Project Crostini: Chrome OS to Support Containerized Linux Apps

Haythem Elmir

Google is in the process of adding support to Chrome OS for running containerized Linux applications, according to a commit spotted in the operating system’s source code last week by Reddit users.

The commit adds a new device policy to allow Linux VMs on Chrome OS for the purpose of running containerized Linux applications. Internally at Google, this endeavor is known as Project Costini.

The feature is very similar to the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), with the difference that Chrome OS users will be able to run GUI apps as well, not just terminal ones.

Project Costini expected in Chrome OS v66

Code submitted part of the commit suggests the feature will first land with Chrome OS v66, scheduled for release in April-May. Currently, Chrome OS is at v64, same as the Google Chrome browser.

The ChromeUnboxed blog, which first spotted the commit, believes Google will make the formal announcement at Google I/O, Google’s developer-centric conference, held each year in May.

Back in 2016, Google confirmed that Android apps were coming to Chrome OS at Google I/O, and they did land a year later in June 2017.

A fight for developers’ attention

There’s no mystery as to why Google is doing this, and it’s because of the same reason Microsoft added the Windows Subsystem for Linux in Windows 10.

Linux is wildly popular with the developer community. By allowing users to run Linux apps right from Chrome OS, Google hopes to keep those users on Chrome OS systems alone. Keeping developers on Chrome OS means those developers will most likely create Chrome apps/extensions in their free time, boosting the Chrome OS ecosystem with new tools for other users.

But while Microsoft has an advantage over Google because many dev and programming apps have solid Windows versions, Google hopes the insanely low prices of Chromebooks will play a role in attracting developers to Chrome OS.
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