Just last week we broke the news that Droplet Computing was back on the scene, delivering the promise of legacy Windows applications running right on your Chromebook. In that piece, we spoke about things that CTO Peter von Oven showed us over a video call, but today I’m here to talk about what it is actually like to use Droplet’s container tech on a Pixelbook.
First things first, this is still firmly a Beta trial right now. To repeat what we originally reported about Droplet’s efforts on Chrome OS, this entire process is happening because of Linux apps on Chrome OS and until GPU acceleration is fully realized in that department, we won’t have the full power of any Chromebook to actually run applications. Since we expect to see GPU support by Chrome OS 76, I’d imagine we’ll be seeing some non-Beta software from Droplet around the same time.
For now, however, this particular point is an important one as there is noticeable lag when mousing around a Windows application that we’d fully expect to disappear once some hardware acceleration is enabled inside Linux. The Droplet container comes with Notepad pre-installed and the Windows XP framework to utilize for other applications. We were able to test out the one-click install (thanks to the way Linux apps work on Chromebooks these days), launching the container, and running Notepad with little to no setup required; and it all worked very well.
I’m not saying the entire thing is perfect, but this is a huge leap forward compared to what we only saw last time around with Droplet’s containers on Chrome OS. This isn’t just a sideshow or a demo: I installed the container and ran both Notepad and Windows XP’s file manager (full of all the nostalgia you’d expect) right on my Pixelbook. Again, it isn’t all perfection here and I honestly wouldn’t expect a Beta version of something as complex as Droplet to be.
File sharing is a tad wonky right now, so we weren’t able to get our own .exe files into the container to test an install, but the problem is clearly identified by Droplet and is being worked on as we speak. Don’t forget that when Linux apps first showed up on Chromebooks, there wasn’t a simple way to move files in and out of the container, either. That has been solved and we fully anticipate this will all be sorted before Droplet officially comes to Chromebooks later this year. From what we’ve learned, Droplet is very concerned with creating a very simple, straightforward way for users to get the app they need up and running as quickly as possible.
Even with the relatively Spartan interface, I can already see the potential usefulness Droplet will eventually bring to Chromebook users needing Windows applications. The plan is to ship with Windows 7 as the framework, so anything you need that will run in Windows 7 will be able to be installed and run in this container. As it stands currently, your apps will install and be available in Droplet’s tile interface for launch and use, but a time will come in the future where those installed apps will have proper icons in your Chrome OS launcher and will run in their own window so as to feel a bit more native on your Chromebook.
One thing I realized in this process is how little reliance I have on Windows at this point. It took me a bit to consider what I would even install and test once I had the Droplet container up and running. I think the biggest draw for Droplet will be the users who have ‘that one app’ they can’t quite get along without. For many, a remote desktop session to run a single app isn’t doable, but this container system from Droplet might be just the solution many individuals and companies need to begin the move away from Windows devices and over to Chromebooks.
As the Beta for Droplet continues to update and improve, we’ll be continually keeping you updated on all the new features and other fun apps we get to run. Check out Droplet Computing’s website for more details and stay tuned to Chrome Unboxed for more news on Droplet as this develops.