What Is the Difference Between a Chromebook and a Laptop?

The global market for personal computers in the education sector is expected to grow from US$20.2 billion in 2018 to US$48 billion by 2025, or a 13.31% compound annual growth rate for that period. Microsoft, Google and Apple are among the top-selling device providers for the education sector globally. In the US, Google Chromebooks lead the PC education market, followed by Windows 10 laptops. Google and Microsoft are poised to take advantage of the growth opportunities in the market. 

Chromebook Definition 

 A Chromebook refers to any laptop, desktop or tablet that runs on the Google-developed and Gentoo Linux-based Chrome OS, which in turn was derived from the open-source Chromium OS. Compared to other operating systems, Chrome OS is lightweight and fast, allowing you to edit photos, browse the web, check emails, listen to music, and watch and stream videos with ease. 

A common misconception about Chromebooks is that they require an always-on internet connection. This may have been true when the first Chromebooks came out, but this is not so true now—you can edit Google Docs and other documents and even watch movies offline.  

The Google Chrome web browser is the primary user interface for Chromebook applications. This is in line with Google’s objective for the Chromebook—a laptop that will run applications seamlessly from the cloud and without the need for installing applications on local drives. In essence, a Chromebook is a thin client with a browser-based OS geared to take advantage of the cloud. It is not surprising that 100GB of Google Drive cloud storage (good for two years) comes standard with a Chromebook. 

Google started work on the Chrome OS in June 2009. The first Chromebooks, from Acer and Samsung, came out in June 2011. Initially met with skepticism, these relatively cheap machines soon began gaining popularity. 

Google came out with its own Chromebook in 2013, the Chromebook Pixel, which had better specs than most Chromebooks from other manufacturers at that time. The Pixel was also priced higher than the usual Chromebook. The Google Pixelbook replaced the Pixel in 2017. 

Chromebooks have become sleeker and more feature-rich in recent years, helped along by continuous innovation from the Google team responsible for Chrome OS development. Seeing how Chromebooks have helped others in their industries, more organizations and people are adopting them. Leading the upsurge in demand is the education sector. In the US, Chromebooks comprised 60% of the computers bought by schools in 2018. 

Chrome OS comes with a media player and file manager plus support for Chrome Apps, which are like native applications. Remote access to the Chrome desktop is standard. 

In 2014, Google added support for Android applications to Chromebooks; two years later, Chromebooks could access Android applications on Google Play. If your Chromebook has a touchscreen (some do not), your user experience with Android applications on a Chromebook will not be that different from running them on an Android device.  

In 2018, the addition of a lightweight Linux kernel that runs containers inside a virtual machine allowed Linux applications to run on Chromebooks. 

Initially available only on laptops, Chrome OS variants now power desktops known as Chromeboxes, all-in-one computers dubbed Chromebases, and dongles known as Chromebits. Acer and Google also partnered to create a Chromebook tablet in 2018. 

Officially, Chrome OS is available only on Google-sanctioned hardware from leading manufacturers. Chromium OS can be compiled from source code and installed on standard hardware. It’s also possible to get CloudReady OS for a Chrome OS experience on PCs 

Chromebook Security 

Google is a newcomer in operating systems compared to Apple and Microsoft. Fortunately, when it comes to security, Google learned from the mistakes of its rivals. Knowing the risks of a constantly connected world, Google adopted the following features to harden the Chrome OS and thwart malicious actors. 

All of these features tighten Chromebook security. This is not to say that malware and other threats cannot ever infiltrate Chromebooks, since there are other vectors into the system such as Chrome extensions. Thus, users must remain vigilant and not take security for granted. 

Chromebook Cost 

Although some Chromebooks are expensive, most are cheaper than Windows laptops. This is because they have lower-priced parts and specifications. For example, Chromebooks do not require more powerful Intel or AMD CPUs—they can run on lesser-known CPUs with fewer capabilities without any significant performance impact. Since graphics-intensive applications are not allowed to be installed locally on Chromebooks, they also do not require expensive graphics cards. 

Moreover, Chromebooks do not require large storage drives since you can store your data on the cloud. Thus, it is common to find Chromebooks with as low as 16GB storage via embedded Multi-Media Controller (eMMC) data storage. The same is not true in Windows—even low-end Windows laptops require at least 128GB, considering that you may need to install some applications locally. 

The lower system requirements for Chromebooks mean that they are much cheaper, even if you compare them to Windows laptops with similar specifications. If you consider the considerably shorter time it takes to deploy Chromebooks in the enterprise, you also save deployment and IT administration costs. 

Chromebook Productivity 

Chromebooks have a wide range of web and Android applications that you can run on the Chrome browser and are available from the Chrome Web and Google Play Stores, respectively. These include productivity software such as Microsoft Office and various other software. Some of these applications also offer offline functionality. 

However, Windows still offers better variety and more functionality when it comes to software. For example, if you are a graphics designer, you can install Photoshop on Windows if you have capable hardware. This is not possible in Chrome. 

Although their numbers have improved recently, the range of applications available for use on Chromebooks is still not that extensive compared to Windows, although that may change soon. With software such as Parallels® Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise, it is now possible to use Windows applications on your Chromebook. 

Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise Will Bring Windows Applications to Chromebooks 

Released in late 2020, Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise is set to become the world’s first desktop virtualization solution for full-featured Windows virtual machines (VMs) on Chromebooks, without an internet connection. 

With Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise, IT administrators can manage the automated deployment of VMs that are fully capable Windows installations, just like any physical Windows PC. It also allows the reuse of Windows VMs previously created in Parallels® Desktop for Mac. 

From the Parallels® Desktop for Chrome OS Launcher, users can download a virtual machine directly to their Chromebooks, without any additional setup requirements. Downloads are secured via a Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA) 256. 

Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise allows sharing of Chrome OS folders with Windows and vice versa, and the redirection of Windows user folders to the Windows files section on Chrome OS. It provides quick access to VM settings, including the almost-instant ability to suspend and resume working with Windows applications. There is a seamless transition between mouse input in Windows and Chrome OS, and you can switch easily to a full-screen Chrome OS, if needed.  

Time and time zones on the VM are synchronized from Chrome OS, and the network connection is shared between Chrome OS and Windows, with the latter effectively behind a virtual Network Address Translation (NAT). Host proxy configurations and Windows VPNs are supported, and printing from Windows applications to Chrome OS printers is allowed. 

If your organization is already using Chromebooks, Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise is the ideal solution for finally running full-featured Windows applications that you need to boost your productivity. If you are mulling between lower-cost Chromebooks and more expensive Windows laptops, it can help you decide in favor of the former, since it means that you can finally use Windows applications even in a Chromebook-only environment. 

Get started with Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise!  


Laptop Mag | https://www.laptopmag.com/articles/chromebooks-vs-windows  

Wikipedia | https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromebook