It may not be Google’s OS but Chrome OS is truly shaping up to be the one OS to rule them all. It can already run software from Android and Linux in addition to its own native web-based Chrome apps and soon it will add what may be the most important set of apps for users. Full Windows applications are coming to some Chromebooks but those will be running via a third-party solution and only to a very select few Chrome OS users.
That solution is Parallels’ virtualization software that has, for years, allowed Windows applications to run on Macs. Unlike the open source WINE software, 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 apps, in this case, Windows apps, but at the cost of some performance.
Parallels, however, also offers the possibility of remote application access, running Windows apps on a remote computer that Chromebooks can then access through the Web. Being a cloud-centric platform, that almost seems to be a fit for Chrome OS but the latency could be a killer. Fortunately, Android Police’s Corbin Davenport says that Parallels will be running its virtual machine right on the device itself.
Being able to run Windows programs on Chromebooks is definitely exciting but it won’t be something the general public will be able to enjoy, unfortunately. This partnership between Google and Parallels only covers Chrome Enterprise, customers that they believe will benefit most from running Microsoft Office on Chromebooks.
This feature, however, could be a double-edged sword from Chrome OS. The lack of noteworthy native applications has always been one of the platform’s weaknesses and it has gotten around that by supporting Android, Linux, and, soon, Windows apps. At some point, however, some might start wondering if investing in Chromebooks and Chrome OS will even be worth it if they’re running non-Chrome OS applications anyway.