Since Google introduced Chromebook in 2011, the adoption of Chromebooks by businesses has been more of an interesting idea than a widespread reality.
We first wrote about the business potential for Chromebooks soon after they hit the market.
Our contention was that with so many applications moving to the cloud, many employees would no longer need a heavyweight local operating system such as Windows or macOS. Technologies such as Citrix could be used to access Windows applications from the Chrome browser.
In a more recent post, we identified a number of locally installed business applications for which full cloud substitutes do not yet exist. Some of these may have been show-stoppers for certain would-be business Chromebook converts.
Chromebooks have taken off in the K-12 educational market. But while there has been some adoption within corporations, anecdotal evidence suggests that the enterprise adoption rate for Chromebooks has been low.
What Has Been Missing?
What has been missing are a number of assurances that many enterprise CIOs–particularly in Microsoft-centric IT environments–need in order to view Chromebook as a viable enterprise endpoint for a segment of their users.
CIOs need to know that a fleet of Chromebooks can be managed in a similar way to a fleet of Windows PCs from a security and control perspective.
A method and an infrastructure for delivering Windows applications to users via the Chrome browser within Chromebook is another critical piece.
Overall, many CIOs still needed to be sold on the overall value of a lower total cost of ownership, application accessibility by users, and device management that meets rigorous enterprise standards.
What Has Changed About Chromebook?
Fast forward from June 2011 to August 2017. Are Chromebooks dramatically different than when they first came out?
No. But, a few things have changed. Recent Chromebooks have more processor power and larger screen sizes. Some recent models are convertible to tablets.
Related to tablet conversion, many newer models have:
- Touch screens
- Stylus support
- Support for Google Play Apps (Android Apps)
The support for Google Play Apps is important, as when a Chromebook is converted from a laptop to a tablet, it can be used as an Android device, with touchscreen control of apps that were designed to be controlled by touch.
What Has Changed About Chromebook Device Management with Chrome Enterprise?
This is where the biggest changes have occurred.
At a cost of $50 per Chromebook user per month, here is what’s available with Chrome Enterprise that’s not available with Chrome OS alone.
- Managed Google Play (in beta)
- Managed Chrome Extensions and Browser Management
- Printer Management
- Microsoft Active Directory Integration
- Flexible Cloud-Based Fleet Management
- Single Sign-On Support
- Public & Ephemeral Sessions and Kiosk Modes
- Managed Networks and Proxies
- Managed OS Updates
- Theft Prevention
- 24/7 Enterprise Support
VMWare’s Workspace One is being incorporated to facilitate the delivery of device policies across a range of user locations and types.
With Chrome Enterprise, any employee can walk up to or sit down at any company-provided Chromebook and get access to their full profile of applications.
Getting The Attention of CIOs
In combination, it is Google’s hope that this set of offerings will help overcome the resistance that many CIOs have had to make even a partial commitment to Chromebooks.
According to this article, Whirlpool’s CIO is planning to increase the percentage of the company’s 33,000 employees who are using Chromebook from 5% to 10%.
Google released these findings from the company’s own internal support of different types of devices:
- 33 minutes for IT teams to deploy a Chrome device vs. two hours and 21 minutes for a Windows device
- 19 support tickets for every 1,000 active Chrome devices vs. 95 for every 1,000 Windows devices
From a marketing perspective, there remains an opportunity to make more CIOs aware of Chromebook as an option. The Chrome Enterprise brand will create more market awareness.
There will need to be a shift in thinking among many CIOs. The way Chromebook Enterprise has been packaged, Microsoft-centric enterprises can adopt Chromebooks. Being a Google Workspace customer, as is Whirlpool, is not a prerequisite for Chrome Enterprise.
A question is, will many CIOs take a wait-and-see stance to find out what Microsoft comes up with in response? Maybe so, but they could be in for a long wait.