Chrome OS Weekly S1 Ep 4: Android Q, Notification Revamp, Dual boot, Flapjack, Project Campfire
Google’s Project Campfire (dual-boot) Faces Imminent Demise
Project Campfire was a flagship endeavor that allegedly would have introduced the ability to dual-boot a third-party operating system with Chrome OS. The project showed enough promise and was moving at a steady pace until a lack of interest slowly crept in towards the end of 2018. The code practically became abandonware and all efforts have been put to a halt. All hints suggest that it might have just been permanently axed as the image below indicates.
Kevin of Aboutchromebooks argues that the minimum storage requirement of Project Campfire (40gb) might have been the deciding factor in regards the deprecation of dual boot support in Chrome OS but I reckon differently.
My take on this is that Google must have been aware of the massive storage that Windows would require beforehand – and I feel like they were especially tailoring the feature to the needs of Chrome OS enterprise users as opposed to the everyday Chromebook user that has no real need for the feature.
For what it’s worth, there’s no need to beat oneself about it. Besides, I do not think its the best time (neither will it be in their best interest) for Google to introduce this feature in Chrome OS. The move will just be as risky as Google making Chrome OS officially available for installation on third-party hardware.
Furthermore, the fact that Chrome OS is still a relatively new player will potentially make them fail woefully. The first scenario of Project Campfire will essentially negate the need for Chrome OS on Chrome OS hardware which would be ironical, to say the least. Understandably, Google is yet to gain a strong foothold in the PC market hence indicating that a wide adoption is still a while away as adoption (technically) correlates with familiarity and Chrome OS just doesn’t have that at the scale Windows does. The second scenario essentially reiterates my last point in the first scenario: Google doesn’t stand a chance at this time and making Chrome OS (publicly available) outside the Chrome ecosystem will spell doom for the platform as opposed to bringing it to the spotlight.
So what could we possibly conclude? Perhaps Google learned of how this could work against them, they genuinely have a concern with the core Chrome OS system getting compromised, or as Kevin suggested, Windows’ excessive need for storage space that most Chromebooks just don’t have? Unfortunately, that will continue to remain inconclusive for the foreseeable future but you can be sure we’ll let you know as soon as we learn more (if there’ll ever be something new to learn).
Is Flapjack the Pixel 3a to Google’s Pixelbook?
The Chrome OS tablet and detachables category stand to benefit significantly as it continues to grow with new additions in the form of the Acer Chromebook Tab 10 and CTL’s recent Tab Tx1.
The Pixel Slate effectively kicked off this category even though it wasn’t the first Chrome Tablet to be released. The initiative essentially saw to the remodeling of the Chrome OS UI to better accommodate the specific use-cases associated with a tablet device for a better user experience overall. This move, also (theoretically speaking) accelerates the death of the Android tablet category: it never saw much growth and quite honestly, won’t be missed.
Flapjack appears to be the latest candidate to grace this category. It will reportedly come in two distinct configurations with the primary difference in TFT display diagonals of 8 and 10 inches and resolution at 1920 by 1200 for both devices.
Reportedly, they’ll also be incorporating support for Wacom digitizers which essentially means that the Flapjack devices will more than likely come with a stylus out of the box. The specs also hint at a mid-range device: targeted at the edu market. These tablets are also expected to feature support for Qi Wireless charging rated 15W as well Mediatek’s proprietary charging technology, Pump express 4.0 which is effectively their equivalent of Qualcomm’s Quick Charge and the Universal standard, USB Power Delivery.
Chrome OS Desktop Notifications Gets Revamped With New “Clear all” Placement
Ever since the Android and Chrome merger began, there’s been a lot of “moving around” in regards matching the UI elements on both platforms to create the illusion of consistency across Google’s services and operating systems. It’s mostly been a successful endeavor especially considering how far Google’s Material design language has come.
One issue that has been of contention for a good while is that of the “clear all button” in the Chrome OS notification area. As indicated in the video below: that is what the Android notification area is like on Pixel 3. Notice how the “Clear all” button disappear and reappear as you scroll: that’s the exact implementation in Chrome OS and while it’s in line with Google’s vision for UI consistency, the implementation on Chrome OS is rather off-putting and counterintuitive as the “Clear all” button doesn’t show until you make effort to scroll up your notification.
