It is increasingly becoming evident that Google is grooming Chrome OS to be something like a dumping ground for anything and everything it can cram into what was originally a glorified Chrome web browser. From that modest beginning, Chromebooks have grown up to support not just Android and Linux apps but also triple-A gaming via Stadia. It seems that Google isn’t done yet and may even be working on getting Steam games to run on future Chromebooks, further transforming their image from educational toys to serious work computers.
It’s really less spectacular or impressive than it sounds, at least on a technical level. Steam has long worked on Linux and the fact that Linux runs on Chrome OS makes it almost sound too trivial. Still, it’s no small matter and the fact that Google is putting in work to bring one of the world’s biggest PC games catalog to Chrome is perhaps more significant than the fact that it can.
It won’t be a straightforward implementation, however. As 9to5Google discovered, the implementation might involve using an Ubuntu-based “Borealis” virtual machine rather than the Debian-based “Crostini”. The reason for that change is that Steam’s Linux support, particularly its new Proton compatibility layer for Windows games, is based on Ubuntu Linux.
Whether that means Chrome OS will be switching from Crostini to Borealis or if it will let the two run side by side is still unknown. What is known, at least by the current state of Steam Linux support, is that it will require hardware more powerful than what current-gen Chromebooks provide. There are rumors of a new Chromebook with a 10th-gen Intel Core processor and that may very well fit that bill.
While it’s definitely exciting to see Linux and even Windows games running on Chromebooks, it’s more likely to be a feature reserved for higher-end devices. Still, it’s interesting to see Google pushing Chrome OS in almost all directions, from education to productivity to gaming, positioning it as the one OS to rule them all.