There are many things to love about Chromebooks: the price, the simplicity, the security and ease of maintenance. Just read our reviews of the HP 11 Chromebook and the Chromebook Pixel to have a better idea of what’s nice about them. However, it is also fair to say that a lot of people still need to run legacy desktop apps and that a pure Cloud Computing experience is not best for everyone.
And that’s precisely what VMWare wants to address by partnering with Google to bring desktop apps from Windows and other systems to Chromebooks, by running those apps in a centralized server environment and delivered right into the Chrome browser. Interestingly, a lot of companies are already running such setups for security and manageability reasons.
For them, it doesn’t really matter if their employees run a Mac, PC or a Chromebook, and since a Chromebook is arguably much easier to manage or replace (notably with the Google management console), this could be a very tempting proposition for enterprises looking to optimize their IT management by sidestepping a number of updates and security issues that Chrome OS is really good at dealing with.
Since Chromebooks are said to be on the rise with 21% of commercial laptop sales in 2013 (numbers by NPD, and relayed by Google), and that it is effectively just the same as developing for the web at large, companies like VMWare have a very compelling reason to make their Horizon system work well in a browser.
At the moment, this is very much an enterprise play since consumers don’t really have access to those services, but if this trend continues, it is very possible that 3rd parties would create a rent-a-windows service in which you can access a Windows Installation online instead of having it reside on your local device. In the past, Microsoft has resisted such endeavors, but the pressure is on to address manageability and IT efficiency because in the end, companies will simply do what’s best for them.
Deploying virtual Windows installations is not a panacea and has its own share of issues, notably the reliance on a working, fast, network. However, a lot of people are already using it at work, and for them, a Chromebook may look that much more compelling today.