Chromebooks weren’t originally designed to run traditional PC software, but Google is slowly attempting to fill that gap. Chrome OS already has an optional Linux container for running some desktop software (albeit with poor graphical performance), but now Windows applications will soon appear on the platform in some capacity
Google and Parallels both released blog posts today announcing a partnership between the two companies to allow Chromebooks in enterprise settings (read: Chromebooks given to employees at large companies) to run Windows applications. Parallels is a virtualization tech company, which sells Parallels Desktop (for running Windows on Mac hosts) and various cloud-based virtualization tools for companies.
This won’t simply be a Windows VM running in the cloud.
The original posts were incredibly short on details, only mentioning that Chromebooks would be able to run applications like Microsoft Office “seamlessly” on Chromebook Enterprise devices, but Google has provided Android Police with additional details. The company told us that the feature would be a variation of Parallels Desktop integrated natively into Chrome OS, complete with offline support. This won’t be a Windows VM running in the cloud, with Chromebooks simply acting as a remote desktop client.
There has been work in the past on official support for running Windows on Chromebooks, but that effort focused on having separate drive partitions for Windows and Chrome OS, much like Boot Camp on macOS. We’ll have to wait and see if this comes to consumer devices, but in the meantime, CrossOver for Android already runs some Windows applications on Chromebooks (and doesn’t require a Windows license).