Chromebook vs. Windows 11: What’s Best for Your Business?

Windows 11 and Chrome OS have strikingly similar user interfaces starting with their centered taskbar application icons, which you’ll quickly notice the moment you login to either operating system. Their similarities aren’t just visual. Both operating systems can also run Android apps, integrate with Android phones and support tablet mode.

With these similarities, you can’t help but wonder which device—a Chromebook or a Windows 11 laptop—would be more suitable for your organization. In this “Chromebook vs. Windows 11 face-off”, we dive into their similarities, break down their differences and point out which one edges out the other in several areas. That way, you can decide for yourself which best fits your organization’s needs.

For those who want to enjoy the best of both worlds, we’ve also got something you’ll find interesting. You can actually do that using Parallels® Desktop for Chrome OS, which allows you to run Windows and native Windows applications on Chromebooks. More on this later in the post.

Before we go into comparisons, allow us to give you a little background on this brewing rivalry.

What Is the Chromebook vs Windows 11 Rivalry?

When Microsoft launched Windows 10 back in 2015, it told us that was going to be the last major version of Windows. Back then, Microsoft said they re-architected Windows such that, instead of launching entirely new versions of it as they used to, they would simply push updates to each individual operating system component. So, why then are we seeing all this hype about Windows 11? It certainly looks like a run-up to the launch of an all-new version, if you ask us.

Could this change of heart be driven by the rapid rise of Chromebooks that’s gradually eating market share away from Windows-powered PCs? In case you’re not aware, Chromebook shipments recorded an astounding 276% year-on-year increase in Q1 2021. In the meantime, Windows global market share dropped to 75% in Q1 2021, down from 80% in 2020.

It’s evident from these contrasting statistics that Chrome OS, by virtue of the growing popularity of Chromebooks, is gradually becoming a serious competitor in the desktop OS space. Windows 11 and its characteristics similar to Chrome OS could very well be Microsoft’s response to this emerging threat.

Let’s now put this brief history lesson out of the way and dive right into the comparisons.

What Are the Main Similarities and Differences?

There are four main areas where Chrome OS and Windows 11 have glaring similarities: the user interface, Android app support, Android phone integration, and tablet mode compatibility. Here are the details.

Interface

Aside from the centered taskbar application icons that we mentioned earlier, another visual similarity to Chrome OS in Windows 11 is the rounded corners throughout its graphical user interface (GUI) elements. You can see this everywhere, from the windows, through the folders, to the panes. Notifications and Quick Settings are also similar to what you find on Chrome OS.

Despite the uncanny resemblance to Chrome OS, there are a couple of interface features that make Windows 11 better. One is the presence of widgets, which function like Live Tiles but placed in a separate pane. Another is the snapping feature that provides multiple snap layout options for open applications. It’s very handy for multitasking purposes.

Interface advantage winner: Windows 11

Android app availability

You’re intrigued because Windows 11 can support Android apps. So are we. We’re not sure how it’s going to pan out though, especially since the release of this particular feature has already been postponed to 2022.

It is also worth noting that Windows 11 Android apps won’t be coming from the Google Play Store. Rather, they’ll be sourced from the Amazon Appstore. To be fair, it’s still a big breakthrough. It’s just that Google Play Store, which is where Chrome OS users get their Android apps, has significantly more apps than the Amazon Appstore. Play Store has over 3.5 million apps, while the Amazon Appstore has only about 500,000 apps.

Android app availability advantage winner: Chrome OS

Android phone integration

Windows 11 doesn’t just run Android apps. It also integrates with Android phones. Actually, this feature has already been available since Windows 10, courtesy of Microsoft’s Your Phone application. The Your Phone application integrates Windows PCs with Androids and even iPhones (to a limited extent). Practically all Android phones can integrate with Windows 11 if they have the Your Phone application installed. In fact, high-end Samsung devices, such as the S10, S20, Note 9, Note 10, Note 20 or any of the foldables, can integrate right out of the box, i.e., no additional application installation required.

Once integrated, notifications from the Android phone can be received on the Windows 11 device. You can also send and receive text messages as well as phone calls using your Windows 11 device. Photos can also be synced automatically between the two devices. These are just a few examples. Chrome OS has a similar capability by virtue of the Phone Hub. However, surprisingly, the Windows-Android integration, especially if the Android phone is a high-end Samsung device, provides a more seamless user-experience.

Android phone integration advantage winner: Windows 11

Tablet mode compatibility

Both operating systems can run on tablets. However, excluding what you get with the Lenovo Chromebook Duet, the user experience on tablets powered by Chrome OS (or touchscreen Chromebooks) leaves much to be desired. GUI elements just aren’t big enough to interact with comfortably unless you’re using a stylus.

The same thing can’t be said for Windows, which, even in Windows 10, has been proven to work well with touchscreen devices, especially the Surface Pros. The larger GUI elements on Windows 11 are more touch-friendly, and its selection of gestures combined with the snapping feature makes the overall touchscreen experience much more satisfying.

Tablet mode compatibility advantage winner: Windows 11

Windows 11 general app superiority

One last thing that gives Windows 11 an advantage is its much larger selection of well-established applications and its massive global user base. Microsoft Office alone, with its suite of applications, is more full featured on Windows. There are also countless applications primarily designed to run natively on Windows. And as long as Windows maintains the size of its user base, more applications will be designed to run on top of it.

Overall winner: Windows 11

Which Is Best for Hybrid Work and Learning?

The current pandemic has thrust most businesses and schools into a hybrid work and learning environment, one where employees and students shift between working onsite and remotely. Whether or not the COVID-19 virus is completely eradicated, one thing’s for sure—hybrid working and learning environments are here to stay. In these environments, mobile workstations such as laptops and Chromebooks are the most practical device choices for working/learning.

Laptops (Windows-based laptops, in particular) have the upper hand when it comes to GUI and application familiarity due to the popularity of Windows and Windows-based applications. Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, for instance, are still the de facto standards in word processing, spreadsheets and presentations.

Chromebooks, on the other hand, are inherently more affordable, secure and easy to manage as a fleet. They’re also tightly integrated with Google Classroom and Google Workspace for Education—two software applications that gained a foothold recently in the education sector.

For those who need both Windows and Chrome OS capabilities, there’s always Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS. It’s the most efficient, secure and flexible way to do hybrid working or learning on a single device.

Enjoy the Benefits of Both Chromebook and Windows with Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS

Compared to Chrome OS, Windows 11 has a much better user interface, Android phone integration capability, and tablet mode compatibility. However, Chrome OS excels in Android app availability. Having the ability to support Android apps is a big deal for Windows 11, especially considering M1-powered Mac computers can run both macOS and iOS applications. But if the applications aren’t sourced from the Play Store, where most of the best Android apps are found, that capability feels half-baked.

There is, however, a way for users to enjoy the capabilities of both platforms on a single device. As hinted earlier, they can use Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS, which allows Windows virtual machines to run on Chromebooks. Support for Windows 11 will be added to Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS in future updates.

The integration of Chrome OS and Windows via Parallels Desktop is seamless and feature-rich, and it supports the following functionalities (among many others):

The combined functionality of Windows 11 and Chrome OS should be a game changer for students and employees who want to use Chromebooks and still have access to full-featured Windows applications.

Learn more about Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS and get a free trial!