I’m in the camp that believes Google’s browser-based Chrome OS was always a “real” operating system and not just a glorified web browser. But the addition of support for Android apps and Linux apps in recent years has certainly gone a long way toward making the operating system more versatile.
Now it looks like there are two relatively significant updates on the way.
Chrome Unboxed reports that Linux app support is coming to Chromebooks with MediaTek processors, while Chrome Story notes that the latest experimental build of Chrome OS has updated the Android subsystem from Android 7.x Nougat to Android 9 Pie.
Here’s why these updates matter.
Most Chromebooks released in the past few years have been able to run the Google Play Store and Google apps. But it’s been a while since Google updated the Android subsystem.
The move to Android 9 Pie brings some user interface tweaks, support for apps and features that may not have been available for Android Nougat and some other tweaks — the default camera app in Chrome OS Canary now seems to be the Google camera app for Android.
Meanwhile, the addition of support for Linux apps allows users to download and install desktop applications that work whether you have an internet connection or not. That allows you to run office software, applications for editing audio, video, or images, or games that might not otherwise be available for Chromebooks.
Linux app support is still very much a work in progress and seems like it’s aimed at developers rather than casual users at the moment. But Google keeps adding features that make Linux apps work more like native apps and the company keeps adding support for more devices.
The latest update means the Acer Chromebook R13, Lenovo Chromebook 300e, and a handful of other devices will soon join the ranks of Chrome OS devices capable of running Linux apps.