Google Pushes Chrome OS to Developers

Posted on May 7, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Chrome OS, Chromebook, Cloud, Dev, Linux with 40 Comments

Chrome OS and the Chromebooks on which it runs have matured greatly in recent years as usage has soared. And now the platform is sophisticated enough for web and Android developers, the firm says.

“At I/O this year, we showed web and Android developers a few of the most exciting improvements that have made Chrome OS an even faster, simpler, and more secure environment than ever,” Google’s Allan Livingston writes. “The combination of Linux and Chrome OS makes for a great web development environment — and we’re making the process even easier for Android development.”

As Livingston notes, Google added Linux app support to Chrome OS last year, and this support is now available on over half of all Chromebooks in the market. Furthermore, every Chrome OS device launched this year will be Linux-compatible. That compatibility is key to Chromebook’s suitability to developers. And recent additions to Chrome OS are helping put the platform over the top.

Here are a few that Google is highlighting:

Android Studio one-click installation and integrated debugging. Installing Google’s IDE for Android app development used to be time-consuming and complex. But now you can just download it, click, and install.

Secure USB support for Android phones. This feature lets you develop, debug, and push apps created with Android Studio to Android phones on any Android developer-recommended Chromebook.

File sharing. The Chrome OS file manager now supports sharing files between Linux, Android, and Chrome OS, and with Google Drive as well.

Port forwarding. Improvements to port forwarding in Chrome OS make it easier to connect networking services between Linux and Chrome OS. For example, you can run a web server within the Linux container while debugging on the same machine.

Google also provided a little bit of market data to help developers understand the market opportunity here. According to NPD, over 21 percent of laptops sold in the fourth quarter of 2018 were Chromebooks, a gain of 23 percent year-over-year. Meanwhile, the number of monthly active users who enabled Android apps on Chrome OS has grown by 250 percent.

“When you’re building on and for Chrome OS, you’re on a streamlined path to reaching a massive and fast-growing audience of engaged users,” Livingston notes. “Whether they’re building apps with larger screens in mind from the start or optimizing old apps to reach new users, developers behind some of the most popular mobile apps and games have already seen incredible results from Chromebook users.”

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Comments (40)

40 responses to “Google Pushes Chrome OS to Developers”

  1. bluvg

    "over 21 percent of laptops sold in the fourth quarter of 2018 were Chromebooks"


    Holy moly.

    • jrickel96

      In reply to bluvg:

      Except their Statcounter numbers haven't budged above 1.35% of the Desktop market and NetMarketShare is at 0.33%.


      Something NPD doesn't take into account: returns. My rep at Best Buy has said Chromebooks have their highest return rate. People buy them accidentally all the time then return them. NPD may capture those returns as sales and not capture the return.


      There's no evidence of any growth with ChromeOS. NPD also said in 2015 that ChromeOS outsold Windows machines for a quarter.


      It's more likely NPD's methods can't account for the issues that ChromeOS presents in return rate. There was a report awhile ago that they were also Amazon's number one returned item.


      • BoItmanLives

        In reply to jrickel96: There's no evidence of any growth with ChromeOS

        Haha. I hope MS and it's fanboy muppets continue believing this and looking at the wrong stat trackers and data while the Chromebook beast continues to grow under the radar.


        Until one day MS wakes up and realize they were asleep at the wheel again, and it's like Chrome all over again and too late to do anything about.


        Enjoy!

        • dontbe evil

          In reply to BoItmanLives:

          joke of the year ... from a google fanboy / ms hater

        • wright_is

          In reply to BoItmanLives:

          That is why I would like to see some actual numbers. If ChromeOS was doing so well before and active users increased by 250% in the last quarter, why aren't Google bragging that they now have several hundred million active users?

          Instead we get "250% increase" a 250% increase over what? It is a meaningless number without giving it some basis.

          • curtisspendlove

            In reply to wright_is:

            The 250% increase was the number of monthly users enabling Android apps on Chromebooks, not a core Chromebook usage increase.