The proposed workaround sees the clear all button move to a more convenient position at the top right corner of the notification area. This update will be ready in the Chrome OS 76 stable update sometime in August, however, you can currently give it a go in the Canary channel.
Google Sheds More light on Android Q’s Desktop Mode
The tradition at Google in adopting new features introduced to Android via its hardware partners have been particularly slow or just plain inconsistent. Reason being, Google is trying to maintain the integrity of “stock Android” and all that it represents. Perhaps the fear of adding too much and ruining the user experience is a legitimate one but then you could argue that there are some things that are literally a no brainer. Like it took Google forever to implement multitasking (for split screen usage) natively in the Android code as well as many other features. It’d come to the point where it just felt like the UI development of Android has mostly stagnated since the introduction of Lollipop and material design.
Not to stray too far from the point, a lot in the core of the operating system has changed, the UI tended to remain the same for the most part akin to Apple’s iOS but better. It appears that Google has realized how it’s unintentionally digging itself a pit they will inevitably fall if they don’t take a different path. Thankfully, however, they are acting against it by adopting software features that are worthwhile at a faster pace.
Universal dark mode and desktop mode were some of the subtle announcements at the Google I/O 2019 event in regards Android Q. While there was nothing explicitly said in regards Chrome OS benefitting from these features, you can very much expect them to make an entry somewhere down the road (remember Google’s need for UI consistency across its products).
“Foldable phones may have several screens, but you can also find multi-display in cars, in phones connected to larger screens in desktop mode, in Chrome OS, and so on.”
Andrii Kulian, Google.
This resonates loud with them making haste to catch up with Samsung and Huawei’s implementation of the Android desktop. In my analysis, this is, in fact, a high-level feature that’s widely sought after considering the leap in mobile flexibility that it brings. It immediately conquers the need for more than a single device and it’d be a shame if Google further delays – post Android Q availability that is – as this would effectively be letting Samsung and Huawei to continually lead this niche of Android to the point where they can use the knowledge and experience gained to potentially win users to their respective proprietary platforms. We’ve already seen this with the wearable platform in the manifestation of smartwatches and how Wear OS falls behind the competition. This is also evident in Google’s Home effort – rightfully, this is a category that Amazon’s Alexa currently rule.
It may sound far-fetched but it’s not entirely implausible cause there’s a lot of business money to be made if anyone ever successfully challenges the duopoly of Android and iOS.
What does it Mean for Chrome OS?
Short answer: The possibility of a single smartphone with the ability to run Chrome OS when docked and standard Android in active mode.
Long answer: There’s a natural progression with the merger of Chrome OS and Android … one that is constantly evolving to accommodate the needs of both platform users. As the two closely fuse together, there’s the hope for limitless potential and undeniably pitfalls, too. The very survival of this long-term experiment depends on Google’s ability to maintain its current pace of development – especially with the integration of the containers within the Chrome operating system so they feel right at home on the platform. The longer it takes for this to be a reality, the harder the adoption of Chrome OS may become. The Android familiarity factor is great, but let’s not forget that most people are lazy in their practice with technology and just want tech that just works. They don’t want to have to deal with any finicky software – this is why Apple is hugely successful. The tech scene of the 2000s was notorious for smart devices that felt cumbersome in operation and general usability. The thing is nerds built them and those devices (however subconscious) were generally tailored towards them and user-experience was basically an afterthought for the big players at the time until Apple came and effectively changed the game with the iPhone.
Moving forward: while Chrome OS has a reputation for simplicity, security, and great functionality, Google can’t seem to shake off the debacle of the Pixel Slate’s ridiculously inconsistent and laggy tablet UI at launch.
This feature – multiple display support – is currently in the works for Android Q and should bring in support for external displays in every traditional sense. This, of course, requires a USB C (to HDMI) cable running from your smartphone to a USB to HDMI converter on your monitor. Developer tools have already been published and you can currently try it out on either the Google Pixel or Essential PH1 provided you’re on the Q developer preview.