Chromebooks To Soon Run Linux Apps and VMs Using Containers

Chrome and Linux

Chromebooks are known for their security and flexibility. They are cheaper when compared to other notebooks. These Chromebooks run on Chrome OS which is built on top of Linux kernel. Even though they use Linux kernel it isn’t possible to run Linux apps on a Chromebook.

It doesn’t allow the support of traditional Linux desktop platforms inside Chrome OS. But this is going to be a thing of past as the next version of Chrome OS will get the ability to run native Linux apps on Chrome and this going to be made possible with the help of containers.

Earlier the only way to run Linux apps on Chrome is by using Crouton script. With the help of Crouton script and a little extension called Xiwi, users can run Linux OS in a browser window inside of Chrome OS.

But it isn’t a secure way as one has to comprise on device security which is one of the core assets of Chromebooks. To use Crouton script users have to enable developer mode which is a potential security threat to the device.

But now a newly merged commit in Chromium Gerrit describes a “new device policy to allow Linux VMs on Chrome OS”.

The Gerrit says that: “If the policy is unset or set to true, running Linux VMs on Chrome OS is allowed. The unset is allowed means non-managed devices are allowed.”

In another Gerrit commit developers mentioned about a project called Crostini which would address the developer mode problems on Chromebooks:

Add Crostini experiment to field trial testing.

This enables project Crostini, running Linux VM on Chrome OS, for Chromium developer builds.

Another interesting thing worthy to mention about this project is that, if it comes into existence, it will open lot more possibilities.

According to Chrome Unboxed, this new possibility of running non-Chrome apps on Chrome OS using containers would also allow users to run Microsoft’s .exe files using emulators like Wine or MacOS apps on Chromebooks. If the policy is allowed, the Chrome settings page will include a new menu item entitled “Better Together Settings.” Fitting given the fact that Ubuntu runs perfectly along-side Chrome OS.

With this new ability, Chrome OS may increase its market share as Enterprises can take advantage of this in a great way as there will fewer security concerns.

Why?

With this move, it is clear that Google is trying to draw the attention of developers and Enterprises. Linux is developers favourite and by allowing Linux apps on Chrome OS, Google is hoping to make developers hook to the platform. This will also improve the Chrome OS ecosystem as developers might work on new Chrome tools and extensions in their free time.

Also, the cheaper prices of Chromebooks may also attract developers to use Chromebooks.

In my opinion, this may be an advantage for developers and designers, but one problem is that Chrome OS is known for its simplicity and lite weight nature. Allowing other applications to run on this platform may increase the load which in turn may reduce the experience of simplicity.

When will this be Released:

It is expected that the new feature will be shipped along with the Chrome OS V66, which is scheduled for the release in April-May. Google may announce this project officially at its annual developer conference, Google I/O.

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