The Shortcomings of ChromeOS in 2020

It should not come as a shock that I am a huge fan of ChromeOS/ChromiumOS and while I am clearly a fan, I am also very critical of the operating system and want to see it evolve. A bit over 3 years ago, I wrote a article on my website outlining some of the major shortcomings with ChromeOS in 2017 and I am happy to say that ChromeOS has come a very long way. A lot of new and impressive features have come to ChromeOS since my post including proper SD card support for Android, upgrading the dated Android 6.0 and various other improvements that were not on my radar such as Linux application support. ChromeOS is a great operating system that has been a daily driver of mine for a long time but there are still several major shortcomings that I would love to see resolved in future releases of ChromeOS.

Deeper Integration with Android Phones

I love the ability for ChromeOS to run Android Applications however there is no use installing every application that is on my phone on my Chromebook that I have installed on my phone. ChromeOS already has some integration with some Android Phones such as Authentication, SMS Mirroring and Instant Tethering. I would love to see Google take this a step further by implementing the following:

Full Notification Mirroring with Actions

There is nothing worse then seeing a notification for WhatsApp or Telegram on my watch that came in on my phone which is in my pocket while I am on my Chromebook. I would love to be able to simply see the notification mirrored on my Chromebook so I can respond, even when the app is not installed on my Chromebook. This is of course already possible with the use of third party services such as PushBullet and AirDroid, sadly these services relay your information through third party services and it may not be safe to trust these services with sensitive services. It would be great if Google can use Bluetooth LE to securely sync these notifications as to not rely on sending notifications over the internet.

While notification support alone would be great, the holy grail would be to allow a user to perform actions on the notifications such as respond, mark as read or dismiss. These would pretty much be identical to the functions on Android Quick Actions API. Applications like Twitter could even expose functions like “Retweet” and “Like”.

This is already done with Android Wear, Samsung Galaxy Gear, Samsung Flow and Microsoft Phone Companion so it is not a stretch to see it happen on ChromeOS. Of course the user should be in control of what notifications are sent to prevent duplicate notifications or unnecessary notifications.

Remote Application Streaming Support

One of my biggest complaints with ChromeOS is the anemic amount of local storage that many Chromebooks still have. Many Chromebooks still ship with 32 GB of storage in 2020 such as the new HP Chromebook, this a massive problem with many new Android phones shipping with 128 GB of storage. This is a problem that many Chromebook manufacturers are refusing to address and Android applications on ChromeOS have the ability to consume a lot of space with offline media/files. A perfect solution would be for Google to implement a remote application streaming protocol to allow a application to be launched on your phone with the UI of the application being projected to the Chromebook display. If you are a Linux user, I am essentially describing something similar to X11 forwarding.  This solution should be seamless to the end user, applications should display in the Chromebook Application Launcher just like a native application.

These remote applications should use Bluetooth Low Energy to initiate the application launching but the bluetooth connection may not be fast enough to do the heavy lifting so it should setup a WiFi firect connection between the phone and chromebook to send over the audio/video stream.

If you feel I am crazy for saying this should be done via wireless due to frame rate issues, just remember that I was able to use Samsung DeX over a wireless connection at 60 FPS without a problem.

Remote File Management

I would love my phone’s local storage/SD card to be visible in the ChromeOS file manager when my devices are in range. Much like the remote application streaming support, such a system would likely need to use Bluetooth Low Energy to initiate the connection with all of the work happening over WiFi direct.

Core ChromeOS

File Manager

The ChromeOS file manager is great but I would love to see improvements such as global search within the file manager and native support for smb mounts.

External Storage Encryption

I have always been vocal about this in the past and it still a problem in 2020. ChromeOS desperately needs a way to allow for users to encrypt storage from the file manager. At the least, this should allow the MicroSD card to be encrypted but ideally it should also be possible to encrypt USB Flash Drives and USB Hard Drives as well. This is a silly omission as many enterprise uses for ChromeOS require full disk encryption and on devices with limited storage space, it is not uncommon to offload your downloads folder to your SD card. I don’t know about you but I know I have had sensitive information in my downloads folder such as copies of my tax returns in the past.

Secure Folder

If you are a Samsung owner, you may already be familiar with the Secure Folder which is basically a second Android phone on your phone. I am sure that many use this feature to hide things they don’t want their kids or partners to find, I personally use it to keep my work content separated from my personal content. The Secure Folder essentially allows you to install a second copy of any application on your phone and the data is not shared with applications outside of the secure folder.

This may eventually be possible when ArcVM launches on Android which could in theory allow you to run multiple Android containers on the same Chromebook (space permitting)

Find My Device/Remote Wipe/Remote Lock

It is currently possible to use the Android Device Manager to remotely locate, lock or securely wipe your Android devices if your phone is lost or stolen. This functionality has been missing on ChromeOS and is sorely needed on Chromebooks to give users piece of mind.

Multiple Linux Containers (with other OS options)

Debian is a great operating system to run in a container for general purposes, it plays well with most Linux applications and is great for software development. With all of that said, there are several users who prefer to use other Linux distros such as Ubuntu, CentOS, Tails and more. I would be great to be able to manage containers via the ChromeOS settings menu and even run multiple containers on the same machine.

This is currently possible to do this via command line from inside of termina but it would be great to allow this to be managed without needing to run a bunch of lxc commands.

ASOP in ChromiumOS

Finally I would love to see ARC/ARCVM added to the Chromium OS Source tree to allow for ChromiumOS builds to include Android application support.

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