Google’s intentions with its Chromebooks have always been clear: disrupt Microsoft’s Windows monopoly. The approach of low-cost devices and a modern cloud-powered OS has left Microsoft a little nervous, but Google is now launching the next stage of its continued attack: the enterprise. In a deal announced quietly this week, Google is partnering with VMWare to bring traditional Windows apps to its Chromebooks. The apps will appear in Chrome OS "similarly to how they run today" according to Google, and VMWare’s cloud-based infrastructure will help companies run their essential apps on servers and stream them to Chrome OS and other devices. The announcement comes just days after Google announced a Chrome-powered teleconferencing system for the enterprise.

Google's timing is everything

Google's Windows app solution isn’t perfect, and many businesses will prefer native apps running on a Windows machine due to performance, security, and other concerns, but the company's timing is everything. Microsoft is dropping support for Windows XP in April, an operating system that is in widespread use across many organizations worldwide. While many big businesses are paying Microsoft extra money for XP support extensions, it’s clear Google is attempting to capture the smaller ones that are seriously considering migrating to virtual machines and other cloud-powered services. Microsoft still makes the bulk of its money through licensing and business / enterprise software sales, and any enterprise-focused attack on its Windows client and server businesses is always intriguing, especially when it comes from Google.

More than 10 years ago Microsoft dominated browser market share with over 90 percent and it seemed unlikely that any company could change that. Years later, following some hefty antitrust fines and agreements in the US and Europe, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer share hovers around 20 percent, depending on who you ask. Google’s Chrome browser now controls the majority when you factor in modern and common mobile usage, with around 30-40 percent, so it’s not inconceivable that the search giant might be able to disrupt Microsoft’s enterprise dominance too by positioning Chrome OS as a thin client for a cloud computing future. It’s a costly process for businesses to migrate away from Windows, so it certainly won’t be easy, but Google and others have a genuine opportunity to capture customers as companies look beyond Windows XP. With Google focused constantly on the cloud, it's no surprise why Microsoft's new CEO wants the company to be "cloud first."