Late in January 2018, an Acer tablet running on Chrome OS was spotted at the Bett education and technology show in London. The rather less prioritized OS offering from Google has somehow managed to carve a chunk for itself while constantly developing an ecosystem. Some of the recent developments include the ability to support split-screen Android Apps in Chromebooks whilst in tablet mode. Last week, Chrome OS got updated to Chrome OS 65 with tons of new features. Now, Visual Studio Code has been spotted running on Pixelbook via Crostini container and Chrome Unboxed labels it as "one of the biggest developments ever to come to the Chrome OS ecosystem."
Before we go ahead, let us know about that "Crostini container" we just talked about. A container basically is a type that enables an application to run on a device, relying mostly on its hardware with little to no dependency on the operating system of that device. To be specific, all the Android apps on a Chromebook run in their very own containers. ARC (Android Runtime for Chrome) isolates Android apps inside Linux containers to sandbox them and maintain the integrity of the Chrome operating system. A similar container ACL (Application Compatibility Layer), though not available any more, is used to run Android apps on Tizen smartphones.
The next evolution of containers in Chrome OS has been on the cards for some time now. Growing demand, or need, of Android (read useful) apps in the Chrome OS means the need of a reliable container. Well, Crostini container has already been there but up until now, we’ve only seen traces of Crostini inside the OS. And it's high-time we see more of it. The UI of Crostini still lays dormant awaiting Chromium developers to flip the switch that will enable this new feature. So possibly, we will see a full-fledged Crostini on Chrome OS version 66, reportedly coming around early May.
Google’s developer conference, Google I/O, scheduled for 8 May, also happens to have a session dedicated to Chromebooks this year. So it it is highly likely that we hear some mention of this new evolution of Chrome OS.
Salesforce engineer Lincoln Stoll (@lstoll) has spent some time getting the Crostini project working on his Pixelbook and has successfully spun up Visual Studio Code inside the container. The method can be found on his GitHub page, but we don’t recommend trying it unless you know what you’re doing and understand the risk to your device.
But as for developers, Crostini coming to the mainstream channels of Chrome OS could be a game changer. They could literally play with all the familiar tools they’re accustomed to, all housed in the lightweight OS. Google’s Pixelbook could, for all intents and purposes, become a standalone developer machine. This is all really, really exciting stuff, but for now, its all about when!