            I’m impressed with that number, but I didn’t catch in the original article what the base number for that was from. I’m assuming Year Over Year, but I don’t think the article specifically stated...so it could have been comparing numbers from when it was only available on Pixelbooks until now, which could mean from 1 person (the person implementing the feature) to 250 persons (the people in the cafeteria who were asked to enable the feature on their Chromebooks). :: shrug ::


            Jests aside, it’s likely a meaningful number, but they are marketing to Android devs in that article...so who knows.


            Also, enabling a feature doesn’t mean it works well, or that people like it. I think it is a slider switch, I wonder what the stats are for enabling then disabling the feature. :D

            • Pbike908

              In reply to curtisspendlove:


              I just tested Android Apps on a Chromebook the other day. It's a JOKE....out of all my goto Android apps that I use on my Galaxy S8, only 1 SCALED and worked satisfactory on a Chromebook. Several of them didn't even work. Not to mention the experience was wonky -- kind of like it used to be when Windows 8 first came out switching between two interfaces.


              In theory, "killing two birds with one stone" sounds good. It's been tried numerous times in the past with computers -- CPM boards in Apple II computers, Apple IIgs and IIe computer, Apple IIe emulation boards in Macs, Windows 8 and Windows 10 legacy programs vs new programs, etc. and has NEVER been pulled off successfully. Oh with perhaps one exception -- Mac computers with Bootcamp.


              Google has a LONG way to go before they pull this one off...I'm not saying it isn't possible though...

              • jrickel96

                In reply to Pbike908:

                Android's ecosystem is horrible for any apps not used on a phone form factor.


                Android tablets are a joke because so few apps are actually optimized for a tablet. The iPad boasts proper apps that take into account that you are using a larger tablet. Very few Android apps do so, so all you get to do is use phone apps on a larger screen. Just get a bigger phone with a 6" screen and don't bother with the tablet.


                Same issue exists with Chromebooks. It's just goofy, feels unnatural, and doesn't work very well.


                I'd be willing to be more optimistic, but they've had years to try to populate proper tablet apps and that has not happened. Android only has developers because of its MASSIVE install base. Devs are not likely to try to tweak apps to work better on ChromeOS unless they have the same massive user base. If they are not compelled to do it for tablets, they won't be compelled to do it for Chromebooks.

              • curtisspendlove

                In reply to Pbike908:

                Indeed. The chicken and the egg problem. Few Android apps scale well, so Google reminds developers that by developing their apps on a Chromebook they can see it scale. But most people aren’t using Android apps on anything bigger than a phone.


                iOS developers are going to see the same sort of thing this fall. They’ve already seen it is some work to support iPad auto layout. And I think Marzipan will be even more work. Far less work than writing a full AppKit app surely, but not trivial.


                Same thing for Android apps to support tablets and laptops. It isn’t insurmountable, but devs don’t have much incentive at the moment.

            • skane2600

              In reply to curtisspendlove:

              As I've pointed out before, growth rates when the installed base is relatively small may not be that significant. Of course not knowing the time-frame over which growth has occurred makes it hard to evaluate as well.

              • jrickel96

                In reply to skane2600:

                And if the usage base were really significant they would share the amount of active monthly users like they do with Android. They don't. Instead they cite a NPD report and a growth rate that is meaningless for Android app installs on ChromeOS.


                What if only 10,000 people did that a year ago and now 35,000 do. That's not impressive. My guess is they don't share those numbers because they are not a good look. Google is actively trying to get retailers and OEMs to buy into ChromeOS. For OEMs it's not a big deal since most just use Intel hardware that is loaded with ChromeOS instead of Windows. Hardware has already been designed.


                Notice how few really design anything just for ChromeOS. They just repurpose PC designs mostly. If there's a strong market, you invest some money in proper design.

        • jrickel96

          In reply to BoItmanLives:

          The Chromebook beast?


          Still have yet to see anyone using a Chromebook in all my travels around the world. No one at a train station, airport, hotel lobby, etc. If it were a beast, I'd see some people using them.


          A browser installed on a popular OS is very different from a new OS. ChromeOS is going nowhere and may be losing ground in K-12. If that happens, it is dead in the water. I think it'll be gone in five years or less.

