It’s official: Google is adding support for Linux apps to Chromebooks.
The feature will work by running Linux apps in a custom Linux virtual machine that “starts in seconds and integrates completely with Chromebook features“.
Users can pin Linux apps to the Chrome OS shelf for quick launching, arrange, snap and manage Linux app windows as normal, and access files in Google Drive and local storage from inside apps.
In short: seamless, integrated, and user-friendly alternative to Crouton (more on that in a bit).
What is unclear at the time of writing is exactly how users will browse and install Linux apps in Chrome OS. Will Google offer a curated “app store” of compatible software? Will it be command-line only? Update: it will support apt-get!
The good news is we won’t have long to wait to find out. Pixelbook owners will be able to opt-in to try a preview of the tool shortly (and it’s looking likely that other Chromebooks will be able to run the tool too).
An alternative for those who install Linux on a Chromebook?
Chrome OS is itself a Linux-based operating system, and thanks to tools like Crouton it’s been possible to install Ubuntu and other Linux distros alongside Chrome OS.
But those implementations run side-by-side; you have to keep switching between Chrome OS and Linux to use apps.
Which is why this new Linux project from Google, which is code-named “Crostini”, is so exciting. It offers a seamless, unified alternative to Crouton set-ups by letting you run, use and install Linux apps in Chrome OS just like any regular app.
Compelling added value
A Chromebook with Linux apps, Android apps, progressive web apps, and the regular web –– it’s a more compelling lure than Windows 10 S with the Windows Store, isn’t it?
With WINE it could be possible to run Windows apps on a Chromebook too!
And we’re talking native Linux apps here like GIMP, Eclipse, Android Studio, VLC, Geary, and more.
Heck, some early testers over on the Crostini subreddit have managed to get install Steam for Linux on a Chromebook (albeit with various limitations).
Are you a Chromebook owner? Is this a feature you would use? Or do you think Google is making a mistake by going down this path? Let us know your thoughts in the comments space we’ve carved out below…