Why Windows on Chromebooks is a great idea: Nothing but upside

We already knew the Alt-OS feature was coming but now we have full confirmation: Some Chromebooks will be able to boot into Windows thanks to Project Campfire reports XDA Developers. That raises some interesting questions on why Google is doing this and if the idea is a good or bad one.

This article suggests it’s a “terrible idea” going so far to say in the first paragraph that:

“[C]ome October, Chromebooks might be declared dead or at least on their way to becoming pointless. And that will be thanks to an admittedly appealing feature that will be introduced by none other than Google itself.”

I couldn’t disagree more, for several reasons.

Right off the bat, I expect this development will boost the number of available Chromebooks with improved hardware, whether that be more storage, more memory or other higher-level components. The storage alone just to install and to use Windows on a Chromebook is 40 GB, so devices with 32 GB of local storage — something many Chrome OS device owners feel is far too little today — won’t cut it.

Project Crostini Terminal

Adding a Windows boot option also brings similar benefits to Chrome OS that adding support for Android apps and Linux apps: A broader range of software to choose from. I already think that Project Crostini for Linux apps plus Google Play Store support for Android makes Chrome OS the platform with the most software available, but that’s just an educated guess. Adding Windows software to the mix surely does this, however.

Getting back to the “Chromebooks might be declared dead or at least on their way to becoming pointless” thought. When Apple introduced Boot Camp to the Mac for dual-booting Windows make the Mac dead or pointless? Nope. If anything, it spurred additional Mac sales from those who prefer a Mac but occasionally want to or have to use Windows apps.

In fact, after Boot Camp arrived, one company declared that the best computer to run Microsoft Windows on was the MacBook Pro.

Part of the reason was the Mac’s hardware but another part was that using Boot Camp provides a clean install of Windows without any “crapware”. And that’s exactly what you’ll get with Windows on a Chromebook: A clean installation. Indeed, Google has been working on certifying Chromebook hardware for Campfire to ensure there aren’t any driver issues. So Windows should run as well as it possibly can on Chrome OS devices.

Frankly, this is all about choice. Google isn’t stupid. It knows that while G Suite may work for 80 percent of the population, there’s still 20 percent that require certain software features to get specific tasks done. Google has no chance to win over that 20 percent — many of which are enterprise users where Google has been pushing Chrome OS for a while now — if it can’t provide the tools they need.

And Microsoft is surely going to be happy because if you want to run Windows on a Chromebook, you’ll need to purchase a license for it and for any other Microsoft apps you need to use. (If only it would fix the Excel for Android installation on Chromebooks, it could have even more revenue!)

Look, if you don’t want to run Windows on your Chromebook, that’s fine. Google isn’t forcing you to any more than it forces you to run Android or Linux apps. That’s your choice. Chrome OS will still work just fine, even on a device that’s capable of dual-booting into Windows. Frankly, there’s nothing but upside here and although I’ll likely never use Windows on my Chromebook, it’s going to be nice to have the option in any unforeseen circumstances.

 

 

16 thoughts on “Why Windows on Chromebooks is a great idea: Nothing but upside

  • August 14, 2018 at 11:15 am
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    Funny how there are still people who think Windows is the single all-around best OS. 🙂 Agree that the ability to dual-boot Windows certainly won’t harm Chromebooks. That doesn’t make it a great idea, though. What it will definitely provide is direct comparison of the two operating systems on the same hardware, maintenance cost and what portion of people will still be booting Windows after a while (and wait hours for updates etc.)

    Reply
  • August 14, 2018 at 11:32 am
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    Would this mean users can utilize the full-blown version of Word on a Chromebook, rather than the stripped down Android app version? If so, consider me sold. Many of us are beholden to the full version of MS Office for work reasons, so this would be great news.

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    • August 14, 2018 at 11:34 am
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      Yes, you would be able to install and run any Windows software if you boot into Windows on your Chromebook.

