Move Over Samsung Dex. Chrome OS on Android Is Up Next


Today we announced the news that Google is now able to run Chrome OS on Pixel smartphones. The company has developed a special version of his Chromium OS (an open source version of Chrome OS) designed to run in virtual machines. A demo of the project, known internally as "Ferrochrome," was shown privately to other companies at a recent Google event. With a little effort, I was able to compile my own version of "Ferrochrome" and run it on my Android smartphone. You can get your first look at Chrome OS running in a VM on a Pixel phone in the video embedded above.

In the video, you can see that the phone I chose for this demo is the Pixel 7 Pro, Google's flagship phone for 2022. This may also work on other Tensor-powered Pixel devices, and in fact, this is my first choice for the demo, which was a Pixel 8 Pro. Unfortunately, while the Chromium OS build we compiled booted successfully on the Pixel 8 Pro, we encountered an error that prevented us from entering the setup wizard. I specifically wanted to demo this on the Pixel 8 Pro because it's the only phone in the Pixel lineup that supports display output. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get this working on the Pixel 8 Pro right away, so I decided to demo Ferrochrome on the Pixel 7 Pro instead.

Another thing I noticed in this video is that my Pixel 7 Pro is not running the latest official stable release or beta version from Google. Instead, a custom Android build compiled from AOSP is run. The reason is that I had to use Google's VM Launcher app. VM Launcher is an Android app from Google that calls APIs in Android's Virtualization Framework (AVF) to create and launch virtual machines using configurations specified in a JSON file. Next, a SurfaceView is created to display the VM when the app is displayed.

As you can see in the video, Chromium OS boots very quickly on the Pixel 7 Pro. Chromium OS builds do not provide support for Google sign-in by default, so I had to log in with a guest profile. Network connectivity did not work immediately, but this is a known issue and was resolved after running a script and adjusting some settings in Chromium OS settings. Fortunately, my USB peripherals, such as my mouse and keyboard, were immediately recognized. The audio wasn't working, but I know Google is actively working on resolving the issue. I didn't have much time to play around with it before getting on the plane, but in the short time I used it, performance seemed very snappy overall.

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