Jan-Lukas Else

Thoughts of an IT expert

Chrome OS Flex and CloudReady

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Short link: https://b.jlel.se/s/574
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At first I missed the news, but today I somehow stumbled across it: Google has released an early access version of “Chrome OS Flex”, as a result of the integration of CloudReady into Chrome OS. CloudReady also ran under my radar until today, but I did take the time to give both a try.

CloudReady or Chrome OS Flex is Chrome OS for non-Chromebooks, i.e. (older) PCs and Macs. Chrome OS is based on Linux, but seems to be especially for low-powered and thus mostly cheaper hardware. The only task is to display a web browser (Chrome), which can then be worked in. Google calls this cloud-first, which perhaps best matches earlier speculation about Windows’ future.

By means of a Chrome extension, it is possible to install Chrome OS Flex on a USB stick. The extension can also be started in Edge, but it does not work there. CloudReady can be copied to a USB stick using the USB Creator application. I used my SanDisk Extreme PRO USB-SSD for this, which only took a few seconds. My Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga S1, which currently has Windows 11 installed but I hardly use it, also booted both systems within a few seconds.

After a few setup steps and connecting to the Wi-Fi, I was able to try out both systems. What I noticed is that the fan remained completely silent, but the ThinkPad still didn’t get warm. With Windows, that’s often the case.

Chrome OS Flex currently offers no support for Linux containers or Android apps. CloudReady at least seems to have Linux support, but it has to be downloaded first, which did not work in my brief attempt, as I only tried the system in live mode.

However, since I hardly use the ThinkPad and Windows 11 on it due to enough other devices, I am really thinking about maybe trying CloudReady after my exploration of Windows 11. CloudReady is supposed to be automatically updated to Chrome OS Flex later when the latter reaches stable status.

The Linux support would allow me to install Visual Studio code and then also program via my home server. The only question is whether I can also install Tailscale to be able to program on the go, should I ever take the ThinkPad with me and not my Surface Go.

I think Chrome OS Flex is a good way to give old hardware that is too slow for Windows a second life. Let’s face it, the people who use such hardware probably spend most of their time just browsing the web anyway, so it’s probably enough that the whole OS is limited to that function, which can also improve the user experience by making it easier to use.

What does Google want to achieve with Chrome OS Flex?

By reviving old hardware, Google can achieve a higher penetration of the Chrome browser and also Google services. And once people are in the Google ecosystem, they largely stay there. Google can then make money through subscriptions to cloud storage, YouTube or even advertising. But Google could also use this in companies to achieve a higher penetration of enterprise services.

Or Chrome OS Flex could encourage users to buy Chromebooks in the future.

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Jan-Lukas Else
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