Chromebooks: Google’s next uphill battle


Google's Rajen Sheth at Net:Work 2011

Photo by Pinar Ozger,

“Some businesses literally threw me out of the meeting five minutes in when they realized I asked them to move their emails outside of their firewall,” remembered Google’s (s GOOG) Rajen Sheth at GigaOM’s Net:Work conference in San Francisco Thursday. Sheth is known as the father of Google Apps, and he told his audience Thursday that establishing these apps what a bit of an uphill battle.

Even Google’s executives initially didn’t believe in the idea, and it took months to finally get the approval for one single engineer. Seven years later, Chrome Google Apps have evolved into a huge success story with four million business customers.

However, Sheth already has his next battle picked: He is now Group Product Manager of Chrome for Business at Google, and in this role is trying to sell Chromebooks to enterprise customers. “I feel like it’s a déjà-vu,” he said when asking about the challenges around establishing the device in the enterprise world. Some people already get it, he said, others aren’t quite there yet.

Google officially introduced the Chromebook at its Google I/O conference in May, and is charging enterprises $28 per month and device. Sheth said that Google wants to do to the desktop with Chromebooks what it did with Apps for enterprise IT. The upside for webworkers and companies alike is that the individual device matters much less than before. “We want to get to a point where any device is your device,” he said, adding that he doesn’t even carry a computer anymore. “I know when I log into my Chromebook at home its the same as my Chromebook at work,” he explained.

So how can Google win this battle and repeat the success of Google Apps? Sheth said that the product is continuously getting better, and also implied that there could be products other than laptops and the workstations currently available. “We are building it as a generic operating system,” he said, explaining that it would be up to the CE partners to come up with compelling form factors.

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Photo by Pinar Ozger.



If I can run all my business application out of the cloud for my staff…with enhanced security, no update issues and access any where any time…. that alone would be great. When you factor in 5 minute replacement of new local chromebook and cheap hardware…it’s an IT dream.

rick gregory

Something I’ve never understood and I’d love his answer to is why someone would buy hardware that can ONLY run ChromeOS vs buying similar hardware that runs a regular OS and can also run the Chrome browser. The former seems to drastically limit my options whereas the latter leaves me with all of the advantage of Chrome and more options for a very similar price.

Gary Lai

Here are things you get with a Chromebook that you do not get with a Windows machine of similar price running a Chrome browser: (a) lightning fast boot up time, less than 8 seconds from cold start to having the Chrome browser open due to the inherent simplicity of Chrome OS and the solid state drive on Chromebooks, or 1 second resume from sleep, (b) super long battery life, typically 6-9 hours depending on the model, (c) the security of verified boot which basically eliminates the need for antivirus software, (d) integrated 3G in some models. For people that own Windows laptops but find themselves spending nearly all their time in the Chrome browser anyway and not using any native applications, the Chromebook is a superior device for them.


Zero maintenance and associated very low provisioning, maintenance, and support cost of Chromebooks are also a big part of the advantage of Chromebooks over Windows.


A Chromebook has value for what it _doesn’t_ have: need for loading software, anti-virus protection, Windows bloat. The simplicity of the device is appealing. Like driving a nimble jeep instead of a large Hummer or trunk that can haul anything. Doesn’t solve all computing needs, but covers a great percentage of them if one adopts the model.


A massive saving in desktop provisioning, maintenance and support labour costs is the reason.

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