Chrome OS 68 Arrives with Material Design 2 Makeover

Posted on August 10, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Chrome OS, Chromebook with 32 Comments

Living with Chromebook: The Basics

Google is rolling out Chrome OS 68 to Chromebook users, bringing some additional Material Design 2 interfaces, PIN sign-in, and more.

“The Stable channel has been updated to 68.0.3440.87 for most Chrome OS devices,” Google’s Bernie Thompson wrote in a post to the Chrome Releases blog. “This build contains a number of bug fixes and security updates. Systems will be receiving updates over the next several days.”

It also includes a number of new features, including:

  • 802.11r Fast BSS Transition Support
  • Ability to use Select to Speak with touch/stylus only
  • Admin policy to enable/disable client-side native printing
  • Enabling/disabling ChromeVox through the side volume keys (tablets/convertibles)
  • High-resolution image support in camera app
  • Introduction of Display Size settings
  • Material 2.0 dialogs and secondary UI on ChromeOS
  • Overview visual refresh and motion spec improvements
  • PIN sign-in support
  • Select-to-Speak ability to select specific text to be read aloud by highlighting the text, then pressing Search + s. This works in addition to the original behavior of pressing Search and clicking an item or dragging a box around content to be read aloud.
  • Support Child account as first sign-in
  • Two new shortcuts to toggle the magnifiers on/off

The release of Chrome OS 68 trails that of Chrome 68 on the desktop (Windows, Mac, and Linux) by about 10 days, which I believe is the normal schedule.

We’re flying home today, so I will test this new release when I get my Chromebook back over the weekend.


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Comments (32)

32 responses to “Chrome OS 68 Arrives with Material Design 2 Makeover”

  1. timwakeling

    PIN sign-in? Good grief; they'll be adding advanced features like WiFi support or the ability to run two programs side by side before you know it. ;)

    • djross95

      In reply to timwakeling: Don't laugh, Google is slowly but surely improving ChromeOS in a rational way. You may think MS has nothing to fear from Google, but my next computer will be a Chromebook and I'm not alone.

      • jrickel96

        In reply to djross95:

        At 0.5% of the Desktop market, you are. Chromebook sales are slowing as well. Education appears to be backing off a bit. ChromeOS is pretty much dead. Hasn't budged market share much over three years. No business really uses them. Retail sales are atrocious and Chromebooks are often one of the most returned items.

        Just install Linux if you don't like Windows. It has 3x the users of ChromeOS and will be around with a strong development community. Paul does people a disservice by reporting on it so much and pretending that it has any impact on the real world. It doesn't and there's nothing to show it has gained any traction. There are 5-8 million users globally if you exclude US K-12 uses (jumps up to around 10-16 million for school year). Windows Phone still had that many users.

        • PeteB

          In reply to jrickel96:

          So much angry FUD.

          If Chromebooks were such a nonfactor, you wouldn't be nervously sweating it so hard.

          • Daniel D

            In reply to PeteB: He was stating an opinion, I didn't see any part of his response that could be called "angry". If you dont agree with his opinion, say so, but don't try and attack the messenger. You wouldn't do it in front of him in the office, don't do it here.

        • Jason Robson

          In reply to jrickel96:

          Where did you get those Chromebook market share stats from?

          • jrickel96

            In reply to Jason_Robson:

            Tracking NetMarketshare and Statcounter. Also get anecdotal data from my contacts at Best Buy for business sale provisioning. I know their shipments to school for Chromebooks are the lowest they've been in several years. Retail sales are pretty much non-existent. They only keep Chromebooks on display because they are essentially paid by Google to - my suspicion is Google is trying desperately to make it look like there's a market. Same goes for their stock of Android tablets. There are a lot of Google subsidies for things that don't sell well from Google Home to Chromecast to Android tablets (even Samsung's don't sell all that well - and Samsung pays to keep their products on display).

            I've said it over and over, but Google is a horrible failure in many respects. Their search is incredible and they have been excellent with online ads. Outside of that, Google is a story of failure after failure. Android is big, but it generates a tiny amount of revenue compared to the massive install base. The biggest benefactor is Google with data gathering that they resell through ads, etc, but the cost of each device (looks like it may have gone below $200 per Android phone on average) and the amount of money generated per user is very tiny compared to the amount generated per user on iOS, MacOS, or Windows. It's purely a volume game and even that may run into problems if privacy laws prevent Google from getting the kind of data that lets them maximize those installs.

            Google Home and the whole smartspeaker ecosystem is a niche and used for very few things. Nest is losing money left and right. G-Suite is struggling and about to lose a lot of big names that were lured for low pricepoints and are leaving as soon as the contract expires. Google Cloud is quickly falling behind everyone. Cloud Console is in really bad shape.

            If GPDR hits Google's European profits hard in the next few quarters, the future outlook for Google is not good. They won't be able to subsidize these other ventures because their ad revenue may severely decline. California's privacy laws could hurt them dramatically if they stick and go into affect in 2020.

            And it appears Apple and MS may be seeing an uptick in education.

