Google's Web-based Chromebooks can now access Windows desktops and applications through Citrix's virtualization technology, thanks to a new app released this week.
The Citrix Receiver Tech Preview for Chrome OS, available on the Chrome Web Store, is a free client app for businesses that use Citrix virtualization to host desktops and applications in the data center.
Citrix Receiver was already available on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and BlackBerry, letting users access virtual desktops and applications from just about any computer, tablet or smartphone. This week's addition brings the same technology to Chromebooks, addressing a key limitation in the devices, which force users to do all their computing within Google's Chrome browser.
"If you use Citrix in your organization, you can now install the Citrix Receiver Tech Preview app from the Chrome Web Store to access desktop software such as Adobe Photoshop directly from your Chromebook," Google technical program manager Alberto Martin writes in a blog post.
Google also updated the Chrome OS operating system this week, bringing "VPN and secure Wi-Fi support (802.1X)," according to Martin.
Updating Chromebooks to the latest version requires users to go into the settings, accept the update and restart the computer. Because Chromebooks boot in seconds, the process is very quick.
Google revealed its Chromebook plans in May, claiming that a new type of operating system is needed because Windows is "torturing users." Chromebooks are being sold by Samsung and Acer for $350 to $500, and Google offers a subscription plan to businesses and schools for $20 to $30 per device per month.
Citrix joined Google at the Chromebook launch to announce Citrix Receiver support, saying the software uses HTML5 to create a rich user experience in the Chrome browser. Google said VMware also plans to bring virtualization technology to Chromebooks, but no release date has been revealed.
To use the Citrix Receiver client on Chromebooks, businesses must have a XenApp or XenDesktop deployment in their data centers, and install some new files allowing the connection from the clients to the virtual desktops and applications.
"If your company uses Citrix to host applications, you can use Citrix Receiver to check your email, review documents, tune into project dashboards, and approve expenses from your Chrome OS Chromebook," Citrix says on the Receiver download page. "Just ask your help desk for the URL to set up Receiver."
Citrix notes that the Chromebook setup lets users "Access your applications and Windows desktop at your office, home, or on the road; keep your information stored on your provider's secure servers, not on your device; [and] move from desktop to tablet to smartphone."
Citrix support will make Chromebooks a viable business option for some types of workers. But Google has a long way to go before Chrome OS desktop usage catches up to Windows, Mac or even Ubuntu Linux.
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