Chromebooks are incredible tools for school and home use, and while they are often viewed as simple machines, they can do a variety of tasks beyond just surfing the web. When Google introduced 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, powerful Skylake-powered systems like the Samsung Chromebook Pro stayed in the dust. It seems the wait is finally over thanks to recent updates – but it may be too late to matter.
Google broke its silence on the Chromium bug tracker last Friday and confirmed that work on running Linux apps on Skylake Chromebooks was complete. This should finally close the curtain on this issue, with support arriving in subsequent updates without enabling the Chrome “Enable VMs on Experimental Kernels” flag. It’s unclear how long users with a Skylake device will have to wait, but it could appear in the next major Chrome OS update (M92).
The long-running saga began when a Samsung Chromebook Pro user made a feature request for the Chromium bug tracker to support Linux on Skylake Chromebooks. The report has garnered 656 stars since then, with several others asking for a release date. A Google developer dashed hopes by saying they had nothing to announce. Google was silent about the request until it was finally announced over two years later that Linux apps would be coming to Skylake Chromebooks, starting with Samsung’s Chromebook Pro. We’re not sure why it took so long to add support, but we believe the project fell into development hell, as suggested in a comment last November.
There’s no denying that extending Linux apps to older hardware is a tedious task. I can’t imagine the tremendous amount of work involved in porting it, other than updating the device’s old kernels. Stability and security are top priorities for Google. So there remains to be done to make sure there aren’t any issues before the feature is available in Chrome OS Stable.
However, I’m not sure if Google’s efforts to add Linux to Skylake Chromebooks are even playing a role at this point. Many will have left their outdated devices, most of which will not receive updates in another two years. History could have been different if Google had made its development transparent or supported these laptops much earlier. Completion of the work these late seems like a lot of effort that will have very little effect. On the plus side, once the Linux container hits their devices on the stable channel, some users will no doubt be very excited.