When Chromebooks were first introduced running Chrome OS, they weren't exactly thought of the great platform that Google thought they were. In fact, it's taken the better part of five years or so for Chrome OS to become as popular as it is now, with Chromebooks even outselling Macs in certain parts of the year. Since they launched, Chromebooks have continued to get cheaper, offer better features and the operating system itself has come on leaps and bounds. It's now more of a desktop operating system that relies on the web as a backbone, rather than something that is little more than a web browser. Now, many of them can even run Android apps, and thanks to that breakthrough, it appears as though Windows programs, running through an Android app on a Chromebook running Chrome OS might not be too far away.
Linux users reading this will probably have an idea of where this is going. Both Chrome OS as well as Android are based on top of the Linux kernel, the heart of the operating system, and Linux users – whether that's Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, Linux Mint or something else – have long had the option of running Windows programs using WINE, which stands for WINE is Not an Emulator. WINE is also available for MacOS and it effectively reverse engineers core components of Windows that programs need to function, and then allows Windows programs to run almost as if they were native on another platform. A firm called CodeWeavers have been offering their own supported version of WINE, rebranded and sold as CrossOver, for both MacOS as well as Linux, and now that Chromebooks run Android apps, they're turning their attention to Chrome OS.
The below video shows off Steam for Windows running inside of CrossOver for Android on an Intel-equipped Chromebook. This is all kinds of crazy, but in reality it's just WINE ported to run on Android and therefore on a Chromebook. If Google had relaxed their grip on Chrome OS a little bit, sophisticated apps like WINE would no doubt have been ported over years ago, but now that Android apps are open to the developers, they finally have the option to do it. The below video shows Steam installing and running hit indie game "Limbo" and while this is very, very pre-alpha software, it's a promising example of what could be around the corner for Chromebook owners the world over. We mentioned Intel earlier, and that's because it looks as though this will only ever work on Intel-powered Chromebooks, due to the instructions that Windows programs expect from the processor they're running on.