      Reply
      • August 14, 2018 at 3:41 pm
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        Couldn’t you theoretically do with with Wine through Crostini?

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        • August 15, 2018 at 12:22 am
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          yes you can. You can use Office 2016 32 it version under wine.

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  • August 14, 2018 at 1:40 pm
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    This would in no way benefit me personally. But I can see potential benefits to the Chromebook market:
    ● For consumers and reviewers, greater ability to directly compare the respective benefits of each OS.
    ● More software developers willing to buy and develop on Chromebooks.
    ● Fewer Google employees able to justify not using Pixelbooks full-time.
    ● More availability of SSDs, at a premium cost, for those who crave that option.
    ● Availability of slots for on-board storage addicts to arbitrarily buy and add more on-board storage.
    ● A way of using Windows on a Chromebook without jeopardizing Chrome OS stability and security.

    Reply
    • August 16, 2018 at 7:44 am
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      Re: the availability of slots, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there’s already an empty M.2 slot in the Acer Spin 13 that’s about to come out. Core i5 and 16 gigs RAM with cheapo eMMC really doesn’t sit well with me.

      Reply
  • August 14, 2018 at 2:40 pm
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    A base windows 10 install these days is full of crapware before the manufacturers even get their hands on it to gimp the build with mcaffee and all the rest. I’ve been building a citrix base image and the amount of crap I had to uninstall was irritating.

    I could mostly do my job as an infrastructure engineer from my pixelbook but do still need windows so this is very welcome news.

    Reply
  • August 14, 2018 at 10:19 pm
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    Seems like Chromebooks are becoming the, “One ring to rule them all”. The ability to have Android apps, Linux, and now Windows is making this a cross-platform dream machine.

    Reply
  • August 14, 2018 at 11:28 pm
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    So would this mean faster processors, more RAM, bigger hard drives, more expensive Chromebooks because of the expensive Windows OS? I certainly hope they won’t stop making basic Chromebooks. I sure wouldn’t want to have to pay for an OS that I don’t want. Chrome OS is all that I need.

    Reply
  • August 15, 2018 at 1:31 am
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    Actually, I don’t think this is all about ‘choice’. Its a straightforward practical/commercial decision that acknowledges the undeniable influence of Windows. It is better to eliminate the “but it isn’t Windows” complaint than bothering to score points proving your purist credentials. Google wants to sell a lot of Chromebooks. Also, while this isn’t a Developer Mode feature it will probably have a developer focus. All those forthcoming PWAs developed on Chromebooks will need to be tested on Windows machines.

    Also, technically, what AltOS sounds like, is a way to get UEFI firmware onto a Chromebook so despite what XDA is saying that means that the OS in AltOS remains undefined, until you install one. AltOS can probably be any OS you please that happens to rely on UEFI firmware, which is pretty much all modern OSes (except Google’s).

    Reply
  • August 15, 2018 at 7:45 pm
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    I think from Google’s point of view it’s a smart decision. This way users who never considered buying a Chromebook can have the chance to try the system

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    • August 16, 2018 at 9:46 am
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      Yup, but that makes complete sense to me. If Windows will need 40GB of storage, even on a 64GB Chromebook, that would only leave 24GB for Chrome OS, Android and Linux containers. That’s less than a base Chromebook with 32GB of storage and I don’t think Google wants that situation. Models will 128GB of storage will probably be the minimum requirement for a “certified to run Windows” Chrome OS device.

      Reply
  • August 16, 2018 at 9:04 am
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    I would rather see individual windows apps run in a container like the linux apps. And, you can download and install a beta version of Excel on Chromebooks now that works fine 🙂 A few minutes with Google should get you a link to join the beta program and then you are given a link to the beta version in the Play Store.

    Reply
  • August 23, 2018 at 10:13 am
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    While I’ve downloaded Windows onto my Mac, I haven’t used it very much, so probably won’t download it to my Pixelbook. That being said, I think it’s a great option to have for those that need it.

    Reply

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