  2. Stooks

    "in recent years as usage has soared"


    Lol! Paul loves to use Netmarketshare to drive home his opinions. Except in this case where NMS shows ChromeOS having .33% market share.


    Seriously I have NEVER seen anyone use a Chromebook that was not somehow tied to the education sector. 99% of those are the students. 100% of the students I have asked.....hate them.


    Schools, especially public schools, love them first because they are cheap and second the whole G-suite/Education package is simple in terms of ability and maintenance. Most of these schools long ago lost any kind of IT staff so those teachers pulling double duty like the Chromebooks/G-Suite for its simplicity. They of course still have some Windows computers, especially high schools because they need to run non-web based apps like Photoshop or AutoCad...etc. If they lose or break a Chromebook is not a huge loss either.

    • dontbe evil

      In reply to Stooks:

      that's paul google fanboy edition

    • jrickel96

      In reply to Stooks:

      That's always the hilarious thing. He cites NMS and Statcounter when it suits his narrative.


      He claims NMS is irrelevant because it doesn't capture schools, yet it does show the US has a much stronger market for ChromeOS - and this is likely a surge due to schools.


      Reality is there are between 10-25 million Chrome OS users when Windows users still numbers 1.5 Billion, iOS users are over a Billion, and Android users are at 2.5 Billion.


      If there were a number to crow about, Google would do it and not cite NPD numbers.


      If Google really wants to impress, they tell us how many active monthly users there are like MS does every now and again with Windows. Except Google doesn't do this with ChromeOS. They do it with Android.


      And Paul has HAMMERED Microsoft in the past when they just reported shipped units of Windows. Google isn't even doing that.


      Why?


      Because the numbers are BAD and if they made them public the rats would all leave the sinking ship.


      Paul stopped being a real journalist long ago. It's a shame. I used to respect him, but his shilling for ChromeOS is ridiculous. He just takes Google's claims that it is doing well as Gospel truth instead of trying to dig for sources to see if it actually is.


      If he found they only had 25 million active users, would he press the panic button as he is prone lately?

  3. Tony Barrett

    I see the first people out of the blocks on an article like this are the naysayers. Usual stuff - heard it all before. Sure, ChromeOS has a long way to go, but the platform is growing, and manufacturers are launching some very nice ChromeOS hardware. Compared to Chromebooks, Windows is like a 400 pound wobbling lump of sweaty flesh, but everyone has their own opinion I suppose. For what it's worth, I'm typing this on a Chromebook. Windows has a place, but it needs competition. Macs are too expensive, and for people who spend almost all their time in a browser, why not a Chromebook exactly?

    • BoItmanLives

      In reply to ghostrider: I see the first people out of the blocks on an article like this are the naysayers. Usual stuff - heard it all before. 

      It's fear. If Chromebooks were as much a nonfactor as they breathlessly try to convince themselves, they wouldn't be sweating them so hard.


      Fast forward 3-6 yrs and MS will come crawling to Google to copy their ChromeOS homework just like they had to copy Google's Chrome homework.

    • skane2600

      In reply to ghostrider:

      Yes we have heard it all before:

      Lotus Notes is going to replace Windows.

      The Network Computer is going to replace Windows.

      Netscape is going to replace Windows.

      Linux is going to replace Windows.

      IPads are going to replace Windows.


      Did I miss any? After decades of such claims that ended-up being false, we "naysayers" need a high-level of evidence before we embrace the next one.

    • jedwards87

      In reply to ghostrider:

      Actually it is Google fanboys like you who refuse to see what is right in front of them. Chromebooks are not that great and they are non existent outside of education. I have first hand experience as my job deals with schools and their IT departments. IT departments like them because they are cheap and easy to administer. However every single department I talk with would rather use Windows or MacOS. They are pretty much forced to using Chromebooks because of budget constraints. Oh, and students, the future tech users, have ZERO interest in them. And I mean ZERO.

  4. wright_is

    the number of monthly active users who enabled Android apps on Chrome OS has grown by 250 percent.

