Parallels, the company best known for the Parallels Desktop suite that allows Mac users to run Windows (along with a whole raft of other operating systems) is bringing Windows to Chromebooks.
Yes, you read that right, Windows running on Chromebook. With no VDI needed. You don't even need to be connected to the internet to run it.
Yes, Windows will run on a Chromebook that's completely standalone.
Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise solves one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of enterprise customers being able to shift more staff over to Chromebooks.
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While COVID-19 has been incredibly disruptive, it's also sparked innovation and tectonic shifts in IT. One of those has been a big shift to Chromebooks as businesses send their workforce home. This, in turn, has been good for Chromebooks, a platform that now accounts for over 10% of all PCs sold.
Ask CIOs what stands in the way of them rolling out more Chromebooks, and there are two answers that stand out. One is the need to run some bit of legacy Windows software, and the other is that sales and finance departments are totally tied to using the full-fat version of Windows Excel because of the need to run macros.
This keeps large groups of employees tied to Windows PCs.
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Before I go on any further, let's take a moment to let it sink in just what a huge milestone this is for both Chromebooks and Parallels.
Not only is this the first world's first software that runs Windows directly on enterprise Chromebooks, it's the first time that Google has allowed third-party software to run on Chrome OS that wasn't in the form of an app.
Since Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise is installed on the Chromebook, along with the Windows image, it's completely standalone, allowing users to install and run approved apps on their Chromebook wherever they are, without needing a network or Wi-Fi connection.
Need to work on a plane or in a boat in the middle of the ocean?
"Chrome OS is increasingly being chosen by modern enterprises, either for remote work, hybrid, or in the office," said John Solomon, Vice President of Chrome OS at Google. "We are thrilled to partner with Parallels to bring legacy and full-featured Windows applications support, through Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise, to help businesses easily transition to cloud-first devices and workflows."
In order to make this secure, Google developed a separate secure sandbox for Windows to keep it isolated from Chrome OS.
But this sandbox isolation doesn't mean that you can't fully interact with Windows while on the Chromebook.
There's a shared clipboard that allows you to copy between Windows and Chrome OS and vice versa, share user profiles, and the ability to share custom folders between the two operating systems.
You can print.
Windows picks up and uses your Chromebook's network connection, even if you're using a VPN.
You can choose where and how links open, whether you are in Chrome OS or Windows.
You can use your Chromebooks mouse and touch to interact with Windows.
It's all seamless.
"Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise incorporates more than 22 years of Parallels' experience innovating software that makes it simple for people to seamlessly run multiple operating systems and applications on any device, to be more productive," said Nick Dobrovolskiy, Senior Vice President of Engineering and Support for Parallels. "In addition to simultaneously running Windows and its full-featured apps alongside Chrome OS apps directly on a Chromebook, Parallels Desktop integrates a variety of useful features: Copy and paste text and graphics between Windows 10 and Chrome OS; frustration-free printing from Windows apps via shared Chrome OS printers or from printers that are only available for Windows 10; and the option to save Windows files locally on a Chromebook, in the cloud, or both."
And CIOs will be pleased to hear that they can use their existing Windows licenses and agreements with Microsoft.
To make things super simple for IT admins, Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise integrates with the Google Admin console, making deploying the software and Windows image easy. It can also be used to control disk space usage, disable Command Line management of the virtual machine, and control whether anonymous in-product analytics are enabled or not.
All that's needed is for the Chromebooks to be covered by Chrome Enterprise or Education Upgrade.
And just as you'd expect from virtualization software, users can suspend and resume Windows quickly and easily.
Deployment is also smooth from the user's perspective too. With a click on the Parallels Desktop icon, the Chromebook user gets Parallels Desktop installed and activated. Then, a Windows image prepared by the IT department is downloaded and ready to use.
So why go to the hassle of replacing Windows machines with Chromebooks? The most obvious is a lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) that Chromebook represent, especially in terms of support costs. But dig deeper and there are more benefits here, from less reliance on VDI solutions, to more streamlined, portable hardware solutions that still give users the power of being able to choose to run Windows.
There are a lot of Chromebooks out there, from budget to high-end, and running Windows demands a certain kind of Chromebook. Parallels recommends the following:
As far as devices goes, here's a list of preferred devices:
Expect the release of Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise to give sales of higher specification Chromebooks a nice bump over the coming months.
"Now more than ever, companies are embracing cloud-first IT strategies as the need for cloud solutions that provide greater flexibility and productivity has increased," said Maulik Pandya, Vice President and General Manager of Cloud Client Group, HP Inc. "Available on the new HP Elite c1030 Chromebook Enterprise, Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise is a game-changer providing businesses and employees with an elevated cloud experience, making it effortless to run Windows applications on the Chrome OS."
So, let's come to pricing. Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise will be offered on a per-user annual subscription for the following suggested retail price (volume discounts are available):
Included with every license is one of my favorite utilities for both Windows and Mac -- Parallels Toolbox. This has become a suite that I use on a daily basis, and it will be a great productivity booster for users on Chromebooks.
There's also a free one-month full-featured trial with five user licenses, are available from Parallels to allow those interested to try it out for themselves.