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Google announced today at its I/O developer conference that all of the Chromebooks it plans to release this year will also support Linux out of the box. That probably won’t mean that much to particularly enthusiastic Linux users, who can make the operating system run on pretty much any device they want, but it offers consumers an easier way to experiment with something a little more capable than Chrome OS.
However, Chrome OS was already based on Linux. So a pedantic argument could be made that Google didn’t announce much of anything today. But nobody likes a pedant–not even Hank Pym–and the point is that Chromebooks will now be able to seamlessly offer a Debian Linux experience right next to the existing Chrome OS experience (Debian being another operating system built on top of Linux).
ZDNet reported that Chromebook users will actually be able to use Chrome OS, Android and their preferred flavor of desktop Linux right next to each other. While that sounds like a user experience nightmare, it could actually prove useful. Chrome OS would be able to handle basic tasks, Linux programs could manage complex projects and then Android apps could offer app-based entertainment options.
This shift also lets Google make Chromebooks more capable without having to admit that sometimes the web isn’t enough. Now the breadth of its software will match that of its hardware. The category has long encompassed low-cost devices as well as relatively expensive products, but Chrome OS makes it difficult for some consumers to justify the cost of premium devices like the Google Pixel Slate.
Being able to pick and choose from the best of three different platforms might change that. At least it will make it easier to use Linux on the Chromebooks debuting later this year; maybe that will convince more people to give the operating system a shot. Combine that with the array of available hardware, and it seems like Chromebooks are making their way from ‘good for thrifty shoppers and children’ to a broader audience.
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