Unusual collab will make Office much easier to run on Chromebooks
Google is promising a closer collaboration between its Chrome OS, Chromebooks, and Microsoft 365, an unusual commitment given that the two companies are usually fierce rivals in the productivity space.
Google said recently that the company will migrate users to a “new integration later this year on Chrome OS, making it easier to install the app and open files.”
For most purposes, Chrome OS functions as a primarily web-based experience. Currently, Chrome OS allows users to open Office apps as Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs, which are essentially web apps that can be stored and run locally on a PC. The new integration, as Google describes it, will connect the OS more seamlessly with both Office 365 and Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud.
“Users will be offered a guided setup experience that takes them through the process of installing the Microsoft 365 web app and connecting Microsoft OneDrive to their Chromebook Files app,” Google said in a blog post. “Files will be moved to Microsoft OneDrive when opening in the Microsoft 365 app.”
The latter addition is particularly interesting, given that Google usually considers its cloud to be closely tied to its Workspace applications, as does Microsoft. By integrating OneDrive with the Files app, however, the process of moving, viewing, and otherwise managing OneDrive files will be a lot easier than trying to navigate multiple interfaces. It’s worth noting, too, that OneDrive is now closely integrated within the File Explorer app within Windows.
Google said that it plans to formally launch the new experience in the coming months, though it will allow testers in its developer and beta channels to try out the program earlier. The story was reported earlier by The Verge.
Microsoft has also been particularly sensitive to Chromebooks encroaching on low-end Windows laptops, even designing multiple versions of its Windows operating system to take them on. Windows 10X, whose interface was repurposed to create Windows 11, was eventually cancelled. Microsoft pitched Windows 11 SE as its latest Chromebook killer, though just for the education market. That’s struggled, too. Microsoft still advertises its Surface Laptop SE for $249.99, though just three of the eight resellers Microsoft lists on its website appear to actually sell it: Connection, Douglas Stewart, and Insight.
But it’s possible that Microsoft is simply adapting the strategy it adopted in smartphones to Chrome OS. For years, Windows 10 Mobile was Microsoft’s foray into the mobile space. When Windows 10 Mobile went under, Microsoft changed tactics; today, Microsoft has developed many mobile applications for Android phones and tablets, including Office. Having found success with that “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” strategy, Chrome OS is apparently next on the list.