Lab Chrome OS Beyond 2020: What Does Google’s OS Give In Practice?

Introduction to Lab Chrome OS

The IdeaPad Duet Chromebook is currently being tested in our lab. The opportunity to take stock of Chrome OS, Google’s operating system, and what it offers in 2020.

Derived from Google’s successful browser, Chrome OS is the distant cousin of Android (both systems based on a Linux kernel), which celebrated its 10th-anniversary last year.

Reduced initially to a simple browser window, it has grown richer over the years, first with the arrival of a real window manager and native applications, the Chrome Apps. Then with the addition of the Android software library in 2016.

Finally, by the arrival in 2018 of Linux applications, thanks to the Crostini project.
While Google announced last June its desire to bring Windows applications to its users, what does using ChromeOS mean in 2020?

Surface simplicity

To answer this question – more complicated than it seems for an operating system which is defined above all by its ease of use – we took advantage of the presence in our laboratory of the tablet under Chrome OS by Lenovo, the IdeaPad Duet, which can be presented as the Chrome OS equivalent of a Microsoft Surface Go – we will detail the performance of the IdeaPad Duet in a future test. However, it uses a MediaTek processor with an ARM architecture, which is essential and will come back.

Chrome OS is first presented as a very simple experience for those who have already interacted with an Android smartphone or tablet. There is no visible difference between a native application, such as the browser and an Android application.

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Google’s apparent desire to simplify the user experience. This is a good idea, in our opinion, especially since Chrome Apps – native applications that appeared shortly after the operating system – are on the way to disappear, after a reprieve of almost two years since the announcement of their stop.

Thanks to the presence of applications like Google Docs or Sheets, it is quite possible to use the tablet as a computer dedicated to office automation.

We regret that we have to install an extension in the browser and then activate the offline mode on a web page of the service before finally working peacefully in offline mode on files from Google Drive. A procedure that we would have thought more intuitive on a platform entirely mastered by Google.

The penguin to the rescue

While Chrome OS can give the impression of being just an improved Android version, especially in a tablet format, it hides one of its greatest assets. Since 2018, we have benefited from Linux support directly within the operating system.

With the addition of the terminal, the capabilities of Chrome OS are significantly extended. Are you used to working with Audacity for audio work, but it is not available on Android?

No problem, a few command lines, and voila, you now have a device fully capable of helping you on your audio adventures. Likewise with GIMP, Inkscape, or any software package available under Linux (preferably Debian), but especially under ARM architecture.

Indeed, as specified at the beginning of this article, here we are using a tablet with an ARM processor. However, this means that these products will not have access on the one hand to Linux applications intended for an x86 architecture – used by Intel and AMD and the standard on all laptops and desktops but above all that these Chromebooks do not will therefore not have access to the Windows applications promised by Google.

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Requiring more power, these will be reserved for more powerful machines with an Intel processor. A point to which you will therefore have to think about if you are tempted to dive into the Google ecosystem, especially in a professional setting.

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A somewhat separate system, between the general public and hackers

Therefore, Google’s OS is a somewhat unique case, which is perhaps going through what one could call an identity crisis – or is it a question of pragmatism on the part of its designer. On the one hand, it may seem like an improved version of Android, especially in a tablet format: a format that Google has abandoned since 2015 with its latest tablet, the Pixel C.

On the other hand, it seems to want to open up on all sides (to Linux, and soon to Windows) to become the platform of choice for users, even if they must temporarily leave its ecosystem to dig into a repository does not exist. It is not that of Google.

The future of Chrome OS is, therefore, very difficult to predict. What about its Fuchsia operating system, for example, expected at this year’s I / O before it was cancelled?

How will Chrome OS evolve to face competitors like Microsoft’s Windows 10X, which appeared to be tailor-made to overshadow it?

We can’t answer a number of questions right now, but we hope we’ve provided you with a little insight into the state of Chrome OS in 2020. Stay tuned at our website for more latest updates!


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