Chromebooks need better Google app integration


There was some truth when people – especially in the early days of mobile – said that the iPhone was the best place to use Google apps. That’s certainly not the case today on Android phones, but I think part of that argument rings true when comparing Google’s web services running on Chrome for Mac/Windows versus ChromeOS. Thankfully, that’s starting to change on Chromebooks, as seen with the one-click Google Calendar integration.

ChromeOS 104 began rolling out last week with a number of significant user interface changes, including a compact app launcher and a proper dark theme. However, the most monumental addition is how the month/day now appears in the bottom right corner of every screen.

Previously, you had to click on the time before you could see a thumbnail playback of the date. Now users always see it, and tapping opens a month view that syncs with Google Calendar. You can scroll and tap on a day to view all events. Another click opens the PWA for more details.

Having quick access to a monthly calendar for a simple reminder is already remarkably convenient, and the fact that it syncs with Google’s service increases the usefulness exponentially. On ChromeOS, you can still visit the website or install the large-screen-compatible Android app, but other desktop operating systems have long offered quick access to a calendar view. It just took Chromebooks too long to add this feature.

Before the feature was added, the absence reflected how services like Gmail, Google Calendar, and Photos worked exactly the same on Chrome for Mac, Windows, Linux, and ChromeOS. For years (after the novelty of offline access to Drive and Docs also arrived in the Chrome browser), Google’s operating system didn’t provide a significantly better experience for first-party apps.

Another example of change is how ChromeOS 104’s wallpaper picker now integrates with Google Photos for quick library browsing and auto-rotating personal backgrounds. It’s shocking that it took so long to implement, in hindsight, with Google Photos on Chromebooks also set to get a richer video editor this fall.

Earlier this year, the Android and ChromeOS teams previewed the latest “Better Together” features to better integrate your Chromebook and Android phone. Features like quick setup via Android, the ability to respond to chat apps from your phone, Fast Pair, and Wear OS unlocking are coming.

They should be pretty handy, but Google would do well to create integrations between ChromeOS and its most popular first-party services as well. Google Meet is a strong candidate given the amount of video calling we do these days, while accessing Google Keep to take text notes could be more seamless.

When Chromebooks turned 10 last year, Google talked about delivering more “intelligent experiences” than “[utilize its] artificial intelligence technology to help people proactively, in addition to the aforementioned cross-device integrations. For my money, I’d use more of the UX improvements and easier access to the apps I use daily.

It may be tempting (and easier) for Google to think of Chromebooks as nothing more than thin clients on the web, but we live in an age where competitors are ramping up integrations that highlight the value of staying on the platform. -form. ChromeOS needs to gain this transparency and work better with the Google ecosystem.

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