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Chromebooks will soon be able to run Linux apps, starting with Pixelbook

Google's Pixelbook is about to get a new trick today, as Linux support roles out in a preview version of Chrome OS.

Published onMay 8, 2018

  • Google has announced Chrome OS will soon have Linux app support.
  • Pixelbook will be the first to support the feature, with a preview version rolling out for the device today.
  • Google will run Linux apps by placing them in Debian-based Virtual Machine.

A few years back Chromebooks were considered underpowered and underfeatured. Many called Chrome OS a glorified web browser. Google’s desktop darling has come a long way since then. Nowadays you can you now use many Android apps, in addition to Chrome web apps. Still not good idea? Google has announced a new trick today, in the form of Linux app support.

Read Next: Chromebooks that run Android and Linux apps

While Linux might not have the plethora of commercial apps you’d find with Windows or even Mac OS, this is still a big deal. There a tons of indie applications specifically for Linux, and there are even some commercial options as well. And of course there’s Android Studio and more, making this great news for app developers.  Bottom-line, opening up to Linux means the Chromebook just got a whole lot more powerful.

The gap between traditional laptops and Chromebooks continues to shrink, and that's good for those looking for a laptop alternative.

As you’d imagine, this news isn’t without caveats. First, the very expensive Pixelbook will be the only Chromebook to support the feature initially. Thankfully there are plans to bring the feature to more models in the future.

The second limitation is that Google runs Linux apps by placing them in a Debian-based virtual machine. For those that aren’t familiar, this means that performance won’t be quite as good as you’d get from a native app installation. That’s likely the reason Google is kicking off support with the beefy Pixelbook. Nonetheless, Google says that most apps should run pretty well. Where you’ll likely notice the issue is on more intensive programs like Gimp. We also have to wonder if Linux games will be able to eventually run here or if the speed hit will be too significant.

The idea of Linux on Chromebook isn’t new. Crouton has allowed an unofficial path to Linux for a long time, but installing it required circumventing a few of Chrome OS’ built-in security measures in the process. This new method should be significantly more secure.

A preview version of Chrome OS with Linux app support will be hitting Pixelbooks later today.

I have to say, I’m impressed by where Chromebook is heading. What do you think, does the addition of Linux support have you tempted to give the Chromebook ecosystem a try? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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