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The one basic thing these two changes will do is make a Chromebook a long-term investment. Today, buying a Chromebook is akin to buying a machine for work or play that you can use for light tasks. It doesn’t have the power or the capacity that full fledged laptops do. It can’t. The OS is simply not powerful enough, and doesn’t support enough software.
This could be the year that all of it changes.
Google Chrome Parts from Chrome OS
The first of the Chrome OS improvements in the near future is its dissociation, from the Chrome browser. While that seems odd since Google Chrome is the bedrock of the entire OS, it’s a necessary move. An OS with so many customers can’t stay running on a browser. A browser doesn’t have the capability to run OS like a full-fledged operating system can.
This has been in the works for a long time now. We heard about this development in September 2020. In order to understand how important of a shift this is, let’s go back to the early days of Chrome OS.
Chromebooks run on Google Chrome. Quite literally the earliest days of the Chrome OS platform were simply defined as the Google Chrome Operating System era. It was supposed to be an extension of the browser itself. That’s how Google defined it at the time anyway.
In the earliest days, there was no desktop or taskbar or apps. There was just the browser and no real multitasking you could do. The entire experience was a Chrome browser window. Since then, several of Android OS’ features have found their way into Chrome OS. Essentially, it’s become an environment which mirrors that of any Android tablet, but one designed for a computer. That’s why you can shift to tablet form so easily on any Chromebook.
Google Chrome is now just an element of the Chrome OS experience. However, it’s still an indispensable part of the experience. You couldn’t put Firefox or Microsoft Edge in the place of Google Chrome and ignore it completely. The system updates for the OS update Google Chrome too.
Hence, if the Google Chrome browser isn’t consistently updated, the OS will become dangerously out of date. That’s why Google’s move to dissociate with the Google Chrome browser as part of the OS is a necessity.
Google is building up to switching the primary Chrome OS browser away from the integrated version of Chrome. So, what’s the other big change?
CloudReady Joins Chrome OS
The second of the big improvements to Chrome OS is a partnership with CloudReady. That’s a company that Google bought in December 2020. At the time, with the coronavirus at its peak in the US, it was a deal that went relatively unnoticed. However, the company has been developing solutions for Cloud based computing for a long time.
It is basically a version of Chrome OS which is based on Google’s open-source code of Chrome OS. Hence, it doesn’t have Google Assistant or Android app support, etc. Hence, you could install Chrome OS on an old windows laptop or desktop. This way, you could run an old device with new software that would always be up to date.
The appeal of this project was the lack of technical know how required to actually install Chrome OS on a windows computer. CloudReady provided over the air updates like Google, and made everything easy to use. Hence, Google’s acquisition of a company that essentially just did what Chrome OS does, but for windows, is intriguing.
It looks as if Google is getting ready to roll out Chrome OS for machines other than Chromebooks. Hence, Google could probably integrate CloudReady with Chrome OS proper and create a full Chrome OS environment on Windows machines. Whether all of that would be provided for free is anyone’s guess.
Another benefit of the CloudReady acquisition would be a greater, expanded view of long-term Chrome OS support. CloudReady already provided updates to its users, so if Google really wanted to, it’s within reason that those same mechanisms would remain.
What Do These Changes Mean?
In essence, these two changes mean that Google is preparing to branch out into the Windows user market. With CloudReady type services, you could shift your Chrome OS setup to a windows PC. You wouldn’t have to buy a new Chromebook after the previous one expires and keep getting regular updates as time goes by.
While this won’t be a direct replacement for Windows or Mac users, it’s a good tactic to branch out into uncharted waters. Nothing like this has been tried for mainstream consumers. Using an old machine to run a new operating system is something reserved for Devs and niche users, and hobbyists.
However, if the process is made as easy as CloudReady, that would be something different for mainstream consumers. It would also be great for the environment since it would conserve old electronics and encourage reuse.
At the moment, Chrome OS is a small drop in the bucket of OS market share. Yet, with this move, there is incentive for a greater number of users to adopt it. Perhaps we will see a major roll out of Chrome OS in January next year, or maybe even in the coming months.
If Google does manage to pull this off, we may see the emergence of a third desktop OS to break the duopoly of Windows and Mac.