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Google Chrome Live: What you need to know

On Wednesday, April 22, Google hosted its first ever Chrome Live event, focused on Chrome for Work. Here's what you need to know.

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Google product manager Saswat Panigrahi (right) discusses Chrome for Work.

It's no secret that Google has the enterprise in its crosshairs, and Android and Chrome products are leading the hunt.

On Wednesday, April 22, Google hosted its first ever Chrome Live event on Chrome for Work. Rajen Sheth, director of product management for Android and Chrome for Work, opened up by giving an overview of the news for Chrome in the enterprise.

"We're in the middle of a devices revolution," Sheth said.

The average person is using more than four devices to get their work done in a day, said Sheth. Many people are working outside their office — either at home, in a coffee shop, or on the road.

Additionally, Sheth said, more than a billion people are carrying a smartphone into work and we could eventually see employees using 40 devices per person to get work done. With that in mind, Sheth mentioned three keys device announcements:

  1. Chromebooks for work, a plethora of OEM partners and new integration with Box.
  2. Chromebox for meetings, a new version with a better camera for larger meeting rooms.
  3. Chrome dedicated devices, devices with one application, such as digital signage.

Amit Singh, the president of Google for Work, discussed the vision of Chrome for work and said that Chromebooks are the number one selling device on Amazon and number one selling device for education as well.

The Chrome browser was the first to be discussed. Product manager Saswat Panigrahi opened by speaking about the principles that the Chrome browser was built on, namely speed, simplicity, and security. He showed a side-by-side comparison of the recent stable Chrome release against an older version to show how much faster it scrolled.

Panigrahi pulled out his own personal device to show a new feature, that isn't live yet, which allows users to highlight a word or phrase and find Google search information by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. The proposed value add is that it would allow users to get information without leaving the page they are on.

Panigrahi also mentioned the concept of managing Chrome devices and services, saying that networking is a critical aspect of the ecosystem.

"With Chrome management you can configure upwards of 200 different features across users, apps, and services no matter how many remote locations your devices are spread across," said Lilly McNealus, who works on strategy and insights for Chrome for Work.

Some other Chrome management features, such as the ability pre-install apps or push apps and extensions down when you need to, were also mentioned. Administrators can whitelist or blacklist certain applications, or applications with features like a camera.

Administrators can see high-level information, such as usage volume, or look at individual device and view individual devices and disable or deprovision a lost or stolen device.

According to Panigrahi, much of the new features in Chrome management came from the lessons that the Chrome team learned from its success in education. The Chrome management subscription, announced last year, will be rolled out to seven new places: Japan, Australia, New Zealand, India, Thailand, UK, and France.

Google is also working on expanding its VPN partnerships and offerings. Although it's still in development, the VPN API is live on the dev channel and administrators will be able to centrally preconfigure VPN parameters.

Quite a few new Chrome devices have been announced lately, including the Chrome Bit and a low-cost Chromebooks. While Panigrahi couldn't go over all the new form factors, he pointed out the ASUS Chromebook Flip as a device he is excited about.

According to product manager Vidya Nagarajan, Google wants to "democratize access to video conferencing" with Chromebox for Meetings.

Previously, Chromebox for Meetings could only handle a small conference room for eight people. Now, it can support a larger room for roughly 18. This means you can connect to dual screens, pan-tilt zoom cameras, and better microphones. Users will be able to remotely start and mute call, and be able to call phones from the Chromebox device. They are also adding mechanisms to track devices to see which are in use, and administrator access can be delegated to certain users.

Google also covered smart screens and dedicated Chrome devices, such as smart signage. For example, a retail company could be able to digitally push new prices to all of its stores immediately. Chromeboxes can also be used to make smart kiosks for things like buying a movie ticket.

Nagarajan said Google will also soon be announcing a rugged Chromebox, as a partnership with AOpen. Google is working on more tools for fleet metrics for Chromebox devices.

All in all, there weren't many new announcements for the Chrome ecosystem, but Google did well to round up its current enterprise offerings and explain how it will work more efficiently in the space.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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