Being able to run Linux is a drastic addition to Chrome OS, Google's proprietary operating system, which up until now has only supported web-based Chrome apps and Android apps. The arrival of Linux marks the first time Chrome OS will be able to run full desktop applications.
As VentureBeat reports, Chrome OS product management director Kan Liu says users can use Linux-based tools, editors, and integrated development environments on a Chromebook, and the installation process is similar to that on a typical Linux machine.
"Just go to wherever you normally get those apps, whether it's on the websites or through apt-get in the Linux terminal, and seamless get those apps like any other Linux distribution," said Lui.
Available On The Google Pixelbook Only, At Least For Now
For now, the feature is only available on the Pixelbook, but Google says it'll roll out to other models eventually. Linux support on Chrome OS is still in its early stages, so expect a few bumps along the road. The feature won't be enabled by default, so users must manually toggle it on themselves.
Development On Chrome OS
Linux on Chrome OS means developers will finally be able to use a Chromebook to develop for Google's platforms, instead of depending on Mac, Windows, or Linux machines. Developers will be able to create, test, and run any Android or web app meant for a number of platforms right on their Chromebooks.
Chrome OS, when compared with macOS, Windows 10, and Linux, is relatively limited and underpowered. That's why Chromebooks — the cheap ones, anyway — are ubiquitous in the education sector. They're useful enough to help with everyday tasks but can't be used to do more complicated stuff, such as editing videos or rendering, which makes them the perfect devices for, say, a student or an employee in a very strict workplace.
One of the biggest criticisms of the Chrome OS platform, however, is its inability to let developers create, but with Linux, that's bound to change.
Chrome OS is built on the Linux kernel, so running Linux apps has technically been possible before. In fact, some users have managed to pull it off using a variety of tools, but they sacrificed some Chrome OS security features in the process.
With Linux now part of Chrome OS, developers don't have to do that anymore. It makes Chrome OS an incredibly more useful system.