Laptops optimize

Chromebooks in the enterprise: Progress six months later

Google has to push not only the low costs and minimal hassle of Chromebooks; they also have to continue selling the web as a working platform.

Google's Chromebooks have been a long time coming. Google first officially acknowledged their project to make a lightweight, auto-updating, browser-focused operating system just over two years ago, but rumors about the Chrome OS project started many months before that. Chromebooks were first previewed in May, and then shipped on June 15. So where do Chromebooks stand, nearly six months later?

Slow starters

In the consumer market, Chromebooks are slow starters, though exactly how slow is hard to say. Many sources cite a 30,000-unit sales figure, though that's a curiously round number without a source, easily thumb-nailed by multiplying, say, a 5,000-unit sales figure by six months. In any case, a casual survey of coffee shops, workplaces, and other places where one spots laptops hasn't revealed Chromebooks to be popping up all over. But Google's also making a significant push in the education, enterprise, and government markets. Still, while they've done some show-and-tell with pilot customers, Google hasn't released figures for their enterprise efforts.

But Google's been in this position before, with the Google Apps product that's now a good deal more established in the corporate world. The man who headed that effort, Rajen Sheth, is now Group Product Manager of Chrome for Business, and in charge of selling Chromebooks as a component of a Google Apps installation to corporate interests. And you can hear him make the case for Chrome OS, and Chromebooks, in a Q&A at the GigaOM Net:Work conference last week in San Francisco.

Cut to the 5:40 mark if you want to hear an audience member ask Sheth "What's wrong with Chrome?", and "What am I missing?" Sheth references hockey legend Wayne Gretzky's famous quote in saying that Google is "Going to where the puck is going to be" - where web-based apps and client-side apps are virtually indistinguishable.

"That world is getting there, but it's not fully there right now," Sheth said. " ... It reminds me of Google Apps in 2007 ... What you're going to see is continued evolution, every couple months, that's going to make the experience better and better."

Value proposition

It's easy to see that Chromebooks, even at a discounted $349 price, aren't a huge value proposition for home users over a netbook that can run Chrome, in addition to a lot of other apps, or an Apple iPad, which offers the same kind of portability and battery life, once you add on a keyboard case.

And while Google's improved the connectivity and remote desktop access, and added a bit of offline Apps access, Chromebooks only make sense for people who value a no-hassle, very portable laptop that almost always needs to be connected.

If you're a firm that dishes out quite a few laptops to employees - the cost of renting a Chromebook for $28 per month, all costs included and upgrades expected, makes a bit more sense. But Google has to push not only the low costs and minimal hassle of an Apps-based laptop; they have to continue selling the web as a working platform on the whole. It's going to be interesting to see if Sheth and his team can move the puck by themselves, that much further ahead.

Also read:

About

Kevin Purdy is a freelance writer, a former editor at Lifehacker.com, and the author of The Complete Android Guide.

7 comments
Ronim
Ronim

The primary attributes that set ChromeOS apart are Security and No Maintenance. What corporations and individuals are waiting for is a low cost desktop system running ChromeOS that can attach a 24" monitor or a TV set and a full size keyboard and mouse. I think they would sell millions of them to replace aging Windows desktop systems. Mobile users should get an Android phone and tablet. All should be running the Chrome browser and have many functions synchronized.

Gisabun
Gisabun

They are more expensive than netbooks [remembering that netbooks include Windows which is a license cost while Chromebooks have Chrome - no license]. At a $349 price, you can get a decent tablet for not much more. Chrome OS is nothing but another Linux OS. Chromebooks seem to be only popular with techies who know Linux - not with the consumer. And not with enterprises who want another OS to support [even if it is anothger Linux - support on the "desktop" side where they may have just Windows and Macs] What is made for ChromeOS? Consumer are familiar with Outlook Express or Windows Live Mail. They want to play their favorite games - not ones they never heard of. Enterprises have little centralized management for them. Can they control who installs what on all Chromebooks? Can you log into one Chromebook and get the same desktop setup on another CHromebook without having to configuring anything? Samsung has announced it has pulled out of any further netbook/Chromebook products becausde of the lack of sales. Other sites have also reported the 5,000 sales figure which makes RIM's Playbook look like a huge best seller. Google's decision not to say what the sales are like prove that it hasn't sold. There goes 2 years of development and manpower - let alone probably in excess of $100 million in cost.

TNT
TNT

A Chromebook cannot compare to a traditional laptop, or even a netbook, for travelers and Google needs to market their device as a "campus computer". Whether it is in education, or a large corporate campus, the Chromebook makes all kinds of sense. Its cheap, its easy to take to the board room, there is virtually no maintenance or software support on the user side, it just works. On the IT side they have full control over applications, compliance issues, and access without the overhead of a Microsoft network.

whocares88
whocares88

Could someone please explain why I would want my smartphone (Android) to have more capabilities of having local apps and local data than my laptop (chromebook)? I can't think of why I would be using my phone without Internet connectivity but would with my laptop. Wouldn't I want more customization with my laptop and more speed on my phone since I use my phone more on the go.. Oh and I should be more worried about malware on my laptop than my phone. I have more confidential things going on my phone. . Just seems like they contradict. I like Android Google, go with it for everything.

swmace
swmace

Because the web's not a working platform and won't be. If my company gave out Chromebooks instead of laptops, our business would come to a screeching halt, because our laptop users are actually conducting business on their laptops, not playing Angry Birds and blogging with Google Docs. How is a salesperson supposed to do a quote from their ERP system unless their ERP system has a web app on Google's market? And why would you prevent your team from doing any work whatsoever at any time they don't have an Internet connection? Such as on a plane travelling home from a sales call?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do Chromebook's have a future in the enterprise? What holds them back? Are their pending advantages that will someday make Chromebooks more viable for enterprise users?

rstoeber
rstoeber

swmace, I hope your boss doesn't pay you for strategic planning. You sound convinced that every company has the same requirements as your company, and that the web is not a "working platform" today, and that the web won't continue evolving at a rapid pace. There are very simple answers to all of your questions. First, not every company is your company, so while Chromebooks may never be appropriate for your company, I know a lot of places where they are a perfect fit for my client's requirements. Second, not every salesperson does quotes from an ERP system. In fact, I would bet that most salespeople don't even have an ERP system to worry about. Third, even today there are very few places where my clients don't have Internet access, including on airplanes, and any coverage gaps are getting filled pretty quickly. My clients, $5 - $100 million companies, are currently replacing a lot of traditional laptops with iPads because they are less expensive, easier to train/operate, more reliable and less expensive to maintain. They are also giving out iPads to a lot of people that never had any computer (carpenters, painters, and other maintenance techs). In some of these situations a keyboard is desirable so a Chromebook might be a perfect fit.