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Summary:

Chromebooks, according to Rajen Sheth, are like a house that remodels itself. With automatically updating software and web-based applications, the Chromebook helps reduce the need for hands-on IT departments — and reduce costs.

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With all the buzz surrounding the launch of Google Chromebooks today, you’ll have to excuse a Google executive for getting his metaphors a little mixed. Looking to explain why enterprise should dump the old PC model for a web-based O/S, Chrome for Business project manager Rajen Sheth compared the desktop computer to a car that loses value the minute it leaves the lot. The Chromebook, however, is like a house that remodels itself.

“You show up one day, the bathroom is remodeled. The next day, you have granite countertops,” says Rajen Sheth, a Chrome for Business project manager.

With Chrome OS for enterprise, Google is stressing the three S’s: simplicity, security and speed. Google claims new users can be up and running on the system within four minutes — and that includes unboxing time. Gone are the days when a new employee must wait for an appointment with an IT person to get up and running on the system. Everything can be done remotely. And when an employee loses a notebook or accidentally drops it in the shower, a new one shows up, gets turned on and is ready to go. No worrying about lost files. No installing drivers. No installing programs.

“An administrator never needs to touch it,” Sheth said. The newest versions of all Google programs like Google Docs and apps for business, plus anti-virus protection will update automatically in real time. “The Chromebook you have today won’t be as good as the Chromebook you have six weeks from now,” he said. Meanwhile, Google stresses, companies are free to add their own applications and even set up their own private clouds.

Starting today, Google is offering Chromebook for enterprise at $28 per month subscription with a three-year contract.

So why shouldn’t a business just get a Dell for the same price? Well, because the Dell doesn’t come with anything else, Sheth said. You still have to purchase anti-virus, backup, and management software. And desktop maintenance and update costs run an estimated $3,000-$4,000 over the hardware lifecycle. The company claims Chromebook will save businesses more than 50 percent, or around $3,000, in total cost of ownership over the three-year period.

Many IT departments aren’t terribly willing to jump into the unknown with a completely new system. And departments that rely on specialized software to do their work — or even finance departments who require the advanced features in Excel — may be less than enthusiastic about the trade-offs they’d have to make to switch to a Chromebook.

But in the end, the promise of significant cost savings might be the carrot that entices business owners to try Google’s non-traditional enterprise model despite all the unknowns and concerns over off-line capabilities. After all, granite countertops are nice, but when you’re running, say, an insurance agency, cutting IT costs are even nicer.

  1. @ $28 per month should be a big hit with SMB market which mostly don’t have IT departments ( and the hassle’s of putting up with them ;)

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  2. This is going to be super disruptive. You just don’t need the traditional PC anymore, unless you need that processing power for your line of work. Google understands that and they capitalized upon that to secure an early win.

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  3. so how does google define a ‘business’ as far as who is eligible. can a small owner/operated shop get one of these? i actually think a lot of everyday people would be interested in leasing these. why only offer to business and students?

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  4. That’ll be the day when software gets better and faster as the hardware gets older!! Winter is coming perhaps?

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  5. good information?visit me?

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  6. Outfitting small business workforces with IT this way has got to be the future. But how the he’ll do you drop you laptop in the shower?

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    1. At least he didn’t drop it in the toilet…

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  7. A granite counter-top with no faucet/sink is no fun. A machine that cannot do MS Excel – with all it’s formulas, graphs etc can never appeal to any SMB. Let’s face it – MS Excel is *the* killer app in our professional lives. Not only accountants, but secretaries, managers, engineers, travel agents, the entire service industry amongst others, use Excel like oxygen and swear by it. MSFT doesn’t seem to highlight this (probably they are too busy making Phone7 and Kinects and now skype), but if anyone would ever thank MSFT for anything, it would have to be excel. A machine with sexy looks, google credo and what not has great appeal, but it if only does a “trailer version” of excel, not many in the SMB would be interested.

    Ofcourse the chromebook can come in handy for students or moms or grandpas, but SMBs have their requirements clear. Chromebook (and google docs), in it’s current state does not meet these requirements, and is actually way off.

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    1. Have you used Google Spreadsheets? I’d be interested to know what features of Excel you use that isn’t available in Google Spreadsheets.

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  8. The real question is if this is the model for enterprises going forward. If the answer is yes, Microsoft will be better off focusing on XBox.

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  9. But who is going to make any money? Not developers, as Android has shown. Google’s revenue from Android is a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of their business, never mind compared to Apple and iOS. Hardware makers? Not at those prices. And how does that $28 a month for businesses divide up between Google and the hardware maker? That’s a lot of upfront costs to eat while the hardware maker waits 3 years to make their money back.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like free and cheap as much as the next guy. But if the value isn’t there for me as a consumer because no company is interested in developing for the service, “free” is worthless.

    Businesses are already cooling to the legal implications of all their data being stored on someone else’s cloud, ala Google Apps. Never mind ANY down time. I remember once when gmail went down for only three hours at my old work. Everyone went into a panic. Network reliability is not quite there yet.

    Is this the future? Maybe. Probably. I hope not. I never was thrilled with the idea of web apps and the return to the bad ol’ days of the dumb terminals in the ’70s. But this has been technology’s wet dream for about 10+ years now.

    And of course, my wife hates when I keep rearranging the house.

    Joe

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  10. Prof. Peabody Thursday, May 12, 2011

    The thing that worries me the most about the Chromebook and what everyone is saying about it this morning is that those of us that can remember the various “thin client” crazes of the past, can see some of the exact same language being used here. There is a lot of stuff being said today that’s really the rose-coloured glasses talking not common sense.

    The stuff about “never needing to update it” is classic, as is the “applications won’t be a problem” stuff. Neither of those were really true of thin clients back in the day and they probably aren’t really true for Chromebook either.

    Specifically, how is this device going to be upgradeable when the contract is for three years minimum? A three year old netbook (heck even a one year old netbook) is going to be a POS no matter what magical software updates it has. It may be running Chrome, but the hardware underneath is the same as any other cheap netbook.

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