Chromebooks and Office 365 together will challenge Windows laptops

With Microsoft porting Office 365 to Chromebooks, a big reason to stick with Windows has gone out the door.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Video: Samsung's new Chromebook Pro hybrid can run Android apps

It's no secret that I'm not a Windows fan. I'm beginning to wonder if Microsoft isn't either.

Hear me out. On Nov. 27, Chromebook users discovered that Office 365 would run on some of their laptops. To be exact, we now know you can download and run Office 365 on Samsung Chromebook Pro, Pixelbook, Acer Chromebook 15, and the Acer C771.

Now, you've been able to run the lightweight web versions of Office programs -- Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote -- on Chromebooks. But they were never that good. Then, Microsoft made Office Mobile for Android available, and that also worked on Chrome OS. But, now, Office 365 is up and running -- and it's the real-deal MS Office.

There are now more than 120 million Office 365 users. That's about 10 percent of all Office users. Those aren't just home users on a tight budget. According to a 2016 study by Skyhigh, 91.4 percent of businesses with at least 100 users were running Office 365. Usage within enterprises grew over 320 percent as the percentage of employees using at least one Office 365 application more than tripled from 6.8 percent to 22.3 percent.

In the past, the automatic answer at most companies to any attempt to switch to another operating system was: "But it can't run Microsoft Office." Well, now Chromebooks can.

And running Office 365 on a Chromebook doesn't require any special software, such as CodeWeavers' CrossOver. You just download Office 365 from the Play Store on any Chromebook, which supports Android apps on Chrome OS, then pay Microsoft's Office 365 subscription fee of $70 a year, and get to work.

Besides just getting Office, you also get all the other advantages that come with a Chromebook. Chrome OS is more secure than Windows. It's updated with the latest patches and features about every six weeks. Chromebooks are mindlessly simple to use. If you can use a web browser, you can use a Chromebook.

In addition, one feature I've grown to love recently is that, if you lose your Chromebook or dump it in a bathtub, to get all your apps, documents, and settings back, all you need to do is get a new one, then sign in with your Google ID, and in minutes, your desktop is back just as you like it and ready to rock.

Finally, you can get a great Chromebook for only a few hundred dollars. Sure, Microsoft promises that its new Windows 10 S will be great. What I see though is the next incarnation of arguably Microsoft's greatest OS failure to date: Windows RT.

Sure, there's some software that only runs on Windows. But, unless you're running one of those programs, most Windows users no longer need Windows. Heck, Microsoft itself has been moving to a service -- rather than a product -- business plan for years now. And the company has just moved Office, once and for all, into a multi-operating system service model.

The bottom line is that Microsoft has got rid of the single biggest reason why people are still with Windows: MS Office. If you can run Office on a Chromebook, which is safer, more reliable, and cheaper, why wouldn't you? I'll be darned if I can think of a reason for most users.

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