If you are one of the many people who want your Chromebook to run legacy Windows applications like Microsoft Office, your Google is your backbone.
We learned earlier that Google plans to use its new partnership with Parallels, a company that specializes in the manufacture of lightweight virtual machines, to allow legacy Windows devices to work with Chrome OS. Today, in an interview with The Verge, Chrome OS product manager Cyrus Mistry details how things are planned.
Your Chromebook will run Windows on its own virtual machine.
Parallels is a familiar name for people who need to run Windows software on a MacBook. The company makes a program that installs like any other native application, but when you run it you will be able to load an entire operating system in it. You can open this operating system as an application within Mac OS.
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Once you get the virtual machine running Windows, you can use it to install other applications, such as Microsoft Office. You do not actually run programs installed natively within the host operating system, but it feels seamless and very simple to do.
All of this needs to be simple enough for everyone to use.
And simplicity is the key here. It is always possible to run Windows inside a virtual machine on a Chromebook, but it involves booting your Chromebook into a full Linux installation. Chrome itself does not support any virtual machine applications such as Parallels or VMWare.
That’s just too hard for most people to do. Because people want to use a Chromebook but have a need for Windows programs, a solution is needed to figure out if Google wants to attract more people to buy Chrome OS. Asking people to install a new bootloader so they can boot Linux and Chrome, or even asking people to navigate a Linux desktop is more than just casual users want.
Since any Windows application is inside a Parallels virtual machine, Chrome security is not compromised. That’s something you give up when you start dual-booting and unlock your protected Chromebook or change its BIOS. The Chrome team takes security very seriously, as we see in the sometimes annoying way Android apps perform. Keeping Windows inside a virtual machine maintains a safe boot order and helps maintain malware content.
Running Windows this way keeps the full security features of your Chromebook.
Perhaps the more exciting news is that the integration of Google and Parallels will also expand and eventually include the Parallels̵7; Coherence feature, which allows you to set everything after just launching a Windows program from one desktop icon without booting a full and separate virtual machine.
This will allow users to install the Windows programs they need and treat them as native Chrome apps; open them when needed and close them when they are done. You still need a licensed copy of Windows and a licensed copy of the software you want to use, but once the installation is complete you will think you are just using another Chrome OS app.
The bigger issue that can alleviate your confusion is the hardware inside your Chromebook. One of the best features of Chrome is the ability to run on small hardware that does not have the power to run Microsoft Windows properly. That’s why a $ 300 Chromebook runs fine but a $ 300 laptop running Windows 10 does not – Windows needs more “oomph” to make this happen.
Do not expect your cheap Chromebook to run each Windows program, but all you need is to run properly.
You probably won’t run Adobe Photoshop on your cheap Chromebook. You will also not be able to install Steam and play your favorite AAA games unless you purchase a very expensive model. And it was determined that it would come to Chrome Enterprise users at first without a word about a general release. But you can use Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel or just about any other productivity application for Windows without any issues.
I’ve been using Parallels on my MacBook pro for years, and also lost everything including Linux and a VM to run Windows on my Pixelbook. I can safely say that this solution will work well for most people who need to use some Windows programs for work or things like personal finance. As long as you don’t set your expectations too high, you’ll love it.