While Chromeboxes and Chromebases are making a comeback with the new 12th generation Intel Alder Lake devices on their way, I come from a time when it really didn’t make much sense at all to pick one up. They were available, though not in Best Buy or Walmart, but with Chrome OS being online only and stationary in that form factor, a Chromebook and my phone was a combination that just made a lot more sense.
Due to that, I’ve always resorted to docking my Chromebook instead – multi-display support, and more ports for peripherals have made for better productivity, all while giving me the ability to take my device on the go for the ultimate portability. Unfortunately, this makeshift solution, while commonly understood as an approach to desktop support for Chrome OS, has never really been well implemented. With the Works with Chromebook initiative taking off and gaining steam, this has changed drastically as there are now verified accessories that you can pick up off of the shelf in the store and have the assurance that they will play nicely with your laptop, but there’s still one major flaw with my experience that constantly reminds me that I’m scrapping things together myself.
Each time I turn my Pixelbook Go on in the morning and it detects my external display(s), I log in to find that all of my restored apps and web apps are haphazardously thrown onto the primary display with no rhyme or reason to their position or size. Google has done a great job at making the OS remember the size and position of your windows during a session even after you close them, but after a cold startup, it’s pure chaos. I just don’t understand why it hasn’t solved this problem yet!
Windows 11 was recently released as a preview and I’ve been utilizing it for testing and comparing the two operating systems extensively. It borrowed more than a few things from Chrome OS, and I think it was truly for the best, and it was certainly long overdue, but I think it’s time for Chrome OS to steal some things from Windows 11 in return. There exists an option in the Settings app for Microsoft’s newly minted OS that remembers the exact location of your windows based on the specific monitor connection, and it’s amazing.
The moment I saw this in action during the Windows 11 trailer, I was blown away. It’s simple, effective, and it feels like something that should have been a part of Chrome OS years ago! Google is definitely behind the times when it comes to peripherals and how they interface with the operating system in a more natural way, but if the Works with Chromebook team at Google has anything to say about it, it won’t stay this way for long – at least, that’s my hope.
I really don’t think such a thing would be impossible for Google to implement, but it wouldn’t be without its difficulties. Having to account for any and every window size and position, as well as doing all of this for a large handful of web apps at once may prove to be tricky. Add to that the fact that Android apps would have to gain this exact ability as a separate development from a different team, and it may be a ways off. Either way, the desktop experience feels truly incomplete and frustrating for me without it.
The development team is already finding ways to cross-pollinate features like sharing and link capturing between Android apps and Chrome tabs, so I refuse to believe this is out of the realm of possibility. I do think that because laptops are meant to be portable (for most people), it’s never been a focus for Google to fix this, but as docking becomes a more common and popular way to use these devices, I hope its focus shifts towards blurring the line between Chromebooks and Chromeboxes or bases.