Chrome OS will soon support Microsoft Office and other legacy Windows apps

An image of a black Pixelbook Go with its "G" Logi displayed on the lid.
An image of a black Pixelbook Go with its "G" Logi displayed on the lid. (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Chromebooks will support Windows apps from this Fall
  • The upcoming integration is courtesy of a partnership with Google and Parallels.
  • Both companies are currently billing this as an enterprise feature, touting the ability to run Microsoft Office and legacy Windows apps.

Chromebooks started life as web-only machines, then added Android support a few years ago. Last year, Google brought Linux support to beef up Chrome OS's developer clout, and now it's going to add Windows apps to the list of platforms Chromebooks will support.

Google's John Solomon, VP of Chrome OS, snuck the announcement in the middle of a blog post today (opens in new tab):

We've long been saying that almost any business role can be a cloud worker, and COVID-19 has dramatically made this point. As a result, the Chrome OS team is working on new ways to make sure every company can benefit from the velocity created by supporting a cloud workforce. For example, our new partnership with Parallels brings legacy application support—which includes Microsoft Office desktop apps—to Chromebooks.

Parallels, if you're unfamiliar is a virtualization program that's most known for bringing Windows apps to macOS (check out a review of Parallels15 over at iMore to see how it performs).

The functionality will be made available to Chrome enterprise this fall, as per Parallels (opens in new tab). Questions around whether it will also be made available to consumer Chromebooks a bit later, how well it will run, and further queries are unanswered at this time. Google promises that there is "more to come on this over the coming months," but the move already sets up Chromebooks like the new HP x360 to be more desirable business purchases than they currently are.

