Chromebooks have always been handy for media consumption and light internet browsing, but they’re not great if you’re looking for a thin and light notebook for your daily productivity tasks. However, according to a recent announcement from Google (via Engadget), Chromebook might soon become a lot more capable, thanks to the upcoming Linux app support.
As per the announcement, Google’s own Pixelbook will be the first Chromebook to receive Linux app support and will be joined by other models soon thereafter. Rumors about the upcoming feature have been floating around the internet since February this year when developers released the first look at a new Linux terminal for Chrome OS called Crostini. The terminal officially appeared in the experimental Canary channel for Chrome OS just a week before Google’s recently concluded I/O conference.
While this is the first time Google has officially announced Linux app support for Chromebooks, enthusiasts have had their own third-party options. A project known as Crouton, which has been available for a while now, allows Chromebook users to create an isolated file system where they can install Linux distros like Ubuntu. Unlike the upcoming official support, however, Crouton required users to enable developer mode and disable some of Chrome OS’s key security measures, thereby compromising their devices.
Google has now built a custom virtual machine (VM) on Chrome OS, within which users will be able to run a version of Debian. This will allow Chromebook users to run Linux apps on their system without disabling Chrome OS’s security measures. Google claims that users will be able to launch Linux apps directly from the Launcher and even tap into the saved files in the Downloads folder.
Even though Google is confident that running most Linux apps within Chrome OS won’t pose too many issues, Kan Liu, director of product management for Chrome OS, has suggested that running elaborate apps like GIMP on a virtual machine might slow down Chromebooks with less powerful hardware.