What is CloudReady? Is it a viable alternative to open source Chrome OS?

CloudReady is becoming increasingly popular, especially among people with low-level hardware. So I decided to take a look at it and share my findings with you in this article.

What is CloudReady?

CloudReady is an operating system based on Google’s open-source Chromium OS code base. Neverware, the organization behind CloudReady, developed CloudReady OS to install on existing PC and Mac hardware and guarantees improved performance on that hardware through minimal hardware requirements. Essentially, CloudReady turns your older computers into Chromebooks. Neverware was acquired by Google itself in late 2020.

Before I share my experience and opinion about it, let me tell you a bit more about it.

Who should try CloudReady?

CloudReady is primarily for institutions that will benefit from Chromebook-like devices, but have already invested in hardware. Below are a few examples that come to my mind:

  • The user interface of Chromium OS and, by extension, CloudReady is simple enough that it is rarely necessary to retrain staff to switch from macOS or Windows to the CloudReady user interface.
  • Better security is because users can’t install the traditional malware apps available for macOS and Windows.
  • Chromium OS has low hardware requirements, so it’s almost guaranteed to run on your old hardware.
  • Manage your computers through the Google Admin Console.
  • Relatively simple initial setup.

Here are the minimum hardware requirements to run CloudReady:

  • Processor : Any processor released after 2008 should work (no mention of ARM processors, so it is assumed that only X86 processors – Intel and AMD – are supported.)
  • RAM : 2GB or more
  • Memory : 16GB or more
  • Full BIOS or UEFI access – to boot from USB installer

If you are wondering if your current netbook will work with CloudReady, Neverware has published a list of netbooks that are certified to work with CloudReady. More than 450 models are currently certified. You can check your model against the official list at this link.

How is CloudReady different from Chrome OS?

If your primary goals are one of the following, CloudReady will suit you just fine:

  • Manage your CloudReady devices using the Neverware Admin Portal (pending completion of your Google acquisition) or through the Google Admin Console.
  • Work in your organization can be done through a web browser (using web services).

When you hear the words “This is a Chrome OS-based operating system,” you might assume that, at the very least, it can run Android apps.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t. There is no support for the Android Runtime (ART) open-source framework/service for Chromium OS, which means there is no support for CloudReady. Neverware did not add Android Runtime to CloudReady for a number of legal and technical reasons.

Which, in turn, prevents you from even downloading the APK because there is nothing to run these Android apps.

When I tried launching the Play Store from the app drawer, it opened the Google Play Store web page for me in my browser. So that’s bad news… But since CloudReady is based on an operating system that is “web-centric,” my Chromium browser extensions seem to work flawlessly.

07 app drawer
A snapshot of the app drawer in CloudReady with the Google Play Store app icon (which redirects you to the web page in Chromium) along with Chrome extensions as “Apps”.

So, if you want to use your old laptop as a non-touch tablet with CloudReady, you’re out of luck a bit.

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Why does CloudReady even exist?

You may have wondered: if Chrome OS already exists, why did Neverware spend its resources to create a “clone” called CloudReady?

If you look closely at the devices running Chrome OS, they are pre-builds. This means that Chrome OS is only available to OEMs that make Chromebooks.

Unlike Microsoft’s Windows, where OEMs get Windows to preload their laptops and/or desktops and provide users with an installation ISO, Google does not provide you with an ISO that you can use to install Chrome OS on your computer.

Hence the need to create an operating system based on the Chromium OS code base. Something you can install on your existing PC and Mac hardware.

In addition to giving you the option to install an operating system based on Chromium OS, Neverware has options for enterprise users who want official support for their operating system. You’ll get it with CloudReady.

cloudready screenshot

CloudReady screenshot

CloudReady offers three editions: Home version (free), Education, and Enterprise (both paid). If you want to try it first, the obvious choice is the home version.

Neverware doesn’t provide you with an ISO. But Neverware does provide you with a tool to create bootable USB with its USB Maker tool, for Windows only.

Neverware also provides a RAW file that you can use to manually create a bootable USB from any operating system using the Chromebook Recovery Utility extension from any Chromium-based browser.

Download CloudReady Home Edition

Since Neverware does not provide an ISO, if you want to try it as a virtual machine, Neverware provides a “.ova” file. But this “.ova” file will not work with VirtualBox. It is intended for use with VMware.

Ubuntu Web: Alternative to ChromeOS and CloudReady?

If you are hoping to use CloudReady on your old computer or laptop, but are disappointed that CloudReady lacks ART, try Ubuntu Web.

ubuntu web screenshot
Screenshot of Ubuntu Web

As you can guess from the name, this is a Linux distribution aimed at those looking for an alternative to Chrome OS.

Ubuntu Web has the same familiar Ubuntu base that gives you the ability to sync with /e/ Cloud, an alternative to Google’s privacy-focused cloud sync services.

The cherry on top is that Ubuntu Web comes with Waydroid by default.

If you didn’t know about Waydroid, it’s a “containerized approach for booting a full Android system on a regular GNU/Linux system.” Which means it will run your Android apps (as opposed to CloudReady).

Conclusion

While you might think CloudReady doesn’t have much compared to Chrome OS, it’s a good option for organizations that want to deploy a centrally managed operating system based on Chromium OS but don’t want to invest in Chromebooks.

It could also be a good option for home users with low-end hardware, but we already have plenty of lightweight Linux distributions for that.

Have you used CloudRead before or is this your first time hearing about it here? What is your overall opinion of this project?

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