Google made no mention of Linux apps on Chrome OS at last week’s hardware event in New York. I was a little surprised considering the fact that the Pixel Slate and Chrome OS saw nearly as much stage time as the Pixel phone that brought most of the media to Manhattan.
Google’s endgame for Linux on Chrome OS is still up in the air as it still feels very much like a developer-centric feature at the moment. Still, the Crostini Project is bringing Linux apps to more and more Chromebooks and ironically, the pace is quicker than the rollout of Android Apps on Chrome OS that has taken more than two years.
The latest devices to add Linux support will be arriving soon and will be led by, in my opinion, one of the most underrated Chromebooks of the past couple of years.
oak: enable USE=kvm_host
This works on these systems now and we have the appropriate security
backports in place, so let’s enable this.
Fans of ARM processors may recognize the name ‘oak’ as it is the baseboard for Chromebooks built around the MediaTek MT8173 quad-core chipset. The most notable device in this vein is the Acer Chromebook R13. The all-aluminum convertible was released at IFA in 2016 and is arguably the first Chromebook built for the Android App movement.
Unfortunately, the Chromebook R13 was quickly overshadowed by new flagships from Samsung and ASUS that featured more powerful processors and various features that made them more appealing to consumers. It was a sad happenstance for the Acer Chromebook because honestly, it is still a great device two years later. Seeing Google bring Linux apps to this device could breath much-needed new life into this model.
Along with the Acer Chromebook R13, there are a small handful of devices what will enjoy the addition of Linux apps when this update makes its way to the Stable channel.
- Lenovo Chromebook Flex 11/N23 Yoga
- Lenovo Chromebook 300e
- Poin2 Chromebook 11c
- Poin2 Chromebook 14
This list may not seem very impressive but that’s the exact reason I think Google has a larget target in mind with the Crostini Project. These MediaTek Chromebooks are consumer devices and the addition of Linux apps means, in some manner, developers want the average consumer to have access to these applications.
As Robby and I have discussed on many occasions, that will require a lot of polishing for the Linux app experience on Chrome OS. Consumers have very little concern about how their apps arrive on their devices. Instead, the average Chromebook user will only care about how the applications work on their devices and how easy it is to install them.
We’ll dive deeper into how Google can leverage Linux apps some other time but I would guess that Google is planning something bigger with Crostini and I really hope it involves some sort of unified apps store that includes Linux apps, PWAs and even Android apps. That may be a tall order but it would be a huge step towards Chrome OS becoming more mainstream.
Source: Chromium Commit