When Google bought Neverware and the CloudReady operating system that it has spent years developing, we all wondered what exactly would come from that acquisition. After all, CloudReady was a fork of Google’s own ChromiumOS (which ChromeOS is clearly based upon), so it wasn’t exactly clear what Google wanted with CloudReady at first. We had our theories, but after ChromeOS Flex was released to the world, it all became very clear what Google was up to.
What is ChromeOS Flex?
In the event that you aren’t familiar with ChromeOS Flex at this point, the idea is pretty simple. Using the same deployment method that CloudReady has leveraged for years, you can now test a Google-certified version of ChromeOS on just about any Windows or MacOS device that you have lying around. Simply use the Chrome Recovery Tool, flash the ChromeOS Flex image to a USB drive, and boot your device from it to see how it all goes. We made a video all about how to do just that if you are interested.
The process is pretty simple and we’ve had great results with running the OS right from a USB drive. We’re working on another attempt at a full-blown install video after our attempt on a very old Macbook failed miserably. That was a bummer, sure, but it wasn’t on Google’s certified list, so our results weren’t entirely shocking.
This clean, simple version of ChromeOS is built to run very well on a bunch of devices at this point, and Google even encourages trying anything that can boot from USB. However, there’s no way to know for certain whether or not your uncertified device will work or not until you just give it a go. And we have a whole video planned on that in the very near future.
Google’s certified ChromeOS Flex list
That being said, we’ve yet to actually attempt the full install on a device that is listed on Google’s certified ChromeOS Flex list. Until our visit to Google’s offices in Manhattan earlier this month, I still wasn’t entirely convinced our next attempt would 100% work, either. Sure, there’s a list of devices that should work, but will they actually perform well once you overwrite the existing OS? Our Macbook ran like butter with ChromeOS Flex running off the USB drive, but the full install was a complete and utter failure. Can Google’s list actually be trusted?
As it turns out, even without testing it just yet, my answer to that question is unequivocally yes. And my reasoning for this assurance comes completely from our time chatting with the lead for the ChromeOS Flex team – Peter Freudenberger – during our time in New York. Before this experience, I really thought Google’s certified ChromeOS Flex list was something based on simple specs and assumptions, but I was quite wrong.
Instead, we were taken to a room where the walls are lined with small divider compartments that each house a different, aging laptop model. There were some other experimental devices in there, too, but the majority of this room was a physical catalog of all the devices you see on Google’s certified ChromeOS Flex list. Seriously. Every one of them. And this room wasn’t just there for looks; it is where the ChromeOS Flex team stores and references all the hardware on the certified list.
And this means Google thoroughly tests every single device they deem certified for ChromeOS Flex. It isn’t based on specs or baseline assumptions; getting on the list only happens after someone from the ChromeOS Flex team picks up that particular device and runs it through a battery of tests. And they don’t just test whether or not it boots up. They test trackpads, Wi-Fi, keyboards, shortcuts, touch inputs, ports and every other part of that device to be sure that it functions as expected.
Only after it is tested thoroughly and certified to function with ChromeOS Flex running on it does that laptop get the green check on Google’s list. And this fact blew my mind. All along I figured Google would quickly check a device to make sure things didn’t completely fall apart when ChromeOS Flex was installed, open a browser, do a few quick tasks and call it a day. Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought that each and every certified ChromeOS Flex laptop was hand-tested and individually approved. That is wild!
Putting it to the test soon
So, on that note, I’ll let you all know that we have a certified laptop – the Microsoft Surface Laptop SE – ordered and on the way to the office as this post hits the web. As you can likely figure, we’re going all-in with ChromeOS Flex on this device and plan on turning Microsoft’s “Chromebook Killer” into – well – a Chromebook.
We plan on diving right in the moment it arrives and fully leaning on Google’s certified list (the SE is the only certified Microsoft hardware at the moment) as assurance that this will work out fine. After all, we now know they’ve tested far more than we ever will, so why mess around? We’ll be doing the full install and we’ll get it all on video, too. After seeing what we saw in New York, I have no reason whatsoever to doubt that things will work out quite well this time around. Stay tuned.