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Chromebooks rising, SteamOS stalling, Linux's civil war: The World Beyond Windows' 10 biggest stories of the year

Chris Hoffman | Dec. 23, 2014
This wasn't the pined-for year of the Linux desktop, but 2014 was still huge for the anything-but-Windows PC universe.

Netflix comes to Linux

Speaking of huge advances, Linux finally got official Netflix support this year. Yay!

Okay, okay, Netflix will technically work only if you're running the Chrome browser on Ubuntu. But it's a start — and everyone else can still coax Netflix into working on Linux with a few dead-simple tricks.

PC OEMs get on the Chromebook bandwagon

PC manufacturers jumped on the Chromebook bandwagon en masse in 2014. You can now buy a Chromebook from Samsung, Acer, HP, Asus, Toshiba, Lenovo, and Google itself. Intel now seems committed to Chromebooks, and more Chromebooks are shipping with powerful Intel CPUs inside.

Call it a potential Plan B for Microsoft's PC partners — shaken by the launch of Microsoft's Surface devices and the startling failure of Windows 8. Regardless, there's now more competition in the computing world, better choices than ever for Chromebook buyers, and more affordable PCs period all around.

Chromebooks overtake iPads in education

Chromebook shipments to U.S. schools leapfrogged iPad shipments in the third quarter and are nearing 50 percent of the educational market. For all the iPad hype, an expensive tablet that lacks a keyboard and multi-user support just doesn't work for most schools.

Google's Chromebooks offer a familiar interface and integrated keyboards for users, and for school IT departments, low prices, simple management, and support for easily passing Chromebooks among students. There have also been good signs for Chromebooks in business, so expect to see Google-powered laptops gain even more momentum in 2015.

Ubuntu's relentless pursuit of the smartphones

Ubuntu, probably the most talked-about Linux distribution, has shifted gears — or rather, platforms. While the recent Ubuntu 14.10 saw almost no changes, a ton of work is going into Ubuntu Touch for smartphones.

Recently, Ubuntu Touch for phones was finalized, and Canonical signed a "strategic agreement" with smartphone manufacturer Meizu. Phones should soon follow. This is the culmination of Ubuntu's vision of computing convergence in 2013. Canonical has previously announced it wants Ubuntu to power tablets and smart TVs, so clearly there's more to come.

The marriage of Chrome OS and Android

Chrome OS and Android are Google's two consumer operating systems, but they've often felt rather disconnected. When Chrome OS launched, you couldn't even get a Chrome browser app on Android!

Things are different now. In 2013, Sundar Pichai was placed in charge of both Chrome OS and Android. In October, 2014, vice president of Android engineering Hiroshi Lockheimer was placed in charge of Chrome OS, too. The benefits of this engineering mind-meld are starting to show with new features such as Smart Lock, which will automatically unlock your Chromebook when your Android phone is nearby. This also means Android apps are beginning to run on Chrome OS. The future no doubt holds even more harmonization between Chrome and Android.


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