Chrome OS is an operating system that puts the Chrome web browser front and center. While you can run Android and Linux apps on Chromebooks these days, Chrome is still very much the star of the show.
But because Chrome is so tightly integrated with the operating system, right now Google cannot roll out browser updates without also updating the entire operating system. That could be set to change in the future… and it could potentially lead to faster updates and maybe even longer lifespans for Chromebooks.
Here’s what we know so far. Google has been working on a project called LaCrOS which separates the browser from the operating system. Once fully implemented, that means Chrome will be an app that runs on top of the OS… just like it does on Windows, Mac, Linux, or Android devices.
That means Google will be able to roll out browser updates the same way it does for other operating systems. And as Kevin Tofel from About Chromebooks notes, that could lead to quicker updates. Right now new versions of Chrome OS tend to roll out a week or two after the browser is updated for other platforms, because Google has to take extra steps to update the underlying OS. In the future, the browser can be updated as soon as a new version is available, while Chrome OS will only get updates when Google is ready to roll out new features, bug fixes, or security patches to the lightweight, Linux-based operating system.
As the folks at Android Police suggest, there could be another potential upshot: you may be able to continue getting Chrome browser updates even after your Chromebook has reached the end of its Auto Update Policy lifespan.
While this isn’t likely to affect older Chromebooks that have already reached end of life (because Google won’t be pushing the OS update that brings LaCrOS to those devices), if the browser is truly separated in the future, then when currently supported Chromebooks age out of the system, Google may be able to continue releasing browser updates the same way it does for any Linux distribution.
It’s not clear if Google plans to do that. But it’s certainly a possibility.
Another benefit to LaCrOS? It will let you run two instances of the Chrome browser at the same time (and not just multiple windows or browser tabs). One possible down side? There may be a slight performance hit, but it’s not expected to be very large.
There’s no word on when LaCrOS will roll out to the public, but right now you can try it out in the Chrome OS 87 Canary Channel.