    What is missing here is a basis for that number. 250 percent growth from 1 user to 250 isn't much to write home about, 250% growth from 100 million to 350 million on the other hand is...

    What does the 250% relate to? What were the usage figures before / after the increase? Percentages are pretty useless on their own.

    It sounds like ChromeOS might finally be grabbing some market share, but it would be nice to be able to quantify its success.

  5. Daishi

    According to NPD, over 21 percent of laptops sold in the fourth quarter of 2018 were Chromebooks...”


    ...in the US.


    The caveat is necessary to make the citation of the claim accurate.

  6. codymesh

    It's a big deal if developers can develop and test Web/Android apps on Chromebooks, but are Chromebooks - the vast majority of which is low end - really performant enough to compile code and such? Or is all that also done in the cloud now? And how about the chromebooks with 32gb of storage? Is that enough for all assets?


    if development machines by their nature need to be beefier, chromebooks' cost advantage is vaporized, and the competition becomes much more appealing

    • bill_russell

      In reply to codymesh:

      I have several family chromebooks and think they are great in general for the right audience but personally for my own machine on a budget Its still better to get a used premium laptop for Linux. I got a thinkpad X1 2nd gen (yes, about 5 years old) for like $250, kept the Windows 10 but don't need it. It sounds too old for some, but runs great, backlit keyboard and all. The battery isn't great but its generally plugged in.

  7. Pbike908

    It appears that Google may have indeed made Chromebooks a viable platform. So did Microsoft with Windows 8 and Windows 10 app stores. However, outside U.S. K-12 education it doesn't appear to be getting much traction. I just tested Android apps on a Chromebook the other day -- it's half baked and NOT ready for prime time. As far as the "file system" goes, it too is half-baked and klugey -- Is it Google Drive??? Is it on the device??? is it and Android app file???


    I can't speak for Linux, as I have never messed with it much. I think folks have been clamoring for years that, "This is the device/shell/interface for Linux that will finally launch Linux into the mainstream."


    To me jury is still out as to what will be the next generation personal computing device (large screen with keyboard/trackpad/mouse support) that will win out.

  8. aretzios

    My personal experience with the Chrome OS and chromebooks is that the whole platform is nowhere near to what one wants for a productivity machine. In most cases, running apps in Chrome is infuriating. It would take years, many years, before Android apps run acceptably well in Chromebooks. Personally, I think that Google has made a major mistake abandoning Android for Chrome. I am sure that there was a lot of conflict in Google on this and the Android guys lost. Today, Android is a better platform and, in fact, shoehorning Chrome to Android would have been a better solution than the other way around.


    Considering that premium chromebooks are as expensive (and sometimes, more so) than Windows laptops, I do not see this as a winning proposition for Google (or for the users, in general).

  9. skane2600

    Does the one-click installation mean Google is focusing Android development primarily on Chromebooks or is it going to be available on all platforms?

  10. curtisspendlove

    Quite honestly, if anyone can pull off “The Year of the Linux Desktop” it is going to be Google with Chrome OS.


    The newer Chromebooks are looking quite good for web / Android developers. This has been coming for a while now.


    If I could just find a good i5/16GB/128GB machine that supports Linux / Android I’d pull the trigger.

    • Stooks

      In reply to curtisspendlove:

      "“The Year of the Linux Desktop” it is going to be Google with Chrome OS"


      The tracking sites and their data simply do not back that up. NMS and Statcounter both give Linux a higher market share than ChromeOS. NMS puts ChromeOS at .33% so less than 1/2 of 1%.


      That is margin of error stuff and I wonder why they even bother breaking it out and not lumping it into "Other".

      • curtisspendlove

        In reply to Stooks:

        Never said it has already happened. :: shrug ::


        It was mostly a joke anyway, but I don’t think Chromebooks have yet hit their stride. I think they are a growing, future threat to Apple, Microsoft, and Windows PC manufacturers.


        Marketshare also differs depending on region, for instance recent NetMarketShare stats for the US show Chrome OS (3.33%) higher than traditional Linux (1.46%).


