Linux apps on Chrome OS are one of the most important developments for the operating system since Android apps. Previous reports have indicated that Chromebooks with certain kernel versions will be left in the dust, but Chrome OS developers have older devices on the roadmap as well.
When Google first broke the silence on the functionality of Linux applications, it was understood that the Linux 4.4 kernel was required to run applications due to dependencies on newer kernel modules. Thanks to a issue found on public Chromium bugtracker, we have confirmation that containers will not be limited to the handful of Chrome OS devices released with the 4.4 kernel.
Due to the way the functionality was designed, Linux applications require newer kernel modules work. The bugtracker entry indicates that the developers are working on backporting these kernel modules (in this particular case vsock) to older cores so that older devices can take advantage of the new functionality. The bug report mentions that Samus (codename for the Chromebook Pixel 2015) is supported by the Linux app, a device that ships with the 3.14 kernel. While it’s possible the Pixel will be the only device outside of newer versions to get support, it’s more likely that we’ll see backport coming to all 3.14 devices.
Linux apps on Chrome (also known by the code name of his Crostini project) allow full desktop apps to run natively on Chrome OS, which was previously only possible in “developer mode”. , which was a scary prospect for those who didn’t want to risk losing their data. Right now, the new feature is aimed at developers who want to run full-featured apps like Android Studio, but reports indicate work is underway to support a wider range of apps, including graphic-heavy those – further down the line.
Chrome OS is based on the Linux kernel. Unlike your average home Linux machine, kernel upgrades are released very rarely. While there is precedent for upgrading kernel versions on older Chromebooks, devices typically stick with their factory kernel for the life of their product. This may not be ideal for power users who want to be on the cutting edge of technology, but it allows developers to ensure the stability of the platform.
We don’t know how far backport will bridge the gap for older devices. Maybe some kernel modules or platform generations won’t do and the functionality won’t be as extensive. Still, this news means that older Chromebooks won’t suffer from early obsolescence just yet.