Of all the manufacturers that build Chromebooks, Samsung finds itself in a place unlike any other. Sure, companies like Acer build a bunch of Windows laptops and HP is a brand that does far more than Chromebooks and Windows devices, but Samsung stands alone in the Chromebook market as the only current company that not only builds laptops, but phones and tablets as well.
Then, add in the software that they leverage/force on their massive user base and the critical thinker might already be seeing where I’m going with this line of thinking. As a company that cares not only for the hardware they build, but for the software ecosystem as well, Samsung sits in an interesting spot to leverage Chromebooks in a way no other maker has before. And yet, they are confusingly silent in the ChromeOS market right now.
Samsung cannot be Samsung on Chromebooks
When Samsung first made real waves with Chromebooks, they did so with the Samsung Chromebook Plus and Pro, and we all thought they’d attempt to utilize their dominant position in the tech industry to force users into a bloated software experience. That didn’t happen and just like any other OEM, Samsung shipped those Chromebooks and every one that followed with the same ChromeOS we get on every Chromebook across the board.
There’s no doubt that ChromeOS’ simplicity largely lies in the fact that nearly all Chromebooks still getting updates are all on the same version of the OS with all the same features at their disposal. While this likely hamstrings the higher-end devices, it makes for an operating system that always feels cohesive regardless of the hardware you are using at the time.
This is the exact opposite of Samsung’s usual method of doing things. As history shows us, Samsung has gone through many phases of pushing away from the standard software we’d all expect and uses its influence to try and force its own versions of even the most basic Android apps on end users. The last few years have finally seen an end to much of this behavior, but there’s no denying Samsung’s unique take on Android for their Galaxy line of phones. It’s Android, but it’s definitely Samsung’s Android.
These days that’s not such a bad thing, but it still stands in direct opposition of what Google is doing with ChromeOS and Chromebooks. There is no option to add custom skins, graphics, animations, or system-level applications in ChromeOS. You build the hardware, but Google is the sole provider of the operating system and software. We’ve said it 100 times if we’ve said it once: ChromeOS is ChromeOS is ChromeOS.
Exclusive software, not bloatware is the key
However, there is a way that Samsung could enjoy a bit more of their way of doing things on a Chromebook if they so chose at this point. While I don’t see a ton of their services magically being ported over to PWAs anytime soon (they should, but likely won’t), we can’t forget the deep integration Chromebooks still have with Android. We know the newer Android 13 container is on the way and Google’s continuing efforts to make Android apps better on Chromebooks is clearly moving forward. Simply put, Android on your Chromebook isn’t going anywhere.
And now that the Play Store can deliver both PWAs and Android apps to ChromeOS with various version of limitations as to which devices can and can’t install them, Samsung could finally leverage all their own apps on Chromebooks as they see fit. And there are quite a few that could be wildly beneficial to Chromebook users that choose to use Samsung’s phones, watches and earbuds.
The first and most notable would be Samsung’s Galaxy Wearable app. This app is responsible for connecting your watch or earbuds to your Samsung account and keeping them synced across devices. Even more important, this app allows for the initial setup process and all the settings for things like the EQ, touch controls, and notification options on Samsung’s Galaxy Buds. This app on a Chromebook would be a fantastic way to set up and adjust those peripheral devices without needing to rely on a phone.
And then you have apps like Samsung Notes that would be AMAZING on a Chromebook. Right now, Samsung doesn’t have a web view for their proprietary notes app, so having a tablet version on a Chromebook would be a big deal if it was able to be installed. Imagine jotting a note on your Galaxy S23 Ultra and then being able both see and continue that note taking session on a Chromebook.
And then, imagine that experience only being available on a Samsung Chromebook. Imagine Samsung being able to sell a convertible or detachable Chromebook with the build quality of one of their in-house laptops or tablets and giving that device access to the whole suite of Samsung’s app library. A Galaxy Chromebook that could fully utilize Samsung’s notes, health applications, and wearable app would be pretty amazing, and everything is in place for that to happen. Right now.
The way the Play Store works on Chromebooks would make this setup a snap. Developers can easily choose limitations for their apps, so it would be no effort for Samsung to limit their apps to their Chromebooks and their Chromebooks only. In doing so – assuming the users who have Samsung’s apps on their phones actually use them – Samsung could create some real exclusivity for their existing user base and make a very compelling reason to buy their Chromebook over a competitor’s.
And again, they are really the only manufacturer who can do this sort of thing. While Acer, Lenovo, ASUS, and HP could go this route, they don’t have the massive swath of users on phones and tablets that Samsung does, and that means Samsung can approach all of this in a much different way. Will they? For the life of me, I can’t begin to understand why they wouldn’t. It would be great for existing Samsung users and would be the first real use of Android on ChromeOS as a differentiator for a manufacturer that we’ve seen so far. While we have no pulse on anything upcoming from Samsung right now, that could change at any point; and if it does, wouldn’t it make a ton of sense for it to happen with this sort of arrangement in place? I sure think so!