Google updates Pixelbook with Windows compatibility, could gain dual-boot mode

Google is updating the Pixelbook with Windows-compatible firmware, could run both Chrome and Windows soon


Google’s Chromebooks have proven popular in the United States, Google’s home country, but not so much elsewhere. A majority of the world still values the traditional desktop and its capabilities. Applications on the Chromebook are limited, even though Google now allows Google Chrome to run Android and Linux apps as well as download Linux software. Running Android and Linux now adds some multi-platform functionality to the Chromebook and Pixelbook. That trend looks to continue.

Google makes the Pixelbook more desktop-like

Google is updating the Chromebook to make it more desktop-like and gain greater market share in other countries outside the US. The Pixelbook, Google’s most premium laptop ever designed, stands in the same boat as the Chromebook. One of the ways Google is making the Chromebook and Pixelbook more desktop-like is to add features such as Android/Linux compatibility, and features such as split-screen and multitasking. Recently, Google has started testing Fuchsia OS on the laptop. Fuchsia is a new operating system Google started testing in 2016.

The Pixelbook is getting Windows Hardware and firmware compatibility

The multi-platform compatibility isn’t all that surprising. It is surprising, though, to see Google make the Pixelbook firmware more Windows-compatible. That seems to be the case. According to Google’s own firmware update, the Pixelbook firmware changes concern the Windows Hardware Certification Kit (WHCK) and the Windows Hardware Lab Kit (WHLK). The Windows Hardware Lab Kit is designed to ensure all the proper drivers and firmware for Windows-compatible machines are in place. Windows Hardware Certification Kit ensures that the Pixelbook’s software changes are in line with Windows 8.1.

The Windows Hardware Certification and Windows Hardware Lab regulations indicate that the premium laptop could gain a dual-boot, AltOS mode in its future. The Pixelbook could someday run Chrome OS and Windows OS side-by-side with a “button press” to switch between the two OSes.

Is Google changing course on dual-booting mobile devices?

It’s interesting to see Google aim for Windows certification and a dual-boot, Chrome OS/AltOS/Windows OS experience. Back in 2013, Samsung unveiled a Windows Ativ Q tablet that could boot both Android and Windows simultaneously. A few months later, Samsung removed all mention of the Ativ Q from its websites and quietly canceled the product.

The same happened to ASUS. A report from March 2014 says that Google put pressure on ASUS to cancel its Transformer Book Duet TD 300. The same occurred with Samsung, according to rumors.

Google’s resistance to dual-booting Android/Windows laptops and tablets just a few years ago doesn’t fit with Google’s decision to make the Pixelbook so Windows-friendly now.

Why Google is becoming Windows-friendly now

The question comes down to the following: why is Google becoming more Windows-friendly in its products now? The answer, in a word, is the popularity of Windows around the world. While Android is the world’s most popular mobile operating system, Windows is the world’s most popular desktop operating system. As of May 2018, Windows owns 81.8% market share in desktop operating system use worldwide. Google’s Chrome OS sits at 1.22%.

Google wants its Pixelbook (and ultimately, Chromebooks) to become more than an American favorite in order to corner the market. With the Pixelbook’s price in the $1,000+ segment, consumers expect desktop capabilities. The Pixelbook doesn’t provide that out of the box.

Google must push to entice Windows desktop users if it hopes to see the Pixelbook and Chromebook more popular worldwide than in its backyard. In the end, the Android owner who doesn’t want to capitulate to Windows’ desktop prowess must do so in order to win more market share. Only winners can pick and choose; losers, even in market share, can’t afford such stubborn luxury.

The irony of it all is that Google has opposed dual-booting modes on Android-powered devices to avoid conceding to Microsoft. Now the underdog in the desktop market, Google has no other choice if it wants the Pixelbook to compete where it counts.