In late 2020, Google bought the company Neverware, which rose to fame thanks to a product called CloudReady, which allowed individual users or large organizations to turn old Windows PCs and Macs into Chrome OS devices. The idea was that if you had old hardware that didn’t run Windows or macOS as well as it used to, you could get more life using it as a Chromebook. CloudReady continued to be available after Google bought Neverware, but today we are seeing for the first time an updated version of the product that has been in the works for about a year.
It’s called Chrome OS Flex and it’s a rebuilt version of CloudReady that was built in-house with access to all of Google’s code and resources. The idea behind Chrome OS Flex is the same: you can visit a website, quickly create an image of Chrome OS on a USB drive, and run it on a PC or Mac. If you decide you’re ready to clean your computer, You can replace your existing OS with Chrome OS and use your computer as a full Chromebook.
Anyone can try Chrome OS Flex today, but Google is positioning the product more for businesses and educational institutions – something the company already focuses on with Chrome OS more broadly. As such, one of the great benefits of Chrome OS Flex is that IT departments can manage devices like any other Chrome OS hardware. Flex can be deployed across a network to multiple devices, and IT departments can manage everything through the Google Admin Console. Once Flex is installed, these devices can be managed in the same way as any other Chrome OS hardware, so IT departments can deploy specific software installations or permissions.
Chrome OS Flex is also more capable than the CloudReady product it will eventually replace. It uses the same codebase as Chrome OS, and Flex devices will receive software updates simultaneously (previously, Neverware had to wait for Google to push a Chrome OS update and then make it work with CloudReady). Flex also has access to Google Assistant, a feature built into today’s most popular Chromebooks and something CloudReady didn’t offer before.
While Google is focusing Flex on business and education, anyone can try it. you just need visit this site to create a bootable instance of Chrome OS Flex on a USB drive and go from there. However, since this is early access software, you will likely want to do it on a computer that is not your primary device. Google is also going through the process of creating a bootable drive built into the Chrome browser – the Chromebook Recovery Utility extension already allows you to create Chrome OS recovery media, and now a Flex installation will be one of the options available. .
One thing Google is making clear is that this release of Chrome OS Flex is an “early access” product. They want people to try it and give feedback, but they are noticing that there may be bugs that still need to be fixed. A full and final release of Chrome OS Flex is planned for the second quarter of this year. For now, Google will continue to offer the stable version of CloudReady; once Chrome OS Flex is finalized, CloudReady users will be transferred to Flex.
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