A new virtual desktop program aims to make Chromebooks better business machines. Google has partnered with VMware, a provider of cloud virtualization software, to let users run full Windows applications on Chromebook computers, which could help Chromebooks overcome their biggest limitation: Chrome OS.
Chrome OS, the operating system Chromebooks run on, does not run regular desktop applications the way PCs or Macs do. Instead, the platform is based on a souped-up version of Google's Chrome Web browser. Instead of running desktop programs such as Microsoft Office, business users have been limited to Web applications such as the Google Docs productivity suite.
But the new VMware software for Chromebooks allows users to run a virtual Windows desktop from within the Chrome browser. Once your Windows desktop is up and running, you can access and run Windows programs the same way you would on a Windows machine. So, if you rely on a particular piece of accounting software designed for PCs, for example, you can now run that software on a Chromebook, in a virtualized Windows desktop environment. Google says the new VMware software will soon be available for download in the Chrome Web Store.
Chrome OS has other drawbacks for business users, such as a relatively limited file-management system. But for small business owners on a budget, Chromebooks have one big advantage: They're generally much cheaper than Mac or Windows laptops. And if you need an affordable device for basic business tasks such as email, Web browsing and document editing, a Chromebook could be a good tablet alternative.