So long dual-booting Windows on a Chromebook: Project Campfire is deprecated

Project Campfire turned up in the Chromium world this past August. The intent was to let a Chromebook boot not just into Chrome OS but directly into another operating system such as Linux or Windows. I thought the latter was a positive outcome since it would allow Chromebooks to natively run Windows desktop apps on a Chromebook, and add value to devices.

Unfortunately, the project is shutting down.

Spotted in code by Redditor u/crosfrog, there are comments and code removals that make it clear Project Campfire is being deprecated.

The above screenshot is one of several examples where the Campfire code is essentially being disabled. While I wouldn’t expect Google to announce the closing of Project Campfire, since it never officially announced it in the first place, it’s evident that at least for now, Chromebooks aren’t going to natively boot into Windows.

I’m not completely surprised by this development, mainly because I’ve been watching for progress on Project Campfire. At first, there was plenty: new boot menu options, for example, and icons to select your operating system of choice. But all of that activity was between September and December of last year. Since then, I’ve essentially seen little to no tangible progress on Project Campfire.

Like many of Google’s internal projects, not all of them see the light of day. Perhaps Google decided it wasn’t worth the effort to support booting into Windows on a Chromebook. After all, we knew it was going to require at least 40 GB of storage and even on a Chromebook with 64 GB of storage capacity, that was going to be a stretch.

Regardless, it was an intriguing idea to be sure: Allowing Chrome OS users to use Windows apps for a one-off but key task that couldn’t be done on Chrome OS, in Android, or with a comparable Linux app.

11 thoughts on “So long dual-booting Windows on a Chromebook: Project Campfire is deprecated

  • May 15, 2019 at 8:38 am
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    I wonder if this has anything to do with Microsoft’s announcement to include a full Linux kernel in Windows?

    Perhaps the writing on the wall is that the Windows kernel is on the way out? if that were the case, all of the major desktop OS would be *nix based.

    One can dream.

    Reply
    • May 15, 2019 at 9:43 am
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      Because of the nature of the competitive tactics used throughout the history of the company that markets the Windows OS, I guess that I just don’t trust anything having to do with advancing the use of Windows. So, to me, running Windows on a Chromebook just seems like and insidious distraction and reappropriation, though efforts will no doubt continue. I don’t even at all welcome the Chromium-based reconstitution of the Edge browser for the same reason. Still, there’s a plethora of incredibly useful and powerful software that has been built to run on Windows. I personally believe that Google’s Stadia has shown the way to bring graphics-intensive software to any non-Windows OS in the future. For the rest of that software, I’d much rather see those applications converted to Web apps or PWAs.

      Reply
    • May 15, 2019 at 10:36 am
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      The Windows kernel isn’t on the way out. Linux support will sit on top of Windows.

      Reply
  • May 15, 2019 at 10:36 am
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    Hopefully they at least allow virtual box on crostini. Some of us IT pros REALLY need to be able to spin up a Windows environment when we support mostly Windows. It’s the only thing my Pixelbook can’t do and the only thing keeping me from buying a second, probably top-spec model.

    shutupandtakemymoney.png

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    • May 18, 2019 at 11:21 am
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      rdesktop to a windows desktop ? Used it several years ago and it was neat.

      Reply
  • May 15, 2019 at 10:38 am
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    It’s more likely Google decided supporting Windows Drivers is too much hassle. Apple do it but maybe Google didn’t want to.

    A new class of Chromebooks could come out with more storage.

    Reply
  • May 15, 2019 at 1:11 pm
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    Do people really need to spin up a full windows environment? Not just an app or two? I thought the recent announcement of Chromebooks supporting full Linux apps would’ve introduced enough WINE to support what was needed.

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  • May 15, 2019 at 2:11 pm
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    While I’d be the happiest to learn that this is dead, I don’t think those comments necessarily mean the project as a whole is deprecated. It could just mean that those specific switches are deprecated because they are going to use another method instead

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    • May 17, 2019 at 3:38 pm
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      I hope you are right – I would love to be able to use my PB every now and then for Windows so that I could full Office on the occasions I need to. I don’t want anything fancy, no games, no movies, I can do everything else in Chrome OS, I just needed Office.

      Reply
  • May 15, 2019 at 2:32 pm
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    Once I got used to virtual machines and chroots/containers, the prospect of rebooting to access apps from another OS became intolerable. I’ve been hoping that the Chrome OS developers would focus more on supporting sufficient virtualization to run more windows apps in WINE.

    (One of two things that have been keeping me from switching from Macbooks is iTunes, where I have all my carefully crafted playlists. A sufficient WINE-based emulation would make me happy, there! The other thing is the GNU bash/emacs command line keybindings. While it might seem trivial, the key chords enable me to keep my fingers on the keys, so that last thing might keep me paying for macs forever, sigh.)

    Reply
  • May 15, 2019 at 6:25 pm
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    This is a business tragedy for Chrome OS.

    Being able to dual boot to Windows on Chromebooks would have been a game-changer for Chrome OS platform penetration. It could have easily led to another 10 pts of consumer market share for Chromebooks.

    How many PC shoppers out there are intrigued by Chromebooks but then back when they realize there are a few essentials that they need Windows for? The addition of the Google Play Store and Crostini has peeled some of that former would-be balker contingent because Android/Linux can take up some of the slack. Having Windows available (albeit via dual-boot instead of same-boot like Android and Linux) would carve out a pretty sizable chunk of that contingent.

    There are lots of PC shoppers out there who would be happy to move to Chromebooks if they could. Allowing them Windows as a backup option would erode Windows and strengthen Chrome OS over the long run. Would Macs have achieved the penetration they enjoy today if they didn’t switch to Intel and have the ability to run Windows either via Bootcamp or virtual machine?

    Now, would any non-Google Chromebook makers dared to offer a dual-boot Chrome OS and Windows machine? I think they would have all feared retaliation from Microsoft. That’s why Made by Google Chromebooks were so critical. With non-Google Chromebook makers cowered by fear of retaliation from Microsoft, Google-made dual-booting Chromebooks could prove that the market for Windows-booting Chromebooks was deep. Eventually, the non-Google Chromebook makers would have to jump in (and Microsoft would have to relent on holding them in line through fear).

    I hope the decision to abandon Campfire was made for technical reasons rather than business reasons. Campfire, if it was technically feasible and could not be disabled by subsequent changes Microsoft made to Windows, would have significantly accelerated Chrome OS growth. Google has a long history of making poor business decisions. Google is exceptional at attracting talent. They have reputation for having people overqualified for their positions throughout the organization. However, at the senior levels in business roles, Google has a deficiency of business acumen. I hypothesize that this is because Google prizes overall intellect over business acumen and perhaps because of the dearth of exceptional business acumen in the people in these roles, they have difficulty in assessing and recognizing business acumen in the people they consider hiring for these roles.

    It’s a real shame because among tech giants, Google stands out, despite some occasional missteps, for its level of do-good idealism. As a result, I for one have always been rooting for its success.

    (This is my first comment, and I want to express gratitude to Kevin for how much About Chromebooks has benefited me, as a die-hard Chrome OS fan.)

    Reply

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