It has been quite some time since we last talked about Droplet Computing, so you’d be forgiven if you didn’t have any idea what that title even means. Droplet is a company we stumbled across nearly two years ago that was promising a container-based software solution for any OS that we’d not seen before. The idea of a custom container that could run basically any app available on any platform not only sounded far-fetched: it felt impossible.
Back then we saw proofs of concept and small demos of the actual product, but nothing ever really materialized and we simply lost track of Droplet and their development from that point forward. As it turns out, Droplet didn’t stop going after the goal of a universal app container, and it has actually been shipping its reworked container system to clients around the world and it looks like a version of this working container technology will be headed to Chromebooks in the near future.
The Big Idea
Since last year, Droplet Computing CTO Peter von Oven says the company had to overcome a few unforseen hurdles and infrastructure changes brought on by Google, but their core focus has remained the same: bring legacy apps to modern platforms. Droplet’s main goal in all of this has always been the realization of legacy software running securely in containers on modern environments.
Imagine a hospital or manufacturing plant that has a particular piece of software that runs multiple machines and that software – while running just fine – loses compatibility with the latest version of Windows. If that software is now defunct or the creators of it are no longer in business, what can be done? To this point, not much. You either stay on the legacy OS and risk a security breach or overhaul your existing infrastructure.
Droplet comes in and gives you the ability to create a legacy OS container (think Windows 7, XP, Linux, etc.), install your apps in that container, and have them run right on the machines where you need them to. It works on Mac, Windows or Linux right now with Chromebook support in the final starges of development. This time around we weren’t just shown slides and pictures: we saw it running and working. On top of that, Droplet has clients using the service in real time, right now.
This thing is legit.
How It Will Work
How it works on Chrome OS will basically be how it runs on Windows and Mac right now. You simply install the Droplet container (provided by Droplet) and it contains all the necessary bits of Windows (or some older legacy platforms if you so choose) to run the applications you will install. For Chromebooks this will happen via Linux, so they are waiting (much like we all are) for proper GPU acceleration and microphone support to arrive on Linux for Chromebooks. Just like Android Studio or other one-touch Linux installs, this will be a simple click on a downloaded install file from Droplet to get up and running.
Once you have the container, you can simply grab any old .exe file, double click it in the Droplet container, and be off and runing. For now, the app will need to be viewed and used inside the Droplet window (shown above), but we’ve been assured that the eventual end-product for Chrome OS will allow Windows app icons to be added to your Chrome OS launcher and, just like any other app on your Chromebook, be opened in a dedicated window.
The hope is that by Q4 of 2019 we’ll see all of this take shape and installing legacy Windows apps on your Chromebook via Droplet will give you an app experience as native and simple as Android and Linux are becoming.
When we asked about what types of apps we could possibly install, I expected quite a few if’s and but’s, but I didn’t get that at all. Instead, the only real limitation to an install is that it acutally will work on that version of the OS in the container. So, if you have an app that won’t run in Windows 7, it won’t run in the Windows 7 container, either. But the immediate response when I asked if I could install Doom II? Yes.
This is all a bit of a departure from what we saw over a year ago from Droplet. It is far less esoteric and much more grounded this time around. Gone are the simple slides and hopes of a client base, replaced by a working product with actual clients and a real plan for bringing it all to Chrome OS. We’ve been promised a working Chrome OS Beta to begin kicking the tires on and as soon as we have it and are not embargoed, we’ll be sharing the experience with everyone in great detail.
Thinking a bit about who could use Droplet leads quickly to the notion that this service could find a home in basically any place where Chromebooks are deployed. Consumers have app attachments that keep them away from Chrome OS. Need Word or Excel for your job? Done. Enterprise users have infrastucture applications that are required that could be not only delivered but also managed via Droplet. And education use cases are in a similar spot with enterprise, needing an app here or there that would close the gap and allow Chromebooks to be the easy, simple choice for both students and teachers alike.
Along with the impending arrival of Adobe Premiere Rush on Chrome OS, Droplet’s inventive container solution could be one of the biggest gap-resolving feature many have been waiting for to make the leap to Chrome OS. We’re excited about it’s arrival, so stay tuned for much more on Droplet as we near the Chrome OS launch.