There are a few things that users bring up when they talk about the limitations of Chrome OS and the Chromebooks it runs on. Gaming, photo editing, and video editing tend to top that list. Over the past couple years, some of those have been addressed via web apps, Android apps, and/or Linux apps.
If Google’s Stadia project ends up delivering the way it promises, there will be a totally viable gaming solution for Chromebooks. For photo and graphic editing, there are options like Pixlr, Gravit Designer on the web and Photoshop or Lightroom on Android. Add to that a very workable solution in GIMP and Inkscape in Linux and you have most of your photo and graphic editing needs met.
Video editing, however, still feels a bit lacking. Sure, there are things like WeVideo both on the web and Android, but it is nowhere near what you can get on iOS or Mac. Kinemaster is growing rapidly and could be a real solution for many once the interface is fully fleshed out for Chromebooks. Not long ago, they added tons of keyboard shortcuts for Chrome OS and it has made a big productivity difference, but there’s still some work to be done on the interface for desktop overall.
The bigger issue here is the lack of ability for any of these solutions to deliver 4K output. Without the necessary encoding abilities, it doesn’t matter how good or bad the UI is on a video editor: your Chromebook can’t encode 4K for editing. At least, for right now it can’t.
4K Encoding Is Coming
In a commit we found just a couple days ago, it looks like the Chrome OS team is making the move to allow 4K hardware encoding to happen on Chromebooks. For now, it is being tested on the HP Chromebook x2, Pixelbook, and the Pixel Slate. Take a look at the commit:
chipset-kbl,eve,nocturne: enable HW AVC 4K encoding on ARC++P
Intel Kaby Lake device has an integrated Intel hd615 which supports AVC 4K encoding. Some partners of video editor apps would like to have 4K capability which would be regarded as a crucial feature for Chromebooks.
For this reason, we enable 4K capability on the target devices.
BUG=b:122720412 TEST=emerge-(soraka|eve|nocturne) -a arc-codec
This one is pretty easy to decipher. On Kabylake devices, hardware AVC 4K encoding is being enabled for the Intel GPU (HD615). This move is apparently being motivated by some software partners who want 4K video editing on Chrome OS. Without this GPU encoding those apps simply won’t be able to deliver 4K video production.
A couple things stand out as important, here. First, the fact that this is happening because of software developers desiring a feature for their apps is exciting. It means that there are apps being written with Chromebooks in mind. It means developers are finally starting to take Chrome OS seriously.
Second, the fact that Google is listening to this desire means they also see the need for some sort of video editing to be able to happen on Chromebooks. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t forsee a future where Chromebooks are being used to edit down feature films. I just think we could see a future where YouTube content gets created entirely on a Chromebook.
As a new generation of students moves from the school room to the office, Chrome OS will need to evolve with them. Creativity and the ability to produce content is more important now than it has ever been, and steps like this are positive moves for the longevity and usefulness of Chrome OS as it continues to grow.