Low Cost Chromebooks Appeal to Linux Users Not Interested in Chrome OS

by Ostatic Staff - May. 01, 2013

Although many people think of them as older participants in the portable computing market, the fact is that Chromebooks based on Google's Chrome OS first went on sale in June of 2011--not long ago. In a recent post on the state of Chromebooks, I noted that prices in the $200 range for Chromebooks like the Acer system shown here are attracting users, but also noted that market share numbers are not showing these system making a big splash.

There is a sub-trend going on with Chromebooks, though, and it involves users buying the low-cost systems and putting their favorite Linux distros on them, which isn't hard to do. This trend will only pick up now that the latest version of the Linux kernel includes code for running Linux on Chromebooks.

You can read more about modifications to the Linux kernel for Chromebooks in Wired's story here.  But right here on OStatic, we've seen lots of evidence that readers are interested in buying inexpensive Chromebooks only to run Ubuntu, Mint or other Linux flavors on the systems.

Here is one reader comment from this recent post:

"The only redeeming value of Chromebooks, the the ability to install Linux on them, in place of ChromeOS."

And another arrived following this post:

"At first I had no interest in a Chrome OS laptop, because I won't want an operating system that requires constant internet access in order to work. Plus, Google has a horrible history when it comes to respecting people's privacy. After reading an article about how it's possible to load GNU/Linux on a Chrome laptop, then I suddenly became interested in buying one. They do have a low price after all. I'd probably completely wipe Chrome OS off it and load GNU/Linux on it though."

And then there was this:

"In terms of size and weight, this is my dream computer; I tested it at Best Buy and fell head over heels in love. But agree with the comments above on Chrome OS. The question is, does it excel at running "standard" linux distros like Mint or Fedora? Can you post the link? If this runs Mint well, I would buy it today."

One thing you have to bear in mind here is that it isn't all that easy to put popular Linux distros on Windows 8 laptops due to the UEFI Secure Boot scheme. But videos abound online showing how to put Ubuntu or Mint on a Chromebook. And, Chromebooks are much cheaper than Windows 8-based equivalent portable systems.

It may be true that the future of the Chromebook is to be a vessel for running various Linux distros, with the Linux kernel being optimized for that future.