Among fans of the Linux operating system, a common topic of discussion is “the year of the Linux desktop.” Fans keep waiting for their operating system to make a big push in popularity and become a main contender for home computing and each year the user base grows but only by small amounts. I think the fuse has finally been lit but not by traditional Linux companies like Ubuntu, SuSE and Redhat, but by Google via Chrome OS.
Chrome OS is Linux
At its core, Chrome OS is Linux. It runs the same kernel as every other Linux Distribution. The difference is the UI. Most other distros use KDE, Gnome, or a lightweight variant but Google decided to go a different direction and developed a UI of their own, one that they could control and evolve. When Google started with this, they designed it as a very basic interface, acting only as a browser. Since conception, it has grown into something that is now starting to be able to compete with the likes of Windows and Mac.
Android apps are just the beginning. By introducing them into Chrome OS, it starts the transition process from web OS to desktop OS. By adding the Play Store, chrome OS gets access to millions of apps and gives it a base to grow from. Google will need to incentivise top app developers to make more robust apps designed specifically for the more powerful OS. To bridge the gap between until more robust applications are released, Google may find it works in their best interest to work with a company called Codeweavers who currently makes Crossover Office for Linux and Mac, allowing both to install Windows based programs natively.
Basic gaming will start with Android’s vast array of games, ranging from very basic apps to popular console games of days past. The next step will be to encourage modern games to make the jump. This might be easier to do than one might think. Even though Traditional Linux distros have 1.45% of the market, many game developers release their newest games simultaneously for Windows and Linux. This is mainly due to the support of Steam, providing an easy way to install games across multiple OSes. Chrome OS has over double the user base of other Linux distros, but at this point doesn’t have any console style games. It might be harder to do this for Chrome OS due to the hefty requirements of many games because the majority of Chromebooks use Celeron processors and would not be able to run most, if not all, modern games. However, this trend is changing. More high end Chromebooks have been popping up with higher end processors. Machines like the Samsung Chromebook Pro and the Asus Chromebook C302CA both use Intel’s M3 processor.
Chrome OS could be the desktop to bring to pass “the year of the Linux desktop” and directly take on Microsoft for dominance of computing, but many changes will have to be made to make this possible. Development of robust applications and console grade games will be the next essential step in the further adoption of Chrome OS.