It may not be Google’s operating system, but Chrome OS is becoming the one operating system to rule them all. It can already run Android and Linux software in addition to its own native web-based Chrome apps and will soon add what might be the most important set of apps for users. Full Windows apps are coming to some Chromebooks, but these will work through a third-party solution and only for a very select few Chrome OS users.
That solution is Parallels virtualization software, which for years has enabled Windows applications to run on Macs. Unlike open source software WINE, virtualization pretty much creates a layer, a virtual Windows computer so to speak, between the Windows application and the underlying real operating system. It guarantees better compatibility with foreign applications, in this case Windows applications, but at the cost of certain performance.
Parallels, however, also offers the ability to access apps remotely, running Windows apps on a remote computer which Chromebooks can then access via the web. Being a cloud-centric platform, it almost seems suitable for Chrome OS, but the latency could be a killer. Fortunately, Android Police said Corbin Davenport that Parallels will run its virtual machine directly on the device itself.
Being able to run Windows programs on Chromebooks is certainly exciting, but unfortunately it won’t be something the general public will be able to enjoy. This partnership between Google and Parallels only covers Chrome Enterprise, the customers they believe will benefit the most from running Microsoft Office on Chromebooks.
This feature, however, could be a double-edged sword of Chrome OS. The lack of notable native apps has always been one of the platform’s weaknesses and it got around that by supporting Android, Linux and, soon, Windows apps. At some point, however, some might start to wonder if investing in Chromebooks and Chrome OS is worth it if they run non-Chrome OS apps anyway.