Just in time for the holidays, Chromebook users, regardless of the model they acquired, can now download and run Microsoft Office.
Running Office apps on Android smartphones and tablets is no longer a new or novel concept. On Chromebooks, it's a different story, however.
When Google announced in May 2016 that Chromebooks would run Android mobile apps, the company opened the floodgates. By bringing the Google Play app marketplace to Chromebooks, Google allowed users to venture beyond web-based software and apps made specifically for Chrome OS, and dip into a massive library of productivity software, image editors, games and more.
Unfortunately, not all Chromebook owners were able to install the Office apps for Android. Only select models such as the Asus Chromebook Flip were qualified to run the software. Now, according to Chrome Unboxed, Microsoft appears to have quietly lifted that restriction.
After testing several Chromebooks from various other manufacturers, the Chrome OS enthusiast website confirmed that the Office apps are now appearing in the Play Store for those devices. This enables users to download, install and run Word, Excel and other Office applications, provided their hardware can support Android apps to begin with.
And there's a good chance that Chromebook users will take Microsoft up on its offer.
Office apps are popular on the Google Play Store. Both Word and Excel carry a 4.5-star rating, and each has been downloaded at least 100 million times. It's also likely that the apps will be used by many teachers and their students.
Chromebooks have taken off in the education technology market. In Canada, Chromebooks are the top-selling device for K-12 schools, according to market research firm Futuresource. Chromebook usage also ranks high in the U.S., Sweden and New Zealand.
The Chromebook is also elbowing it way into the premium laptop market.
In October, Google unveiled the Pixelbook. Starting at $999 and powered by Intel Core processors, the 12.3-inch Pixelbook supports stylus input and takes a cue from devices that support Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana. "Pixelbook is the first laptop with the Google Assistant built in," wrote Matt Vokoun, director of product management at Google Hardware, in an Oct. 4 blog post. "Just say 'Ok Google' or press the dedicated Assistant key, and you can talk or type to find answers or perform tasks."
Meanwhile, Chromebooks remain a bright spot in the moribund PC market.
In the third quarter of 2017, PC shipments fell to 67.2 million units, a 0.5 percent drop compared to the same year-ago period, according to IDC. Chromebooks are bucking the trend, finding new places to call home.
"Despite the overall contraction, Chromebooks remain a source of optimism as the category gains momentum in sectors outside education, especially in retail and financial services," observed Neha Mahajan, senior research analyst of Devices and Displays at IDC, in a statement.