Category: Chrome OS

Chrome OS Update Brings Big Changes to The Platform

The Chromium team within Google has released Chrome OS Build 57 to the stable channel, bringing a significant number of changes and improvements to the platform.  The new build is 57.0.2987.123 (Platform version: 9202.56.1) and it is available on a wide range of devices running the Operating System.  There are some exceptions however including the AOpen Chromebase Mini, AOpen Chromebox Mini, Google Chromebook Pixel (2015), ASUS Chromebook Flip C302,  ASUS Chromebook Flip C100PA, Samsung Chromebook Plus,  and the Acer Chromebook R13 (CB5 – 312T).  Other devices will have the update pushed to it or you can manually check for the update now.  My Acer Chromebook 14 has already received the update.

There are a lot of changes happening in this update including an updated default wallpaper and an update boot animation from a visual perspective.  Media files from Android apps are now available in the Files application on your Chromebook, making it easier to get to them and share them.  PIN unlocking is also available now for all Chromebooks.

Today’s Deal – Acer Chromebook 14 Down to $270

Today over at Amazon you can pick up a great deal on the Acer Chromebook 14.  Right now this all aluminum chassis Chromebook is available with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage for $270.  That price is good on either the aluminum or the gold aluminum finish and is eligible for Prime shipping for members.

This Acer Chromebook is powered by a Intel Celeron N3160 processor running at 1.6GHz and the display renders at 1920 x 1080 full HD.  As mentioned already, it has 4GB of RAM which is really handy on a Chromebook and has 32GB of storage for those things (like Android apps) that you need to store locally.  It also has a built-in battery that is rated to give 12 hours of life between charges.  Overall it is a great package and one of the higher rated Chromebooks out there right now.

Today’s Deal – Samsung Chromebook Plus Down to $420 at Amazon

Another deal today is on the all new Samsung Chromebook Plus.  The 12.3″ convertible normally sells for $450 but is down to $420 right now on Amazon.  That will get you one of the latest Chromebooks available and it will run Android apps natively right out of the box.

The Chromebook Plus has a 12.3″ display rendering at 2400 x 1600.  It is also a touchscreen which makes using the included stylus or your finger for apps easier.  It has 4GB of RAM, 32GB of Storage and you can expand that storage thanks to the MicroSD slot.  It has dual-microphones, a 720p Webcam and, of course, Wi-Fi.  It only ways 2.4 lbs so it is designed for portability and with it being able to be be used as a laptop or a slate, you have a lot of flexibility in where and how you use this Chromebook.

Android Nougat Coming to Chrome OS 58 or 59

While the ability to run Android apps on Chrome OS continues to roll out, the question for many is when or if it will be updated.  The answer is yes and pretty soon.  This week while attending Google Cloud Next in San Francisco, I posed the question to Chrome OS product management in a breakout session and it was confirmed that Android Nougat will be coming to the platform build 58 or 59.  Given that it is already in the beta channel, I suspect that it is likely 58.

As readers may know, Android Framework in Chrome OS currently is based on Android Marshmallow.  So, in theory, if an app will run in Marshmallow, it will run on Chrome.  The tricky bit has been that some apps can’t go full screen in 6.0 and features like multi-window support for apps is not something that is supported at all in Marshmallow.  All of that changes under 7.0 obviously as the framework allows for it.

Google Extends Auto-Update Policy on Chromebooks to Over 6 Years

Good news for those of you who have older Chromebooks.  Google has updated their auto-update policy and have added a full 18 months of support for devices.  The change comes as part of a general overhaul of what use to be called the End of Life policy on Chrome OS.  Along with the name change, and given the significant number of Chrome OS devices in the education sector, Google has extended the time in which a device will receive updates.  Up until this change over the weekend, devices would receive updates for five years.  Now that has been extended another 18 months to 6-and-a-half-years.  Given the lightweight design and somewhat “cookie cutter” layout of Chrome OS, this makes a lot of sense and, frankly, is easier for Google do with this platform than it is for Microsoft with Windows as a comparative example.

In real terms, this is a big deal.  If you have an Acer Chromebook 14 like me, support for that Chromebook now extends to March 2021.  While as a tech user I will undoubtedly update my Chromebook to something else before 2021, it is good news for organizations who have a lot of a particular device.  They can now plan on when they need to start doing technology refreshes.

Chrome OS Continues to Make Gains in US Education Sector

Futuresource Consulting has released their annual report on mobile PCs in the education sector, noted as K-12 here in the United States.  Overall, shipments grew 18% in 2016 over the previous year with Chrome OS taking 58% of the market share in the sector.  That marks an 8% increase from 2015 and further establishes its stronghold in the sector.

The strong combination of affordable devices, productivity tools via G-Suite, easy integration with third party platforms/tools, task management/distribution via Google Classroom and easy device management remains extremely popular with US teachers and IT buyers alike. The rise of Chromebooks has also set new industry benchmarks with regards to average device pricing, with prices reaching as low as $120 on certain projects.

The report indicates that the brunt of the gains by Chrome OS were at the cost of Apple technologies.  MacOS in the education sector dropped 1% year-over-year while iOS took a 5% hit.  Microsoft Windows remained at 22% market share.

Google Pixel Chromebook is Dead? Not So Fast Says Google

Yesterday, from a wide range of sources, it was reported that Google has no plans of ever making a Pixel Chromebook follow up.  This lead to a lot of consternation as the Pixel lineup, while having a hefty price tag, were the premium Chrome OS experience.

Well, not so fast.  Google’s Rick Osterloh took to Twitter today and laid out that the Pixel Chromebook isn’t dead at all.  It is just that there is nothing to report on it.

Now for those who don’t know who Mr. Osterloh is with Google, he is certainly a voice of authority on this topic.  He is the Senior Vice President of Hardware at Google.  Yeah, he might know a thing or two.

