The Chrome OS Flex project was announced today by Google. It is an early version of a new project that aims to make Chrome OS available on almost any PC (and older Intel-based Macs). Google bought CloudReady in 2020, so Chrome OS Flex is aimed at businesses and schools that want to keep their old computers around for a long time. But anyone who has a USB drive can use it to give an older computer, or even a low-powered new one, a second chance. There is a clear connection to sustainability here.
The goal here is to make Chrome OS work on almost any computer. Now, it might not be true because there are so many different ways to set up a PC. Google has put together a list of machines that work with Chrome OS. Most of them are laptops, but there’s a good chance that other machines will work, too. It’s about as hard as trying out a modern Linux distribution, which Chrome OS is based on.
If you have to go into your computer’s BIOS and set it up to start up from a USB drive, the process can be a little difficult for people. Thomas Riedl, Google’s director of product management for Chrome OS, said that this can still be difficult for people.
It will be the same for Chrome OS and Chrome OS Flex. For the user, both systems should look and feel almost the same. Even though this is a very early version, Google says that people should not expect everything to work right away.
What about Android apps, do you want to know about them? I talked to a Google spokesperson and she said that the team is now focusing on making the core user experience as good as possible, but it doesn’t have any plans to add support for the Google Play Store and Android apps to Chrome OS Flex. It’s also true that we’re always looking at ways to make Chrome OS Flex better for the future.
There is a good chance that if you have a modern Mac or MacBook, you will not be able to install a Linux distribution on them. This is because Apple’s proprietary hardware makes it almost impossible to install a Linux distribution on those machines, especially the newer M1 devices. Even if your device was made before 2016, it should be able to work. If you still have a white MacBook around, now might be a good time to give it a clean.
Because it’s based on CloudReady’s work, there is also a business component to this. As with Chrome OS, you can use all of the same IT management skills that work with Chrome OS Flex. Chrome OS licenses can also be used on Chrome OS Flex devices (while previously, CloudReady had a different license structure).
Somewhere around 2016, businesses started using CloudReady to make their devices last longer. Forrest Smith, who used to work for CloudReady-maker Neverware and is now a product manager for CloudReady at Google, told me this.
A lot of people wanted to get an extra year of life out of their devices, and they were willing to trade for it. During the years of 2015, 2016, and 2017, Chrome OS became more popular, and customers came to us and said, “I can’t get enough Chromebooks. I need more.”
He said that what he was most excited about was how CloudReady’s management service and CloudReady’s service were able to work together so well. It doesn’t matter that these Chrome OS Flex devices used Windows or Mac in the past. They show up in the admin console, which is a single pane of glass where you can manage all of these devices. It makes it a lot easier for the people who run the site.