Thursday, May 23, 2024

Google confirms it only brought ChromeOS to Pixel as a proof-of-concept

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Earlier this week it was revealed that Google Pixel devices, thanks to changes in Android, technically had the capability to run ChromeOS. That won’t be coming anytime soon though, it seems, as Google has confirmed that work was only a proof-of-concept.

The idea of using an Android smartphone to run ChromeOS on a bigger external display has been a dream for years, but it never came as close to reality as it did when it was revealed that Google had built just that. A special Chromium OS build was reportedly shown off behind closed doors, and the build managed to leak out and be run on another Pixel phone.

Speaking on an episode of the Android Faithful podcast, Google’s Dave Burke (VP of Engineering for Android) confirmed that, as cool as it was to see a Pixel powering ChromeOS, this was just a tech demo. Burke explained that Google is “investing heavily in virtualization” on Android, saying (edited for clarity):

The reason we care about this a lot is that, historically in Android, for secure computing you’d use something like Trust Zone, which is a special enclave, but it’s not as safe as it could be. We think virtual machines are a much cleaner, safer way to have compartmentalized, secure code. Over time you’ll see us evacuating code from Trust Zone into virtual machines. We want to make virtual machines work really well, make them light and capable. The Android 15 feature that we added was the ability to have graphical operating systems be hosted in a virtual machine with GPU acceleration.

Burke went on to say that, to showcase this new technology, Google needed a demo, and ChromeOS was just the obvious candidate. He said:

‘We need to do a demo, what would be really cool? Let’s put ChromeOS in there. That’d be really funny. Could that really work?’ And it works. That’s as far as it went, it’s a tech demo to show the tech. What we’re excited about it the virtualization and it was just a way of showing it.

So, at least for now, this is just a cool idea. And clearly one that works. One user who goes by the username skiman10 also managed to install the leaked build on a Pixel Tablet, as shared on Twitter/X by Mishaal Rahman.

But the future of this technology appears to be up in the air. Sameer Samat, the new President of the Android Ecosystem, added in the interview:

Was it going somewhere? Gosh, I don’t know. I think that a lot of things in Google start like this. I thought it was pretty cool. Gears turn in your mind, what could you do with that? I think that’s literally where we are right now.

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