Google announced earlier this year that it plans to enable Chromebook users to run Windows apps thanks to a partnership with Parallels. Now, we have more information on how this will work. A new interview lays out the options Google considered before arriving at virtualization and what it hopes to do with Parallels in the future.
When it launched, Chrome OS was little more than a browser. Google expected people to do everything they needed to do with web apps, but nine years later, people still want local software. That’s especially true for business users, and Google is pushing to get more companies to switch to Chromebooks. According to Google reps, IT administrators will be able to enable access to Parallels on Chromebooks they manage under with Chrome Enterprise Upgrade.
Google considered adding dual-boot functionality to Chromebooks, which would have allowed businesses to install Windows directly on the hardware. However, Google decided that doing so could compromise the security of the BIOS, firmware, and boot, and security is one of the primary selling points of Chrome OS. Virtualizing Windows inside Parallels Chrome OS allows Google to keep any security threats sandboxed from the system.
Initially, Parallels Desktop on Chrome OS will boot a full copy of Windows 10. So, you’ll be able to manage programs and files just like you would on a real Windows computer. Chrome OS will even redirect some Windows-specific file types to the virtual OS to make the process smoother. However, running a full desktop inside Parallels is a clunky experience at the end of the day. Eventually, Google hopes to have Windows apps act like part of the Chrome OS interface, so you can just launch a Windows app without going to a different desktop.
You will probably need a more powerful Chromebook to run Windows, though. Many cheap Chromebooks come with entry-level Celeron CPUs and a few measly gigs of RAM. That’s fine for a few Chrome tabs, but not for virtualizing Windows. Google isn’t getting specific, but it confirms Parallels will target “power usage” machines.
Obviously, Google would prefer people move away from Windows and live in a Chrome-based world. But Windows has built up a huge software library that many people cannot do without. Google and Parallels will charge for this functionality, but they aren’t talking pricing yet. There’s an interest page live today where Chrome Enterprise users can sign up to get more information as Google inches toward availability.
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