Chromebooks are incredible tools for school and home use, and although they're often thought of as simple machines, they can do a variety of tasks beyond surfing the web. When Google launched Linux support for Chrome OS in 2018, it unlocked access to thousands of desktop applications. While modern Chromebooks have had access to Linux apps for years, capable Skylake-powered systems like the Samsung Chromebook Pro got left in the dust. It seems the wait may finally be over thanks to recent updates — but it may be too late to matter.
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Chromebooks can now run Linux-based applications, and even though the feature is mostly intended for use by developers, it can also benefit regular Chromebook owners. There are some tasks that websites and Android apps still aren't great at, which is where Linux applications might be able to help.
Linux application support on Chrome OS was introduced last year, but because it runs in a protected container on top of the actual operating system, there were plenty of caveats. Sound support and graphics acceleration are still in the works, and we're finally seeing progress on another crucial component — USB support.
The recent addition of Linux app support to Chromebooks has made the laptops much more useful, especially in the eyes of developers. However, if you needed to wipe or upgrade your Chromebook, there wasn't an easy way to keep your Linux data. Previous code commits hinted at the ability to back up and restore the Linux container, and now that functionality has arrived in the Dev Channel.
I've come to love using my Pixelbook over the last few months, thanks in part to support for Linux applications. Though it's still in its beta stages, I find it incredibly useful. Interestingly, it seems that Google is looking to address one of the limitations: the lack of audio playback for container programs. Based on a some official Project Crostini documents, we might see support for this in Chrome OS 74.
The long-awaited Linux support for Chromebooks has just hit the Stable channel. According to the Chrome Releases blog, the consumer-facing release channel is in the midst of being updated to v69, which includes Linux application support — at least, on compatible devices. The update also includes other features, such as a refreshed UI for browsing the filesystem, expanded dictation support for text entry, red-tinted Night Light, and some tablet-centric tweaks (among other smaller changes).
Google announced earlier this year that Linux apps would eventually be supported on Chrome OS. The feature has been available for months in the Canary and Dev channels, and now works on a variety of Chromebooks from multiple manufacturers. A merged pull request on the Chromium Gerrit now confirms that any device running the Linux kernel 3.14 (or older) will never get Linux app support.
Google revealed Linux app support for Chromebooks at this year's I/O conference, but at the time the only supported device was the first-party Pixelbook. The 2nd device to get the feature was Samsung's ARM-powered Chromebook Plus, and other recently released devices Like HP's Chromebook x2 haven't had Linux app support at all. But, if a recent commit is any indicator, Acer's Chromebook 13 and Chromebook Spin 13 may be the first Chromebooks to run Linux apps from day 1, no update necessary.