Google revealed earlier this year that it’s planning to support Windows applications on Chromebooks thanks to a partnership with Parallels.
It’s a collaboration that will see a full version of Windows boot inside Chrome OS, providing businesses the option to run existing desktop apps on Google’s range of lightweight Chromebook devices.
In an exclusive interview with The Verge, Google is now detailing how and why Windows apps are arriving on Chrome OS.
Google wants to give you access to Windows apps when you really need them, as a hop in and out experience.
“The analogy I give is that yes, the world is all state of the art and Dolby Atmos home theaters, but every once in a while you do have that old wedding video on a VHS that you need to get to,” says Cyrus Mistry, group product manager for Chrome OS.
“We want to make sure you have that option [for Windows apps] as well… so that every once in a while you’ll be able to get that when you need it, but we don’t want that to be the world you’re living in.”
Google is positioning this new Windows app support in Chrome OS as a big incentive for enterprises considering switching employees over to Chromebooks.
Resellers will be able to bundle Parallels Desktop with Chromebook Enterprise devices, and IT administrators will be able to easily enable access to Parallels for Chromebooks that are enrolled with the Chrome Enterprise Upgrade.
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 little more seamless 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’ll just run the app you need,” explains Mistry. “We are trying to make it as seamless 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 applications.
Google and Parallels aren’t discussing pricing or exact launch dates yet; but there will be a cost involved for Parallels itself and enterprises will 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 will also need relatively modern Chromebooks to run Parallels Desktop.
Google isn’t releasing exact minimum specifications just yet; but Mistry says Parallels will be limited to what the company refers to as “for power usage” Chromebooks.
These typically ship with Intel’s Core i5 or Core i7 processors; and 8GB of RAM for devices with a fan or 16GB of RAM for fanless models.
While Google has partnered with Parallels to bring Windows apps to Chrome OS; the company had been investigating dual-boot options for years before ending work on the project last year.
“We absolutely looked at dual boot,” admits Mistry.
“There are pros and cons to both options; but where we landed is that security is absolutely paramount to Chrome OS.”
Mistry says Google “didn’t want to sacrifice” the security of Chromebook BIOS, firmware; and the overall boot process.
Chromebooks perform a verified boot process to check the OS is secure; and there’s even a second, mirrored version of the OS that Google can flip to if it finds anything wrong.