November 29, 2022
  • November 29, 2022

How Google Brings Windows Apps to Chromebooks

By on July 31, 2020 0

Google revealed earlier this year that it plans to support Windows apps on Chromebooks through a partnership with Parallels. It’s a collaboration that will see a full version of Windows boot into Chrome OS, giving businesses the ability to run existing desktop apps on Google’s range of lightweight Chromebook devices. In an exclusive interview with The edgeGoogle is now detailing how and why Windows apps are coming to Chrome OS.

Google wants to give you access to Windows apps when you really need them, like an in-and-out experience. “The analogy I give is that yes, the world is on the cutting edge of technology and Dolby Atmos home theaters, but once in a while you have that old wedding video on a VHS that you have to go to” , says Cyrus Mistry, the group’s product manager for Chrome OS. “We want to make sure you have this option [for Windows apps] also… so that once in a while you can get it when you need it, but we don’t want that to be the world you live in.

Google is positioning this new support for Windows apps in Chrome OS as a big incentive for companies considering switching their employees to Chromebooks. Resellers will be able to bundle Parallels Desktop with Chromebook Enterprise devices, and IT admins will be able to easily enable access to Parallels for Chromebooks enrolled with the Chrome Enterprise upgrade.

Windows apps running on Chrome OS.

At first, Parallels Desktop will boot a full copy of Windows, allowing Microsoft’s operating system to sit side-by-side with Chrome OS and Android apps. Chrome OS will even redirect certain Windows file types directly to the Parallels instance to make things a bit more transparent for users.

“In the future, we’ll have other types of things where you don’t even have to run the whole Windows desktop, you just have to run the application you need,” says Mistry. “We try to make it as transparent as possible.” This will likely involve Parallels’ Coherence feature, which is a mode that currently allows Mac users to run Windows apps as if they were native Mac apps.

“We’ve worked with Parallels because they’ve really done this before. They understand the concept of running an entirely separate operating system inside another operating system. They’ve done it with Mac and they’re doing it. have done with Linux,” Mistry explains. “We also have experience in this area, thanks to Android, so we already knew what we needed to do on our end, but we wanted someone who could do it with Windows.”

Google and Parallels aren’t discussing pricing or exact launch dates yet, but there will be a cost to Parallels itself, and companies will obviously need Windows licenses to run these apps. Google is launching a page of interest today, with plans to make Parallels Desktop available to enterprises later this year. Businesses will also need relatively modern Chromebooks to run Parallels Desktop. Google isn’t releasing exact minimum specs yet, but Mistry says Parallels will be limited to what the company calls Chromebooks “for power usage.” These typically come with Intel’s Core i5 or Core i7 processors and 8GB of RAM for fan-powered devices or 16GB of RAM for fanless models.

Android apps on Chrome OS.
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

While Google partnered with Parallels to bring Windows apps to Chrome OS, the company had been researching dual-boot options for years before ending work on the project last year. “We absolutely considered dual-starting,” admits Mistry. “There are pros and cons to both options, but where we landed is that security is absolutely paramount for Chrome OS.”

Mistry says Google “didn’t want to sacrifice” the security of the Chromebook’s BIOS, firmware, and overall boot process. Chromebooks perform a verified boot process to verify that the OS is secure, and there’s even a second mirror version of the OS that Google can switch to if it finds anything wrong.

Security has always been a priority for Chrome OS, and manageability has appealed to education, where American schools have flocked to Chromebooks. Google is now hoping that support for Windows apps will help it attract a new audience, especially since Google says commercial Chromebook sales are up 155% year-over-year.

“This should give businesses the best of both worlds. This is exactly what they were looking for, a really easy to manage secure endpoint,” says Mistry. “At the same time, they need this exhaust valve. You want to be able to offer your employees the most secure and easy-to-use tool possible, but at the same time, they need to be able to do it all. »

Google’s strategy here is to try to move businesses to a more streamlined and secure operating system by default and to push businesses even further toward cloud and web apps adoption. “We’re on the right side of the trend,” says Mistry. “Nobody dusts their .NET and C# books, they build for the web.”

Windows 10X operating system from Microsoft.

However, Google hasn’t always been successful in pushing web apps. Earlier this year, Google removed Chrome Apps, web apps you could install in Chrome that looked and functioned like an app you’d launch from your desktop. Google is now turning its attention to Progressive Web Apps (PWAs).

Google isn’t the only one with web-based ambitions, either. There are signs that Microsoft is also preparing for a world where Windows apps live in the cloud, ready to become legacy apps for businesses that depend on them. Enterprises have been streaming Windows apps remotely to iOS and Android for years, but Microsoft has renewed its efforts to focus on Windows virtual desktops as part of the company’s plan to combine desktop apps and the platform. Universal Windows (UWP) form as part of the Reunion project.

Microsoft is also working on Windows 10X, which looks more and more like a competitor to Chrome OS that will run traditional desktop apps in a sandbox and focus on web apps and new UWP apps. While Windows 10X was supposed to launch on dual-screen devices, Microsoft has now reprioritized the operating system for laptops. Windows 10X is now expected to arrive in 2021.

Google, understandably, wants to get everyone away from Windows and less of a business use of the operating system. “If you’re the kind of person who’s 80 or 90 percent browser-based, which, by the way, is starting to be almost all workers, then that’s what you want them to do,” says Mistry. “You want them in a secure browser endpoint, but then you escape to do a Windows thing and come back.”

Google and Microsoft have similar security goals that will shape the future of Windows. Google plans to leverage the security benefits of Chrome OS and the unique ability to have a desktop browser, a full ecosystem of Android mobile apps, and now access Windows apps. Microsoft is obviously trying to simplify Windows with Windows 10X, and the company can leverage its native support for Windows apps more than any other operating system.

Google still has a long way to go with Chrome OS to address some productivity basics. Critics claim Chrome OS has “stalled” with an overly restrictive view. Parallels Desktop is an example of Google’s aim to fill a gap in Chrome OS, and if the search giant can seamlessly integrate Windows apps into Chrome OS in the future, that definitely makes Chromebooks a whole lot more attractive. for businesses that rely on a legacy line. professional applications. It’s a big if given the disappointing state of Android mobile apps on Chrome OS, but Windows desktop apps might have a better chance with help from Parallels.