In a recent development, it seems ChromeOS may soon get the ability to auto-launch PWAs on startup, putting this part of the OS experience more in-line with the likes of Windows, MacOS, and Linux. While you may not love the idea of stuff auto-opening when you launch into your daily ChromeOS session, the truth is having the ability to pick and choose a few things that could seamlessly be open and available to you upon boot would be nice if it is handled correctly.
Thanks to a find by Kevin Tofel over at About Chromebooks, we can see that a long-standing feature request looks to be finally moving towards implementation. The discussion in the attached bug has been ongoing for over a year and a half at this point, but a recent addition to the Chromium Repositories sees a new change merged that should at least get the flag in place to switch this feature on and off soon.
Keep in mind, this is just the addition of the flag at this point, so it likely won’t do anything just yet. But as the feature develops, I could see some intriguing possibilities. For starters, it needs to be said that I’m sure not one person wants the rather intrusive auto-launch app situation we see on some Windows devices. It’s annoying to have apps running in the background that are not only unwanted, but completely unneccessary and stealing system resources. In no reality should ChromeOS allow any app to auto launch without explicit consent from the end user.
In a perfect world, this feature would allow simple things like opening up my Discord and WhatsApp PWAs on launch. For me – and I’m sure many others – when I turn on my Chromebook, I open up all the same stuff every time. I have my desks arranged and the apps I need to do my work organized and laid out the way I like it, but I have to set it all up manually. I’d love it if my boot up could get my desks and the included PWAs (I don’t use many Android apps on the regular) in their place, open, and ready each time I open the lid on my Chromebook.
Auto-launched PWAs could help a great deal with this, but that’s only one use case. In the bug discussion, one admin wanted the ability to auto launch Google Chat as a replacement for Hangouts, and this new feature would help make that a possibility across their fleet.
We would like to see support for this since Hangouts will be fully sunset soon. We can currently deploy the Chat PWA via cloud management and add the desktop shortcut but we cannot force the PWA to auto start. Auto start and the inability to background Chat are the reasons we are holding onto Hangouts as long as we can. The inability to do both will cause IM usage to fall in our company as we have many outlook users.via the Chromium Bug Tracker
Other options are clearly viable here, too, and as long as the end user or system admin have the final say in what apps do or don’t launch at startup, I think this could be a very helpful tool when it does launch. With Speed, Simplicity and Security as the core tenets to ChromeOS, I can’t see a scenario where PWAs get included in the auto-launch list without the user putting them there. As long as that is the case, I’m all for this change and I think many of you out there will likely benefit from it as well. We’ll keep an eye out for it in future updates and let you know when we see it actually become implemented.