Google has announced that Chrome OS support for Linux apps will finally exit beta in a few weeks.
Linux apps have been available on Chrome OS for three years, albeit in beta. Google is now ready to drop the beta label and declare the feature stable.
Chrome OS supports running Chrome, Android, Linux, and even Windows apps (through a partnership between Google and Parallels) – making it one of the most versatile operating systems available.
Of course, each platform’s apps have quite different levels of stability when used on Chrome OS.
Linux support on Chrome OS has enabled developers to code on Chromebooks using Android Studio or IDEs like Eclipse. Linux’s robust ecosystem – built over decades – provides robust desktop-class tools for complete workflows such as LibreOffice and the GIMP image editor that web and Android app alternatives struggle to match.
The approach taken by Google has therefore differed to a similar effort from Microsoft with its Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) which has focused less on providing support for end-users to run Linux GUI apps and instead on letting Linux developers run a GNU/Linux environment within Windows so they can work more flexibly.
Some prominent figures in the developer community have expressed concerns that Windows Subsystem for Linux could be a way to ”embrace, extend, and extinguish” Linux. For example, GNU and Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman believes that efforts like WSL will only hinder the development of free software and represent “a step backward in the campaign for freedom.”
Google says that Linux support for Chromebooks will shed its beta label starting with Chrome OS 91, which is set to roll out in a few weeks.
Recent improvements to make the Linux experience on Chrome OS more enjoyable include enhanced USB support, configurable port forwarding, and lots of general stability fixes.
Users that want to use Linux apps on Chrome OS will still need to manually enable the feature and should be aware that it will take up extra storage space.
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