Windows software will run on Chromebooks thanks to CrossOver for Android. With Android compatibility on Chromebooks, it will soon be possible to install Windows software like Steam as well as the many games only available for Windows.
Wine arrives on Chromebooks
CrossOver for Android is a commercial project made by CodeWeavers. It takes code from the Wine open-source project that allows Windows applications to run on Linux and Mac OS X, and adapts it to Android.
Running Windows applications on Android is a cute idea, but the average person isn’t going to install desktop applications on their Android smartphone or tablet. But, now that Chromebooks are gaining an Android compatibility system, it’s possible to install CrossOver for Android on a Chromebook and use it to run Windows software.
In an excited post on the CodeWeavers blog, James Ramey explains what’s working today:
We were able to install the Steam Client into CrossOver for Android and run LIMBO and other games. MORE IMPORTANTLY, we have DirectX 9 support, keyboard support, mouse support, and sound support TODAY!!! PEOPLE, we are staring at a Leprechaun riding on the back of a Unicorn while taking a picture of a UFO. We are running CrossOver through Android on a Chromebook running a Windows based game launched from the Steam client. THIS HAS NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE…EVER!!!”
He also provides a video of the Windows version of Limbo running on a Chromebook.
CrossOver for Android isn’t actually out yet, but stable Android application support for Chromebooks isn’t out yet, either. When it is, CrossOver will be there with a way to run Windows software directly on Chrome OS. This isn’t a perfect way to run all Windows software, but it's a way to run a lot of software, and new features like DirectX 11 support are being worked on.
ARM Chromebooks are left out
Accrording to CodeWeavers, CrossOver for Android now works on the Chromebook Pixel (2015) and Acer Chromebook R11, which both include Intel chips. Those devices both just received Android app support. CrossOver doesn’t work on the Asus Chromebook Flip, which uses an ARM chip.
Don’t expect this to change. CrossOver can run Windows applications, but only on the Intel architecture. ARM Chromebooks won’t be able to use CrossOver for Android to run Windows software. That’s just a fundamental limitation of the technique.