        I also find the Stack Overflow results very interesting since this is a developer push by Google. And I don’t even think Chrome OS ranks in that one. But it is much more reasonably distributed between Windows, macOS, and Linux (I’m guessing Chrome OS is lumped into Linux for that one, but I’m curious now).


        Regardless, constantly stating market share values doesn’t mean the future won’t change. Ask Netscape and Eudora.

        • jrickel96

          In reply to curtisspendlove:

          They've definitely had some success in K-12 here, so that's the OS marketshare in the US. That also defies Paul's assertion that NMS doesn't track the stuff students do with Chromebooks.


          Statcounter also shows 6.28% in the US but horrible numbers everywhere else. The US is the reason why the number is at 1.35%. That can easily be attributed to K-12 usage and not much else.

  11. jrickel96

    NPD also reported back in 2015 that Chromebooks outsold Windows laptops.


    However according to numbers Paul never uses because they counter his argument of ChromeOS "growth", Statcounter reports ChromeOS is at 1.35% of Desktop OS marketshare while Windows is 79.24%. ChromeOS was at 1.22% a year ago, so there has been some growth in usage, but nothing that indicates a massive surge.


    NetMarketShare puts ChromeOS at 0.33% of the Desktop OS market. A year ago it was 0.31%.


    Another thing that is not mentioned that would be easily found out if someone researching a write up would actually talk to retailers is that Chromebooks have some of the highest return rates. I've worked with BestBuy's business side and talked to my rep on the issue of Chromebooks and have been told that have a return rate of near 70%. People often buy them by accident and think they are getting a Windows machine.


    Here's ANOTHER thing - a returned Chromebook is still reported as a sale. Sometimes it is reported as two sales because it was sold twice.


    ChromeOS is not growing by much at all. The numbers in education are now declining as well. Business has never picked up ChromeOS. Higher Ed has never picked up these things either.


    The future is actually bleak for ChromeOS, but Paul wants to keep panicking people.


    It's easy enough to question NPD by using NMS and StatCounter. A responsible journalist without an agenda would do such a thing. There is NO evidence of any serious growth from these online tracking services - and ChromeOS users are going to be connected for the most part.


    I travel a lot. I have been all over the US and the world. I've seen people using all kinds of laptops at airports, on trains, etc. I'm a techie, so I look at what people are using and I can recognize ChromeOS. You know what I've never seen in all my travels over the past few years? Someone using a Chromebook in those types of environments. I've seen Macs, HPs, Surfaces, Dells, Razers, ASUS, etc - never once have I seen a Chromebook.


    There's no evidence ChromeOS sells much of anything outside of K-12 in the US. And that could explain a surge - if a few large school districts put in orders. And all of those students will be told when they enter the workforce or the university that they need to use Windows or Mac - and they will.



    • Daishi

      In reply to jrickel96:

      Paul has previously responded to the issue regarding Chrome OS’s usage share as measured by NetMarketShare etc.


      “NetMarketShare measures usage, not sales. And they specifically measure usage on some range of public websites.


      With regards to usage, Chromebook usage is artificially low because most Chromebooks are used in education, where they are used websites and services that are largely outside of NetMarketShare’s polling.”


      Now, whether or not we consider it a valid response given that it implies that we have a distorted view of the popularity of Chromebooks because almost no one chooses to use them outside of US K-12 education, is a very different question.

      • jrickel96

        In reply to Daishi:

        NPD uses surveys to retail that have problems.


        1. Not all retailers respond to the survey.
        2. Many retailers have 30 day or greater return windows and log returns differently. It is not odd for a returned item to be sold again and counted TWICE as a sale. This means that a retailer could have stock of 20 Chromebooks, sell all 20, have 15 returned, resell all 15, have 10 of those returned, resell all 10, and resell those 10. This would count as 45 sales even though they actually only sold 20 physical items. Retailer do this because they like to report larger numbers.
        3. Many of the largest retailers do not answer the survey so NPD has to extrapolate sales from them to try to come at a number. There's a lot of guess work involved and much of it is based off actual reported numbers from other retailers that have the issues noted above.
        4. These issues are not terrible for items without a high rate of return, but my retail connections (that I order large amounts of tech from for large clients I serve) have told me that Chromebooks have the highest rate of return of any product they have - really they have historically high rates of returns. People buy them by accident, turn them on, realize the machine does not have Windows, and then return them. It happens pretty frequently.


