Chrome OS was initially launched in 2011, but it’s never really felt like a true rival to Windows or macOS.
That’s due in part to its simplicity – Chrome OS is a web-first operating system, designed to take advantage of the full suite of Google apps. It’s never been designed for video editing or demanding games, especially when most devices are on the affordable end of the market.
While it’s an admirable strategy, it can be a hard sell for people coming from Windows or macOS. For what you’re gaining in simplicity, it always feels like you’re giving up a lot by way of app support.
Want to use Slack or Microsoft Teams for work? The web version is probably your best bet. Want to watch Sky Sports? You can’t, as Sky only makes desktop apps for Windows and Mac. Want to use your Adobe Creative Cloud subscription? None of the apps are supported. Even having a basic suite of the most popular desktop apps would make a huge difference to the overall experience, and make more people likely to make the switch.
That’s why news of Windows apps now being able to run on Chromebooks is so encouraging. As The Verge reports, Chrome Enterprise users will now be able to use a virtual machine to use all their favourite Windows software on Chrome OS. It’s a partnership between Google and software company Parallels and is designed to allow business users to manage everything from one device.
While early adopters say the user experience is a bit clunky, that will surely be addressed over time. Its value in a business environment is clear, but I really hope it comes to consumers in the near future. Having all the fluidity and simplicity of Chrome OS but being able to call on Windows 10 whenever you need it is an attractive proposition.
Currently, your best bet is to download apps from the Google Play Store, but not all Chromebooks are supported (see the full list here) and the software is rarely optimised for the larger screen size.
In its current form, Chrome OS looks to be similar to Microsoft’s upcoming web-first Windows 10 spin-off, known as Windows 10X. See how the two are shaping up.