Chrome for everyone: Google announces new products for their OS ecosystem

Chrome is thriving, and Google continues to innovate with new devices, device management, and developer tools. Here's what you need to know.

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

The Chrome ecosystem is alive and growing, despite some speculation to the contrary.

This week, Google promoted Chrome Device Management, announced the availability of a new Chrome OS device, and convened Chrome developers.

Chrome for the enterprise: Device management

On November 19, 2015, three Googlers provided an hour-long overview of Chrome Device Management (CDM) capabilities.

The CDM console provides an IT administrator tools to manage Chrome devices and simplify settings for users. An administrator can configure network connections, auto-install Chrome apps and extensions, and provide bookmarks to web resources. That saves people--and administrators--significant setup and support time. People just login and work.

Chrome Device Management also improves security. When an administrator enrolls a Chromebook, for example, the device may be set to only allow people within the organization to login. An administrator may disable access to external storage devices and configure a default download location (e.g. to point to Google Drive, rather than local Chromebook storage).

Notably, Chrome OS now supports several types of VPN connections, including connections to Cisco AnyConnect and Dell SonicWALL, in addition to OpenVPN and L2TP over IPSEC. A Chrome Device Management license costs either a $150 one-time fee to cover the life of a device, or $50 per device per year.

Google sells two additional types of Chrome Device Management licenses. The Chromebox for meetings license allows enterprise management of the dedicated Hangouts equipment designed for small or large meeting rooms. A Chromebox for meetings license costs $250 a year.

A single app CDM license supports a Chrome device that runs an app of your choice, such as a kiosk for public browsing or a display for signage. A device in kiosk-mode may be configured to auto-launch the selected app on startup, which eliminates the need to manually start the app. Since many kiosks are placed in public, you may also choose to be notified by email or SMS if the device goes offline. A single app CDM license costs $24 per device per year.

uy a Chrome Device Management license to manage and secure a Chromebook, a Chromebox for meetings, or a single app device, like a kiosk.

A Chrome device for any HDMI display: Chromebit

Google also announced the imminent availability of the Asus Chromebit, an $85 candy bar shaped device that runs Chrome OS and plugs directly into an HDMI display. Plug it into your TV, connect a keyboard and mouse, and you have an inexpensive Chrome OS system for entertainment or basic home use.

More likely, though, the Chromebit can serve as a signage system. Set it up as a single app CDM device and manage it from your browser. It's small, inexpensive, and has plenty of processor power for signage.

Future directions: Chrome Dev Summit 2015

On November 17 and 18, 2015, Google hosted the Chrome Dev Summit 2015. These sessions served to share new Chrome capabilities with developers

Several speakers featured ways to help make Chrome work better in places with a slow, intermittent, or even non-existent network connection. Notably, progressive web apps seek to store and serve information in smart ways: They make the web work a bit more like an app. A progressive web app wants to escape the confines of your browser and earn a spot on your home screen. Progressive web apps rely on service workers to support offline work, notifications, and background sync--when connected, obviously.

Another major theme was speed. Several sessions explored ways to improve web performance from a user's point of view. The team identified four performance factors: Response (less than 100ms), animations (complete in 16ms), idle (break work into 50ms chunks--so as to make your app available to respond to possible user action), and load (1000ms or less). Hence an acronym: RAIL.

Security and accessibility featured prominently, too. Google encouraged web developers to serve secure sites (i.e. buy and configure a security certificate so as to serve pages https:, not http:). And, to use a variety of tools and practices to make the web usable by everyone. For example, a site might not only work with a screen-reader, but also provide sufficient color contrast between the text and background colors to be readable by most people.

Google provides videos of all streamed sessions on YouTube.


Chrome thrives

Google attaches the name Chrome to devices, to software, to management tools, and to a web app platform. If the past week of activity indicates anything, it's that Google sees Chrome as a thriving ecosystem. Living ecosystems change. Chrome, Chrome OS, Chrome devices, and Chrome enterprise management tools are all very much alive--and growing.

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