Google provides the ported apps underlying access to device APIs, the software can even interact with the laptop hardware. A demonstration was shown where a Google employee used his Chromebook’s webcam to snap a selfie while using Vine’s Android port.
Pichai says the company is working on bringing more top Android apps to Chromebooks in the future. And since Google loves to lean on web services, ported apps like these can provide a Continuity-like experience—no matter whether you’re using Evernote or Flipboard on your phone or PC, all the data is automatically synced to the cloud and available on all devices. Google definitely selected a smart trio to port over to Chromebooks first.