The Android platform has hit a major stride in taking over the majority of the global mobile market. That marketshare crosses both consumer and business landscapes. Chrome OS (and Chromebooks), however, has been primarily relegated to consumers. With their incredibly cheap price tags and secure/reliable platform, Chromebooks are a perfect solution for a vast majority of the average computer users.
But with upcoming updates to the Chrome OS platform, the Android/Chrome OS combo is starting to make even more sense for business. And why not? Android is one of the most flexible mobile platforms on the planet, and Chrome OS has become the single best means of interacting with the business-friendly Google Apps. But with certain updates in the pipeline, it's becoming almost impossible to refute the Android/Chrome OS combo for a large amount of everyday business needs.
Hold on a minute. There's one argument I get, more than any other, against Chrome OS as a viable solution to business.
Yes, to many that is the Achilles Heel of Chrome OS. You cannot install your standard software packages. But who uses standard software packages now? If you're keeping up to date, you know everything is on the fast track to be moved to the cloud. Even two of the major players, Microsoft Office and QuickBooks, have shown that they are intent on getting their users off the desktop and into the cloud. Because of this, the need for software (outside of a browser) is growing less of an issue. That's where the Chromebook shines. It's a cost-effective solution that your end users would have to actually try to break.
How does this all relate to Android? It's all in the updates. Coming to a Chromebook near you are a few improvements that might draw your attention. Let's take a look.
Auto sign in
Password sign-in is crucial for business. You don't want a data breach on your hands, but having to enter your password every time you go to use your Chromebook can be a real drag on your efficiency. With an upcoming upgrade to both platforms, you'll be able to auto-login to your Chromebook simply by having your Android smartphone nearby. Once you've connected the two devices (via software), your Chromebook will detect the phone and remain logged in. If a user attempts to use your Chromebook, and the associated smartphone is not near, a lock screen will be presented.
This feature will also allow you to set up auto-login of your favorite applications. This is both efficient and secure.
Calls and messages
With the upcoming upgrade to Chrome OS, you'll never miss a call or an alert, because whatever appears on your smartphone will appear on your Chromebook. If a text message comes through to your smartphone, a pop-up will appear on your Chromebook. This system will allow you to view and reply to the message. Those texts will sync between phone and laptop, so you can pick up the conversation where you left off when you're not at your Chromebook.
As to phonecalls, it's unknown if you'll be able to answer the calls on the Chromebook, but my best guess is no. You will, however, be able to see the incoming caller -- so, if it's important, you'll know to grab your smartphone immediately.
Speaking of notifications, you often depend upon your smartphone to do business -- and you can't do business with a dead battery. Soon, your Chromebook will be able to alert you if your Android battery is low. It's easy to forget to plug that smartphone in at times, so now your Chromebook has your back. This feature doesn't require your smartphone to be next to your Chromebook either... and you'll be able to customize the alert so that you're only informed of battery status when you want to be (this probably means you'll be able to customize the threshold that will trigger the alert).
Finally, and this is the big one -- Chromebooks will be able to run Android apps as if they were native. This update, alone, will give a huge boost to the Chromebook's ability to navigate the waters of daily business usage. These apps will run in both online and offline mode, but not every Android app will be available for the Chromebook. In fact, Google has yet to say which apps will; but my best guess is that this feature will focus heavily on apps that are business-centric. Google already demonstrated Evernote running on Chrome OS (at Google I/O).
The nature of business has changed. Much of what we do is done within a web browser, so it makes perfect sense that business users work on a platform that doesn't require a lot of time and money cleaning, re-installing software, and supporting. The landscape of mobile business technology has some major changes on the horizon. Companies like Microsoft and Apple should be concerned now that Google's platforms have found a level of maturity that's acceptable to today's businesses.
A one-two punch of Android and Chrome OS will soon be ready to have your businesses back. Are you ready to give it a go? If not, what keeps you from deploying Chromebooks within your business? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.