In an announcement that was likely missed by many mainstream consumers, Samsung announced their desktop solution would soon be housing a Linux distro via an Android app. They are calling the entire setup Linux on Galaxy, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t’ really, really interested. Though, as some folks will point out, Android runs on the Linux kernel already, bringing a desktop-oriented distro for users to have access to right from their phones is intriguing. Yes, Android is technically running on a Linux kernel, but it is not in any way a desktop setup. Not even close. But Linux on Galaxy looks to be bringing a Linux desktop experience to DeX users soon.
Linux on Galaxy enables developers to use Samsung smartphones for all their computing needs, even app development. Linux on Galaxy allows the latest Samsung Galaxy smartphone users to run their preferred Linux distribution on their smartphones utilizing the same Linux kernel that powers the Android OS to ensure the best possible performance.
Here’s what is interesting in the statement from Samsung: they claim that users will be able to run “their preferred Linux distribution” from their phone. I assumed when I heard this that Samsung would have a specific distribution (like the most public-aware Ubuntu) available, but this makes it seem like you’ll have some control over which one you use.
Quick Up To Speed
For those unaware of what we’re talking about here, let me put it in quick, easy terms. DeX is what Samsung rolled out with the Galaxy S8 that allows users to plug their phone into a Samsung-made dock and get a desktop-like version of Android. Only a few apps are optimized for this setup (we Chromebook users feel your pain, DeX users), but it works relatively well for doing a few higher-productivity tasks on the go.
Linux is a kernel that operating systems are built upon. Android is built on it. Chrome OS is built on it. So seeing it packaged on a phone isn’t that much of a leap. The most popular distribution (version) of a Linux-based OS is Ubuntu, but you could easily say that title belongs to Chrome OS. Chrome OS is highly customized, however, so many Linux users don’t consider it a true distribution. I’m not here to fight that fight. Just know that there are tons of Linux distros that all usually get lumped together as Linux-based and they all have strengths, weaknesses, and are used by countless professionals daily.
Why This Is Interesting
Here’s where this gets real. Samsung, however they deliver this Linux distro, is basically looking to give its users a fully-functioning desktop OS in their pocket. If it does, in fact, allow users to choose their Linux distro and run all the things users are accustomed to running on a Linux desktop, it could be a pretty big deal. Sure, Mac or Windows users won’t be trading in their laptops over this, but a user-friendly version of Linux (like Ubuntu) could convince many users to give Linux a try as a viable desktop option.
If it works and is a great experience, it also opens up a whole different can of worms.
Chrome OS Packaged In A Pixel
With Chrome OS being what amounts to just another Linux distro, what Samsung is doing could easily be done using Chrome OS and Android.
It would, in effect, be the opposite of what is happening on Chromebooks right now.
Imagine a scenario in the future (again, assuming Samsung’s experiment works and does what it says) where Chrome OS can be packaged and delivered on Android phones in the same way Samsung is looking to deliver Linux on its phones. Imagine a simple dock that calls up Chrome OS when plugged in. Chrome OS has shown its full ability to run well on low-powered ARM chips. I’d imagine a processor like the Snapdragon 835 would be a comfy fit for Chrome OS and things would move along quite well.
With this you could sit down to a workstation or laptop dock, plug in your phone, and be off and running. Chrome OS boots quickly, so no need for it to be running until you actually need it. Oh, by the way, Chrome OS also runs all your Andoid apps, so anything you had working on your phone in an app would also remain accessible on your desktop.
The possibility is tantalizing, no?
I’m not sure what the draw is, but I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of all my computing happening in a supremely-portable, pocketable device. Sure, wireless displays with no latency would be the ultimate version of this dream, but we’re not there just yet.
What we may be seeing, however, is a systematic convergence of desktop and phone operating systems. With so much of our digital lives being lived out on the web, this is only becoming more simple to accomplish.
Also consider Huawei’s Mate 10 Pro and its own desktop setup. If there wasn’t at least a fledgling interest in this type of use-case, we wouldn’t be seeing it pop up more and more. And, if I’m honest, the more I see it happen, the more I wonder how long it will be before we see a phone (*cough, Pixel 2 XL, cough*) get this type of functionality. Sure, Samsung’s experiment with DeX and Linux may not make many waves. If it works, however, the implications could be pretty massive for others wanting to take the idea and run with it.