        NetMarketShare may have issues, but Statcounter also shows low numbers.


        And if most Chromebooks are used in education, that is immaterial because it is just K-12. Universities have not adopted them. I know of no business that has.


        Paul operates on the outdated notion that Apple ran with in the 80s and 90s - that the youth would demand to use what they used in school. They didn't. Except back then Apple actually had some foothold in universities. ChromeOS does not.


        And even then, a new graduate is not going to go into an organization and be able to make demands about what it is using. They are not going to intern at a law firm and force it to cater to them - they are going to use what they are told to use and will forget about Chromebooks.


        Building market with K-12 because you're cheap is not a winning strategy. Even doing it at great expense, as Apple did in the 90s, is not a winning strategy.


        Two web trackers say ChromeOS, a VERY webcentric OS, has minimal impact in the desktop market. Statcounter tracks it higher, but it still is 1.35%. Paul wants to believe NPD because they push his narrative - and Google pushes it too and never shares the Statcounter info because it betrays them.


        So if we believe there are 1.5 Billion Windows users in the world and we use Statcounters numbers then that means there are 1.893 Billion desktop users in the world (Windows is 79.24% of all Desktop OSes).


        So that would mean there are about 25.5 million ChromeOS devices out in the world. NetMarketShare says 10 million. I'd guess the truth is somewhere in between.


        Even if we're generous and say 30 million, is that much success? Google can tout having a great quarter when some large school systems put in an order, but they are not changing the desktop landscape AT ALL.


        This is why you never see people using them in the wild. At best, they are niche. Google tries to tell you they are gaining ground, but there's little evidence they have ever done so.


        Let's also remember that NPD claimed that Chromebooks outsold Windows laptops for a quarter in 2015. Do we really believe that?


        Here's a fact: Google is an utter FAILURE outside of its core businesses. Search and Ads. Android powers this and has produced a lot of phones, though has not been as strong with tablets. ChromeOS is a failure. Chrome is a big hit, though I will be interested to see the general public's response to Chromium Edge.


        I've also heard from retailers that K-12 sales for Chromebook are down over the past year and there's some evidence that Google is beginning to lose ground.


        I'm still a big believer that ChromeOS will be pretty much dead in five years or less.

      • Stooks

        In reply to Daishi:

        I do not buy that explanation at all. Students use computers to lookup plenty of resources that are tracked on the internet by NMS and others.


        Outside of US schools chrome books are a fart in a hurricane.


        Google needs some success story to talk about outside of ad sales and Android market share at their event. US Chrome books are it I guess.

    • dontbe evil

      In reply to jrickel96:

      what else did you expect? paul became a google fanboy / ms hater

  12. systembuilder

    I have been using chromebooks since coming to google about 6 years ago. It's fine and googlers need nothing more powerful than a chromebook (most of our job is done by logging into a workstation @ work). In general a chromebook is a media-consumption (video/audio) machine superior to a tablet as it has a keyboard, with a great word processor, spreadsheet, slides, and ssh apps. Best of all, the 802.11 just works (but google REFUSES to allow you to plug in a radio dongle so if your 802.11 radio fails you are f*cked by Google!)


    Using these features you can do about 90% of what serious workers need to do. If you want to do some light programming try jupyter notesbooks or coderpad.io. It does suck for video editing, photo editing, and is not great for a draw program, but other than that, it's the best hardware you can buy for < $500. Most Laptops less < $500 are closeouts from bad design-mistakes. But chromebooks have minimum standards for every bit of hardware (i.e. loud-and-clear speakers, viewing angles good enough for 2 viewers, 200+ nits screen brightness, no offset keyboards, are 4 of the many requirements for the hardware to display the chromebook logo), and Google won't certify a chromebook or port ChromeOS to the chromebook if the manufacturer doesn't meet these stringent minimums.

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