Update – How To Enable Material Design Extension Page in Chrome OS

Material Design elements are making their way into Chrome OS at a snail’s pace. But, when you find something that can be setup in this new, sleek look, it’s kinda fun.  The latest, at least as far as I can tell, is in Chrome 56 which allows you to enable the look on your Extension page. I’ll preface this with two points:  First, I do not recall seeing this setting in Chrome OS 55 or earlier in the Stable channel.  It has been in the beta and canary channel.  Second, I’m assuming, but not sure, that this is in the Chrome browser as well.  I use a Chromebook so I can’t verify.  If you can verify this flag works in the Chrome browser, let me know and I will update this post with proper credit of course.   Thanks to John Borgen for confirming that this feature is indeed in the latest build of Chrome browser!

The new Material Design extensions page is not enabled by default but it can easily be set with a flag inside of Chrome.  That new flag is chrome://flags/#enable-md-extensions or you can just go chrome://flags and search Material Design and find it there (and a lot of other things that can get an MD make over.

What is Smart Lock and How To Enable It on Your Chromebook

One of the great features of Chrome OS is one that few people actually use.  It’s called Smart Lock and while technically still a beta feature in the Stable channel of Chrome, it is a quick and easy way to unlock your Chromebook using your Android phone.  No longer do you have to type in your password on your Chromebook but rather, can simply walk into the room with your unlocked Android phone or click your account photo on your Chromebook to unlock it.  Setting it up is pretty easy and it can save you some time, especially if you have your phone setup as a Trusted Agent.

First, what is Smart Lock?  As the name suggests, it is a way to quickly and easily unlock your Chrome OS device by using your Android phone.  To do this, your phone and your Chromebook have to be linked and trusted with each other which is a quick five minute process.  It is a feature that has been in the Settings of Chrome OS since last year and requires that your phone be within 100 feet of your Chromebook to work.  In this How To, I’ll show you how to set it up and use it.

Chrome OS Update Released – Still No Android App Support

The good news is, a new build of Chrome OS has been released and is making its way to a wide range of Chromebooks.  The not-so-good news, it doesn’t enable Android apps in the Stable channel yet.

Sigh.

Here is the deal:  Chrome OS build 56.0.2924.87 (Platform version: 9000.82.0) is rolling out to all devices except those devices which are already able to run Android apps.  That includes the ASUS Chromebook Flip C100PA,  Google Chromebook Pixel (2015), and the Acer Chromebook R11.  If you have any other device running the platform, the update is rolling out and should hit your device via an OTA update in the next day or two.  You can force the update by going to Settings>About Chrome OS and checking for an update.

 

However, don’t despair:  There are some really nice updates in this build, especially around Material Design.

Opinion – Chrome OS Could Kill The Android Tablet in 2017

As 2017 gets started, one thing has become abundantly clear to me:  The days of the Android tablet form factor are numbered.  Its not that the Android experience on tablets will kill them – which is pretty poor to be fair – but rather the flood of Chromebooks and other Chrome OS devices that are set to hit the market this year.  2017 will be the year that Chrome OS takes off for good with a wide range of form factors expected to be release and the much anticipated support of Android apps on the platform in Chrome 56.  The latter is due within days and the former, with the likes of Samsung’s new Chromebooks, will set the stage for a transformative year.

The push for the tablet form factor came fundamentally from Apple.  With the launch of the iPad, it suddenly became a tool by which you could get more things done on a larger screen.  Add to that portability and a lower cost, generally, than a laptop and you set the stage for a form factor that seemingly many wanted.  But for all the might of Apple, the iPad has never really taken hold.  Samsung, HTC and Google themselves have had the same struggles.  They brought the conveniences of a mobile Operating System and the associated apps but equally, they brought limitations that users did not experience on laptops.  It was, as if, they were a stop-gap measure until a proper merger of a desktop OS and a mobile OS could take place.

That merger is happening now with Chrome OS and Android.

Android apps running in Chrome will be more than just a stop gap.  You will get the benefits of an app ecosystem along with the power and productivity of a desktop OS.  Is it perfect?  No but it is a far cry better than having two completely desparent solutions to meet your productivity and entertainment needs.

I suspect that my usage of my Nexus 9 Android tablet is similar to many of you.  I like the tablet but 90% of my use of it is for entertainment:  Games, movie watching and social networking.  Rarely do I use it for productivity, even with the solid Google productivity apps like Docs, Sheets and Slides.  The only time I really use it for productivity is when I’m on an airplane, in coach, crammed into a little seat with little room to pull out a 14″ Chromebook to work.  If I’m in business class or First class, the Chromebook is always the weapon of choice to get things done.  So the question becomes, if I had my entertainment on a slate or convertible Chrome OS-based device, would I need a tablet?  The answer, in my mind, is a resounding no.

Adobe Creative Cloud Apps Now Optimized for Chromebooks

Earlier today, Google announced some key initiatives around Chromebooks and education at BETT, an event in London focused on technology in education.  The announcement included announcements around new stylus enabled Chromebooks and, of course, the coming of Android apps to the platform.  Adobe was highlighted in the release as being a company who had optimized their Creative Cloud apps to work on these new Android-enabled Chromebooks.

Adobe has released a suite of Android apps optimized for Chromebooks. The Adobe Creative Cloud apps, including Photoshop MixLightroom MobileIllustrator DrawPhotoshop SketchAdobe Comp CC, and Creative Cloud Mobile will be available for free download, expanding creative options for students and the capability of stylus and world-facing camera.

While several apps have already been optimized to work on Chromebooks, the Creative Cloud apps is a big deal.  It will allow those in education – students and teachers – to be more creative in their studies while being touch and stylus enabled as they would be on an Android phone or tablet.