Windows is coming to the Chrome OS platform now via Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise. Now, as noted in the branding, the solution isn't going to be available for every Chromebook user. At least not yet. For now, it's intended solely for IT Admin-managed Enterprise devices on the business side of the platform.
Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise does deliver a wealth of features and Windows functionality on that side of the equation though. Not least of all, the solution provides access to a full Windows desktop session run sandboxed and almost natively as a virtual machine. That's similar to how Linux works with Chrome OS and means that this will work both offline and online. And it comes complete with a number of extra toolkits and features behind a user-friendly icon on the shelf and in the app launcher.
When that's closed out, the work is effectively frozen in the background. So end-users can pick up right where they left off when they open Parallels Desktop up again.
What can Parallels Desktop bring to the table for an Enterprise Chromebook?
In terms of exactly how Parallels Desktop works and what it can do, there may actually be a better question to ask. Namely, "What can't Parallels Desktop deliver for end-users?"
There are actually a few things that presently fit into that category, for the time being. Including support for access to local hardware such as the camera, microphone, and USB devices. But each of those features is planned for release at some time — hopefully in the near future — via product updates.
Aside from those features missing in version 1.0, Parallels Desktop checks all of the boxes.
For the essentials, users can, as mentioned above, suspend and resume Windows instantly just by closing or opening Parallels. They can also use the Chromebook mouse, keyboard, and touch controls, as well as gestures across both platforms. There's even a handy dropdown menu for accessing keyboard shortcuts not supported by the Chrome OS keyboard.
Conversely, mouse cursors are synchronized across both Chrome OS and Windows with Parallels. So users can simply drag their mouse cursor from one to the other in Windowed mode to easily switch between the two. The cursor will change to represent its traditional or customized look depending on which OS it's been placed in.
Sound output, unlike mic support, is ready out-of-the-gate too. So Window's auditory cues and sounds will play seamlessly over the existing Chromebook hardware.
But there's a lot more going on here too
Moreover, it isn't just the speakers, mouse, keyboard, and touchscreen that are shared between the installed ecosystems. Networking is shared too, including the Chrome OS Wi-Fi connection — even with a VPN in use. And that means printers are shared too, whether that's a Windows-ready printer on that side or a Chrome OS-ready printer that can be used across either. All without the hassle of adding printers manually to each one. On the Windows side, printer drivers can be installed as needed.
Similarly, Disk performance — thanks to proprietary virtual disk technology — user profiles, folders, the clipboard, and more are shared. In the case of clipboards and file management, that's shareable both ways, with full support for formatting and graphics. And Chrome OS can access the files even when Parallels isn't running, while users can also add Windows apps directly to their Chrome OS shelf for easy launching later on. That's without launching the full Windows ecosystem.
All of that, of course, means that users can choose which files and folders to share and run both ecosystems simultaneously. That includes cloud storage solutions. And, via the "open with" option on the platform, even files, apps, or links can be opened selectively where applicable. In either Chrome OS or via a Windows-compatible browser or application and on-demand.
Or, users can choose to run Windows full screen. Then, via Chrome OS's virtual desktop features, move seamlessly between Windows and Chrome OS with the latter's built-in gesture controls.
When not in full-screen mode, resizing the Windows app works to change the Windows 10 window resolution dynamically. That works just like resizing any other window.
When is this coming and what devices support it out of the gate?
In terms of availability, Parallels Desktop can bring Windows to a supported Chromebook starting today. Licenses cost $69.99 per user, annually. A full-featured one-month trial including five user licenses can be found at the parallels website here too.
Parallels Desktop is integrated with the Google Admin console. So it gives IT managers the ability to the solution to Chromebook devices already covered by the Chrome Enterprise Update. IT Admins can use existing Windows licenses and agreements with Microsoft here as well. So the solution should still cut down on costs, despite those requirements.
For hardware, Parallels recommends an Enterprise Chromebook with 16GB RAM and 128GB storage. However, the company has said that some Chromebooks with just 8GB of RAM should work as well. That's if they're equipped with a requisite Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processor.
The company also lists out preferred devices from HP, Google, Acer, Dell, Lenovo, and ASUS.
From the former company, the HP Elite c1030 Chromebook Enterprise, or Pro c640 Chromebook Enterprise should work. Google's Pixelbook and Pixelbook Go will work too, as will Acer's Chromebook Spin 713 and Spin 13. From Lenovo and ASUS, the Yoga C630 Chromebook and Chromebook Flip C436FA, respectively, are recommended. Finally, a Dell Latitude 5300 2-in-1 or Latitude 5400 Chromebook Enterprise is recommended.