Earlier this week, news landed that Google had partnered with industry leader Parallels to provide a workplace solution for employees that need to access Windows applications and files from the cloud-centric Chrome operating system, a.k.a. Chromebooks. This is big news for Google as well as the companies that it is trying to woo over to Alphabet’s wide range of cloud-based business solutions. Many enterprises have already made the shift to the cloud by adopting fleets of Chromebooks and shifting a lot of their daily computing tasks to the Google Cloud Platform but still depend on specific software solutions that run only on Windows devices. The effort by Parallels and Google will ensure a proper path to deliver these programs while continuing to embrace the forward-thinking mindset of cloud-based business.
That said, this is not and cannot be a long-term solution for the computing industry as a whole. Hear me out on this one. The goals of companies like Parallels, Droplet, and others are to bring “legacy” software to platforms that cannot use said software natively. It is an audacious undertaking and for such a time as this, it is a necessary one. Many companies that still rely on some form of Windows software but are making the move to the cloud are already in a position to cut ties with locally installable software. These companies often find themselves in a place where one or two pieces of the puzzle prevent them from completely severing the umbilical cord. Whether it is a point of sale, inventory control management or “fill in the blank,” it’s normally one piece of software that a company is so invested in that keeps them tied to Windows and that’s why Parallels will be an important player in the next evolution of Chrome OS and Google’s Platform for enterprises. However, it is an evolution, not the be-all and end-all.
The applications that Parallels and others are bringing to Chromebooks are “legacy” programs and they are called that for a reason. Let’s look at the definition of legacy software:
denoting or relating to software or hardware that has been superseded but is difficult to replace because of its wide use.Oxford
a legacy product or system is one that is no longer available to buy or no longer used very often, but that is still used by some people or companiesCambridge dictionary
“Software that has been superseded.” “No longer available or used very often.” These don’t sound like long-term solutions for anyone especially a company that is trying to move forward in keeping with the times. Just as computing as we know it has evolved into cloud-based operating systems and programs running on servers, so shall software and platforms evolve into something that must conform to modern-day usage. This is easier for a smaller business that can replace point of sale and inventory systems with all-in-one solutions that are built around the web. For the larger enterprises, it is only a matter of time before software companies develop cloud-based alternatives to legacy software that companies have built their infrastructures around and when that happens, the cloud and Chrome OS become the 800-pound gorilla in the room.
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Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe that Windows or Windows applications are going away. There will, for the foreseeable future, be a need and a place for Windows-based programs and executables but I feel that even Microsoft has seen the writing on the wall. The company has been tinkering with lightweight Chrome OS alternatives and evolving many of the company’s major software platforms such as Office to offer web-based solutions as more and more users want and need an on-the-go solution that is accessible from anywhere. This will be the catalyst for that change that will be the demise of “legacy” applications. If a massive corporation wants a cloud-based solution for its proprietary inventory management system, it will task a team of developers to create that very thing and the old will be swept away in favor of the new.
In the end, Windows applications on Chromebooks will be a win for everyone involved but I would suggest that we not get too excited about the mingling of Microsoft and Chrome OS but instead, look to the future and what kind of inspiring solutions will be birthed from this temporary stop-gap. We’re still a few months out from actually seeing Windows apps on Chrome OS via Parallels but I would suspect that it will be limited to enterprise users. Yet another reason to curb the enthusiasm around the project. I know a lot of Chromebook users are looking for a simple answer to getting “that one” Windows application on a Chrome OS device but I don’t think that this will be the answer to that query. Instead, it will be the stepping stone to what is next. What that looks like is anyone’s guess but it’s exciting to see and we feel that Chrome OS will be right there in the midst of it all. To hear more about our thoughts on Parallels and more, check out the latest episode of The Chrome Cast.