Google Announces Renewed Support for Linux Software Running on Chromebooks

A few months back, Google announced that they were enabling some support for container-based Linux applications running on Chromebooks. While it’s possible to install an open-source GNU/Linux distro on top of Chrome OS, Google’s announcement seemed to indicate that users would be able to run these programs out of the box without installing a second operating system.

Google’s own Pixelbook and Samsung’s Chromebook Plus were said to be early adopters of this technology. News then broke that Acer’s Chromebook 13 and Spin 13 would also be among the first units to ship with Linux application support. HP’s X2 will apparently be the first detachable unit that can run apps in this way.

A report from XDA-Developers is now claiming that Google is renewing their commitment to open-source code by getting ready to enable support on many additional devices. A recent commit suggests that all Chromebooks using Apollo Lake processors will soon have this support enabled, though the exact date of when the change will happen is still a mystery.

Apollo Lake chips power 18 different Chromebooks, which represents a fairly large portion of the installed base when it comes to these small laptops. Vendors that use the chip include Dell, Lenovo and ASUS in addition to the aforementioned brands. Since Chrome OS itself is based on the Linux kernel, it seems that this kind of support has been a long time coming.

If you’re a developer and just can’t wait to try out containerized application support, then you can actually manually enable repositories that will give you this kind of freedom today. Chrome OS’ Canary and Developer channels already have support built into their code, so you may wish to switch these on.

Keep in mind that these are untested beta channels, so you won’t be getting the same experience that you would if you waited for the full regular release. Nevertheless, it might be an interesting experience for anyone who plans to deploy Linux code on Chromebooks in the near future.

Interested parties may also wish to take a look at the Chromium OS distro, which is essentially a stripped-down open-source version of Chrome OS that powers the full release of Google’s popular system software packages.

John Rendace
John is a GNU/Linux expert with a hobbyist's background in C/C++, Web development, storage and file system technologies. In his free time, he maintains custom and vintage PC hardware. He's been compiling his own software from source since the DOS days and still prefers using the command line all these years later.