The ability to run Linux apps in virtual machines in Chrome is expanding beyond Google's flagship Pixelbook line of Chromebooks. The feature, for which plans were first discovered in late February, was formally announced by Google at I/O 2018. Unlike the existing solution, Crouton, support for Linux apps does not require enabling developer mode on Chrome OS, allowing users to install Linux apps without needing to sacrifice security protections.
In addition to the Pixelbook, support for the new Crostini virtual machine feature has also come to the original Samsung Chromebook Plus, the detachable HP Chromebook X2, and the ASUS Chromebook Flip C101. Likewise, according to a report from xda-developers, the feature is coming to the Acer Chromebook Spin 13 and Chromebook 13, as well as 2018-era Chromeboxes, which all share the same board ID "fizz." Of these, the Acer Chromebox CX13 series and ASUS Chromebox 3 series both have multiple SKUs, maxing out with an Intel Core i7-8550U paired with 16GB RAM and 64GB storage for $750.
SEE: System update policy (Tech Pro Research)
Support could still come to other existing Chrome OS devices, though most older devices do not meet the hardware requirements to support the technology. According to the Chromium documentation, support will not be coming to older devices that run kernel version 3.8 or 3.10, or devices with Bay Trail processors, as the variant of Bay Trail used in Chromebooks lacks support for Intel VT-x.
As it is, there are still significant limitations in how Crostini works, as the implementation of the technology is still quite early. Presently, Crostini does not support accelerated graphics, audio output, or hardware video decoding, making certain use cases less than ideal. These features, as well as support for IMEs and peripheral support are presently being worked on by Google for future releases of Chrome OS.
Linux support on Chromebooks is not the only way that the devices have been extended. Support for running Android apps on Chrome OS has matured well over the last two years. Additionally, work has apparently been undertaken to make the Google Pixelbook capable of dual-booting Windows. While previous reports indicate changes in Chrome OS referencing "AltOS" and "go/vboot-windows," and the addition of placeholder strings for "Chrome OS" and "AltOS" being added to all languages, additional commits have been discovered that indicate work is being done to pass tests in WHCK (Windows Hardware Certification Kit) and HLK (Windows Hardware Lab Kit)— certification suites used by Microsoft to ensure that devices are sufficiently compliant to be shipped with Windows.
Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
- Support for the Crostini virtual machine feature is available on the Google Pixelbook, the original Samsung Chromebook Plus, the detachable HP Chromebook X2, and the ASUS Chromebook Flip C101.
- Google is also apparently working on bringing support for Windows 10 to the Pixelbook.
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- What Linux apps on Chrome OS means for open source (TechRepublic)
James Sanders is a Tokyo-based programmer and technology journalist. Since 2013, he has been a regular contributor to TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research.