One of the larger questions asked by novices to the Chrome OS experience is this: Can it run Windows apps?
Up until now, the answer has been a resolute, "no." Google's Chrome operating system is entirely Web-driven, in the sense that there's nothing you can actually install into the operating system.
Chrome OS is the Chrome browser running atop a Google-customized Linux variant—"Goobuntu." You access Web-driven applications via the browser and, though you can "install" or save these Web apps into Chrome OS, you just can't grab your average application CD, throw it in an optical drive, and expect something magical to happen.
According to a message posted to a public mailing list dedicated to Chrome OS, however, a new feature is in the works that will grant users access to "legacy PC applications" through some kind of remote desktop connection process. Google software engineer Gary Kačmarčík, who first spilled the beans on the feature, calls the process, "Chromoting."
Details on how Chromoting actually works are, unfortunately, scant.
"We're adding new capabilities all the time. With this functionality (unofficially named "chromoting"), Chrome OS will not only be great platform for running modern web apps, but will also enable you to access legacy PC applications right within the browser," wrote Kačmarčík. "We'll have more details to share on chromoting in the coming month."
The current speculation amongst Chrome enthusiasts is that the Chromoting process is more akin to a VPN/sharing functionality than anything else. In that case, one would have to leave one's Windows-based desktop or laptop system on in order to access apps via a connected Chrome OS computer—which, itself, is hardly a technological leap given that numerous applications today offer users an analogous screen-sharing / remote access functionality.
But that's just the thing—it would be a different solution entirely if Google allowed users to "map" to applications on a networked system akin to how one can assign a drive letter to a network location in Windows. That would eliminate the overhead of remote screen-sharing and accessibility, although it still wouldn't address enthusiasts' pet peeve thus far: Having to leave their other systems on just to access applications on those systems.
"When I first read about Chromoting I was hoping it'd be something more along the lines of OnLive - i.e, the 'legacy' programs are running on super-powerful remote machines," wrote Mark Lunney, a Flash Developer for Glue London.
"Google could set up a pay-per-use license with the software manufactures to allow them to be used remotely, which'd also cut piracy down. And the thought of rendering an entire 3D scene or movie on one of Google's supercomputers in seconds would surely be enough of a reason to get a lot of power users switching."
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