Michael Allison
  • This should be a wakeup call to Microsoft and Windows 10x in the way Zoom was for Teams/Skype. Truth is, 80% of cubicle dwellers in the enterprise could be perfectly productive with a Chromebook, especially one running Parallels. Of course they could also be perfectly productive with a Win10x machine, if those existed that is. :0)
  • I really can't see myself allowing any Chromebooks in my organization. Google may say this is an enterprise feature, but they have proven repeatedly that they're willing to sacrifice privacy for data collection.
  • Can't say as I personally blame you. But there may come a day when that decision gets made for us. I just hope Microsoft doesn't end up playing catch up should a light computing wave take off in the enterprise. Look at what Chrome OS did to K-5 Education in the US in just a few short years.
  • But what's the point then? The argument against Windows for OSes like ChromeOS has always been 'security', or 'malware' and so on. So, how exactly does Parallels want to support Windows apps? By a glorified VM? At which point the Windows they have worked so hard to avoid ends up being used after all. IMHO, the enterprise user should Just get a Windows machine and move on, there are countless options across nearly all price points.
  • The security and malware arguments have been proven as bullshit for years. I agree. If you to run the millions of Windows apps, games, etc, then run Windows.
  • I think the point is that many end users don't need a full blown OS at all. The VM, in this case Parallels is for that one app that one user in the corner of the building needs. In my workplace of 1100 employees we purchased a COTS system about 5 years ago that is web based. We run it in Chrome. 80% of our users use that one app alone to do 80% of their jobs. The other 20% is covered by a productivity suite and a handful of web-apps our IT shop built in house. Sure there is IT itself, they need to run a full blown OS, to modify the COTS system, but literally nobody else does. If you can reduce overall operations cost by deploying light computing devices like Chromebook, or hopefully Windows 10X, why wouldn't you?
  • I am curious to know, what operation costs does it really save? Is it the Windows license? Or the hardware cost? Because I also always hear the point about cost savings, and I'm genuinely interested to know if volume license for Windows is really that expensive, such that there's any significant cost savings compared to just installing Windows on the machines and avoid jumping all these hoops.
  • Not only does Windows require pricier hardware and a license fee, you also need more sophisticated IT. Chrome doesn't require much IT at all, which is a big selling point for schools.
  • But in the end, to run the Parallels VM in order to run Windows, Office and so-called 'legacy' apps, you are back to square one. You need the license to run Windows, it still needs to be managed after all, and the VM layer will further harm performance. There's just no point. And I also keep hearing this thing about Windows being hard to manage, requiring sophisticated IT etc. I would argue, that among the things IT of schools and enterprise manage, Windows is by far the simplest of them all. In a University for example, managing the Linux clusters for CAD tools is by far a bigger task than managing the Windows clients that connect to these servers. Most challenges come from the server side, and hardly from the client which is just a single app you launch to access the server (VNC, NoMachine, XShell etc.). I have had (and still have till now!) far more difficulty with programs running on the servers than I have ever had with any of the thousands of Windows clients spread around the campus. I think many of these arguments are never really investigated by people, they just spread them without direct first hand experience. I would like someone that does IT management for enterprise for a living to give us details on how 'difficult' it actually is to manage these Windows machines, compared to the larger IT infrastructure, and alternatives such as Chromebooks etc.
  • Well the hardware nowadays is similar priced (Windows oem consumer license is cheap), security will be comparable, privacy will be better with W10, better keyboard and touchpad/mouse shortcuts with W10, settings is much more comprehensive for W10 (generally a positive thing for enterprise I would say). I would say where ChromeOS has the edge is atm still better update process and OS is a bit smoother (and maybe slightly better battery life?). And for consumers Android support. Also this legacy support/performance for ChromeOS is most likely not perfect, so for legacy Windows apps might as well still go for Windows 10.
  • Hilarious. Someone's declared defeat in the office productivity software space...
  • That's really the underlying story here, right? I'm surprised more aren't talking about that.
  • To me, it's like an enterprise choosing to run Windows 10X (whenever that ships) instead of Windows 10 Pro, but actually needing all the features of Pro - you know real productivity features and apps that actual companies use daily, not only Office. I'm curious to know enterprise customers that think it makes sense. So, at this point, what does the ChromeOS then buy you if you end up installing Parallels to run Windows to then run Windows apps including Office. Why the convoluted journey? Not to mention potential loss of performance from the VM? If you actually need Parallels, then you need a 'real' operating system.
  • Office has a nice interface and Microsoft can count their lucky stars there are no more Win32 developers around. They can pretty much ride it out as slow or as fast as they want.
  • It is not surprising that folks missed that one because they are too focused on Chrome OS and or devices vs Windows OS and or devices in enterprise, but not seeing what Google advocated for here. The real story is this;
    Google have office suite called Docs, it is entrenched in Chrome and Chrome Devices
    But they are working with Paralles to bring MSFT Office Suite to ChromeDevices in the enterprise. I call it a Woop Woop for MSFT
  • What makes you think that they will stop in Office only? Office is their first baby step. They have also partnered with Valve to bring Steam and..... proton to Chromebooks. They have this cloud stadia thing, but they want Steam on chromebook too. Can't you see what they want to do long term?
  • Doesn't matter. As is well known in the software business, it is the actual software product that matters, that really makes money these days. Putting Office in Chromebooks will only end up getting more Office 365 (or now Microsoft 365) subscribers. It's why every software, video, music and even games maker today is scrambling for a subscription model. Platform is important for sure, but the actual products are becoming even more important than ever because modern software is gradually becoming platform agnostic. It is the underlying service that matters more today. Consider games as an example: you get some games that run on PS, Xbox, Switch, Steam, Epic, Stadia, GeForce etc. at the same time. Suddenly, it is the actual game developer that now has control because there are so many platforms competing for the same product. It is why MS put Office on iOS, Android and the Web, not only Windows anymore. I think this is the future of software.
  • unfortunately its another reason not to buy chrome OS removed from the list. I can see the advert already 'Chrome OS, runs all Windows apps too'. Microsoft needs to speed up the delivery of 10x
  • Windows 10 RIP edition
  • I don't really know why people like Google stuff so much. I find their settings to be all over the place and their privacy stuff is always hidden very well making it quite hard sometimes to even find them. (not even mentioning periodically resetting certain settings)
    Microsoft (& Apple for that matter) is also not perfect with privacy but at least it is easy to opt out of non-diagnostic tracking (besides not being fully woven in the advertisement/profiling business like Google is).
  • Really ‼️ you don't know why people like Google products and services and they have 10 products with over 1billion active monthly users because Google the gate way of the internet
  • Using the word "legacy" without quotes in your headline makes it sound like you guys are schilling for Google here. Embarrassing, really.
  • Why? Legacy is a term for applications that have been around for some time, largely in a business environment, that are critical to the business and have little hope of being upgraded or ported. They are a large portion of what makes Windows the default choice in the enterprise.
  • I've come back to read the latest comments, and all I can think about is: if MS announced that W10 could run Android apps, "we" would all be declaring it a move out of desperation. Google does the opposite - tries to get an actually successful platform's software on its own child's-play platform (that's not really a knock - ChromeOS is great for kids and oldsters) and we're declaring MS DOA and making it seem like Google is some emerging threat. I mean, come on.
  • Could msft stop this if they wanted to?
  • Don't think so, and why would they want to. Probably still need to license Windows, as you do for Parallels on a Mac, as well as license/subscribe to Office.
  • Google & Apple get a mostly free pass for whatever they do. No matter what MS does, they will get criticized hard for it. The bias is very strong in the tech world. If you think otherwise, you're just naive.