            I would not be surprised to see ChromeOS killed in the next two years. I could see Android development scaled back dramatically. Ad revenue will be trimmed to developers that rely on it in their Play apps. Overall profits and revenues could be sliced in half by 2021. Google will still be big then, but they may be a shell of their current self and be force to make dramatic employment and service cuts.

          • Sprtfan

            In reply to Jason_Robson:

            I believe that is the market share. Normally people quote % shipping which is higher.

      • timwakeling

        In reply to djross95:

        I quite agree! I was just somewhat taken aback to discover that Chrome OS didn't already have PIN sign-in, as it has been a standard feature of Google's other OS since the very beginning. To be fair, Microsoft could learn a lot from the idea of introducing sensible features one at a time instead of redesigning things wholesale every five minutes.

    • nicholas_kathrein

      In reply to timwakeling:

      Actually they've had sign in with your phone for over a year. I have my phone with me and it authenticates my sign in. That is best and has been around a long time on ChromeOS.

    • Bats

      In reply to timwakeling:

      For that to be funny and sarcastic, there needs to be some form of Truth to it. Your comment has none of it.

  2. nicholas_kathrein

    Seems to me that ChromeOS is getting good updates consistently. Given time there will be a lot to like.

    • aelaan

      In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein: Oh trust me, the updates you see now were the result of a lot of testing. Even now some of the "Canary" (pre-dev) builds are struggling with all the new stuff, but that is why I keep my daily driver on the stable channel.

  3. skane2600

    "Admin policy to enable/disable client-side native printing"

    Currently Chromebooks don't offer much driver support for client-side native printing, so what exactly is being enabled by this setting?

  4. aelaan

    As per usual the updates will be part of the "next several days" if your system is running with Android support. My stable channel builds are always at least a week later. Hope the next dev builds for some of the machines will have kernel 4.4 or at least Linux support.

  5. waethorn

    Chrome OS 69 *MAY* have Project Crostini (Linux app support) available when it hits the stable channel, but likely only for select Chromebooks - probably just the Pixelbook at the start.

    Chrome OS will have an extremely good app ecosystem at that point: web apps, Android apps, and eventually widespread Linux app support.

    • skane2600

      In reply to Waethorn:

      It's quite a leap from "Chrome OS 69 *MAY* have Project Crostini" to "Chrome OS will ... eventually have widespread Linux app support". Pixelbooks aren't representative of an average Chromebook.

      • waethorn

        In reply to skane2600:

        What's so hard to understand about that statement? Chrome OS 69 *may* have it in the stable channel - probably just for the Pixelbook because Google has targeted their flagship for certain features like this since it launched. The feature is already in the beta channel for the Pixelbook. It'll roll out to other Chromebooks later on in stages, just like how Android apps are now on all new shipping Chromebooks. Older Chromebook models have also had Android app support added over time. There are more Chromebooks WITH Android support than without at this point (given models available and support lifecycles). Linux app support will likely have a similar deployment. It'll take time, but it'll eventually be a standard feature across all in-service Chromebooks.

        • skane2600

          In reply to Waethorn:

          Google is in the process of testing Android support on older Chromebooks. There's no point in testing something if you already know the outcome. So it's not certain at this time if all Chromebooks will support Android. Crostini support across all Chromebooks is even more iffy, given the tiny resources available to the lowest-end Chromebooks.

          Update: Actually, it's already known that some Chromebooks won't ever run Crostini:

  6. glenn8878

    • “Material 2.0 dialogs and secondary UI on ChromeOS“

    Already exceeds Windows 10’s UI consistency.

  7. PeteB

    Can we install ChromeOS on regular x86 hardware yet? I'm ready to throw windows 10 out the window.

    • jimchamplin

      In reply to PeteB:

      I use the Chromium OS build that ghostrider mentioned. CloudReady by Neverware. It’s solid and fast and has a relatively wide range of hardware support.

      • nicholas_kathrein

        In reply to jimchamplin:

        I love CloudReady by Neverware. I just wish they could implement Android Apps. If I had that option i'd even have it as a dual boot on my Windows gaming / work pc.

        • waethorn

          In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:

          Google Mobile Services (which entails Google Play Services) has proprietary components to it. It's not part of the Chromium or AOSP source code tree. Google doesn't provide components in their open source code trees that utilize their security certificates or encrypted communications technologies, such as automatic updates. There's also rights issues with hardware OEM driver components in both Android and Chromium (binary blobs with IP protections). All of this contributes to the reasons why they won't release the entire projects as open source. If hardware OEM's got their say in the matter, I wouldn't have been surprised if Google had used a less-open, less-restrictive kernel code like BSD, but then Android was already created and based on Linux before Google took it over. This may be coming in a future replacement for Android though.

    • Tony Barrett

      In reply to PeteB:

      Well, you can't install ChromeOS on standard PC's (that's just for Chromebooks), but you can install Chromium OS. Companies like Neverware provide versions you can install, and it's near-as-damit ChromeOS.