Ever wanted to have a Chrome OS experience on a device that isn’t a Chromebook or a Chromebox? To do so, you need Chromium OS – the free and open source base of Chrome OS – and until now, the CloudReady operating system from Neverware has always been the best option for that. With Google now assimilating Neverware, there are a lot of exciting changes merging upstream into Chromium OS for DIY enthusiasts.
Today, the big news is that Chromium OS is about to get a lot easier to install. As it stands right now, installing it is not intuitive at all. When booting up the installer from a flash drive, it acts like a brand new Chromebook ready to be setup for initial use. Every time. There’s only a brief mention of the installer seemingly hidden in the developer documentation. Even worse, it’s a command line program that’s complicated to get to. Not exactly a great user-friendly experience.
Things are about to change. Again, Google recently bought Neverware, the company behind a popular and commercially supported Chromium OS fork named CloudReady. The goal behind these projects are to create a free operating system that can be installed on almost any computer (except Chromebooks/boxes, ironically). That means that you can bring new life to an old computer by wiping your old copy of macOS or Windows and replacing it with Chromium OS. CloudReady comes into the scene by providing a more polished experience on-top of Chromium OS and even provides enterprise support for those who need it. It has some nice quality-of-life features such as a graphical installer via the “Install OS” icon in the system tray. Now that’s finally being merged upstream into Chromium OS proper.
This commit adds a more streamlined installation along with an icon that features a cloud with a download symbol in the middle. This is a subtle and nice looking improvement over the current CloudReady installer icon which, ironically, doesn’t have a cloud. Our very own Michael Perrigo did a wonderful job taking the icon and placing it in the system tray to see what it would look like in Chromium OS.
More Work on CloudReady Integration
Related to this work, in another commit, a developer talks about a new “CloudReady 2.0 Image Delivery” being in development. Earlier this year, it was discovered that code from CloudReady was starting to be ported over into Chromium OS. That has been great news as both ecosystems will continue to grow from one another seemingly with a goal to merge both into one.
Interestingly enough, CloudReady’s stable update channel has been stuck on Chromium OS 89 for an unusually long time. For comparison, Chrome OS 92 is about to be released soon which will be 3 versions ahead. Neverware has been very open about merging their code with Chromium OS. One of the major changes coming is aligning the number of partitions (the disk layout) to be the same between the two. Neverware’s update page mentions “Note: To closer align with Chromebooks, CloudReady is changing the partition layout from 27 partitions to 12 partitions on v90 and onward.” As the two worlds continue to merge together, I expect Chromium OS and CloudReady to be even more identical.
We’ll continue to have a watchful eye on this integration. Google paid good money for Neverware so surely they must be looking to expand the reach of the Chromium OS ecosystem. PC manufacturers could one day offer it as an alternative to Windows for devices they sell. Imagine being about to install it on any computer and easily enable Android, Windows (via Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS), and Steam gaming. There’s a lot of untapped potential here!