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How Google brings Windows apps to Chromebooks

Google announced earlier this year that it plans to support Windows applications on Chromebooks thanks to a partnership with Parallels. This collaboration launches a full version of Windows in Chrome OS, giving businesses the ability to run existing desktop apps on Google’s lightweight Chromebook devices. In an exclusive interview with The edgeGoogle is now explaining how and why Windows apps are available on Chrome OS.

Google wants to give you access to Windows apps when you really need them. “The analogy I give is that yes, the world is state of the art and Dolby Atmos home theater, but every now and then you have this old wedding video on a VHS that you need to get to,”

; says Cyrus Mistry , Chrome OS Group Product Manager. “We want to make sure you have this option [for Windows apps] also … so that you get it every now and then when you need it, but we don’t want that to be the world you live in. “

Google positions this new Windows app support in Chrome OS as a great incentive for companies to switch employees to Chromebooks. Resellers can bundle Parallels Desktop with Chromebook Enterprise devices, and IT administrators can easily enable access to Parallels for Chromebooks registered for the Chrome Enterprise upgrade.

Windows apps running on Chrome OS.

First, Parallels Desktop starts a full copy of Windows so that Microsoft’s operating system can be used in addition to Chrome OS and Android apps. Chrome OS even forwards certain types of Windows files directly to the Parallels instance to improve usability.

“In the future, we’ll have other types of things where you don’t even have to run the entire Windows desktop, you just have to run the app you need,” explains Mistry. “We try to make it as seamless as possible.” This will likely include Parallels’ coherence feature, a mode that currently allows Mac users to run Windows apps as if they were native Mac applications.

“We worked with Parallels because they have done it before. They understand the concept of running a completely separate operating system in another operating system. They did it with Mac and they did it with Linux, ”says Mistry. “We also have experience with Android, so we already knew what we had to do on our site, but we wanted someone who knew how to do it with Windows.”

Google and Parallels aren’t yet discussing prices or exact launch dates, but Parallels itself is costly, and businesses obviously need Windows licenses to run these apps. Google is launching an interest page today with plans to make Parallels Desktop available to businesses later this year. Businesses also need relatively modern Chromebooks to run Parallels Desktop. Google doesn’t release precise minimum specifications yet, but according to Mistry, Parallels will be limited to what the company calls Chromebooks for power consumption. These are typically shipped with Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors and 8 GB RAM for fan devices or 16 GB RAM for fanless models.

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

While Google worked with Parallels to bring Windows apps to Chrome OS, the company had been exploring dual-boot options for years before work on the project ended last year. “We absolutely looked at Dual Boot,” Mistry admits. “Both options have advantages and disadvantages, but when we landed, security was paramount for Chrome OS.”

According to Mistry, Google did not want to sacrifice the security of the Chromebook BIOS, firmware, and the entire boot process. Chromebooks go through a verified startup process to verify that the operating system is secure. There is even a second mirrored version of the operating system that Google can switch to if an error occurs.

Security has always been an important focus for Chrome OS, and the ease of management has proven its worth in the education sector, where US schools chose Chromebooks. Google now hopes that support for Windows apps will allow it to attract a new audience, especially since, according to Google, Chromebook commercial sales grew 155 percent year over year.

“This should offer companies the best of both worlds. It’s exactly what they wanted, a really easy-to-manage, secure endpoint, ”says Mistry. “At the same time, they need the outlet valve. You want to offer your employees the safest and most user-friendly you can, but at the same time they have to be able to do everything. “

Google’s strategy is to switch companies to a simplified and more secure operating system by default, and to drive companies even further towards cloud and web app acceptance. “We are on the right side of the trend,” says Mistry. “Nobody dedusts their .NET and C # books, they build for the web.”

Microsoft Windows 10X OS.

However, Google has not always been successful in pushing web apps. Earlier this year, Google scrapped Chrome apps, web-based apps that you could install in Chrome that looked and worked like an app that you would launch from your desktop. Google is now turning its attention to Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) instead.

Google is also not alone in its web-based ambitions. There are signs that Microsoft is also preparing for a world where Windows apps live in the cloud and are ready to be legacy apps for businesses that rely on them. Companies have been streaming Windows apps remotely to iOS and Android for years, but Microsoft is again trying to focus on virtual Windows desktops to combine desktop and UWP (Universal Windows Platform) apps under Project Reunion.

Microsoft is also working on Windows 10X, which is increasingly looking more like a Chrome OS competitor, running conventional desktop apps in a sandbox, and focusing on web apps and new UWP apps. While Windows 10X should start on devices with two screens, Microsoft has now re-prioritized the operating system for laptops. Windows 10X is expected to be available in 2021.

Google naturally wants to remove all of Windows and let the operating system be used less by companies. “If you’re the type who’s 80 or 90 percent in the browser, who, by the way, is almost every employee out there, you want them to do it,” says Mistry. “They want them to be in a secure browser endpoint, but then escape to do a Windows thing and return.”

Both Google and Microsoft are pursuing similar security goals that will shape the future of Windows. Google plans to take advantage of Chrome OS’s security benefits and the unique ability to have a desktop-class browser, an entire Android mobile application ecosystem, and now access to Windows apps. Microsoft is obviously trying to simplify Windows with Windows 10X, and the company can use its native support for Windows apps more than any other operating system.

Google still has a long way to go with Chrome OS to solve some of the basics of productivity. Critics claim that Chrome OS has “stalled” with an overly restrictive vision. Parallels Desktop is an example of Google’s goal of closing a hole in Chrome OS. If the search giant can seamlessly integrate Windows apps with Chrome OS in the future, Chromebooks will definitely be much more attractive to business applications for companies that rely on an older product line. It’s a big one if Given the overwhelming status of Android mobile apps on Chrome OS, Windows desktop apps may have better chances using Parallels.

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