Google Chromebooks Sure to Turn Off Corporate IT Managers

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-05-16 Print this article Print

News Analysis: The combination of unmanaged silent updates, high cost, constant wireless-access requirements and close ties to Google will make the Chromebook a loser in the enterprise.

There's no question that Google thought its Chromebook would be the darling of the enterprise. That just shows how little the designers of the device know about how enterprise IT works in the real world. It may be a nice play for consumers, assuming you can pry them away from their iPads and Andoid tablets, but even there it'll be tough sledding.

The hurdles the Chromebook faces in the enterprise start with the lack of manageability. In short, enterprise IT and security managers won't be told when updates are coming, they won't be able to manage which updates are installed and which are held for further testing and which are rejected outright. This is a significant blunder on Google's part.

But there are other blunders, too, starting with the cost. To many people, the $28 monthly corporate-lease price tag seems low, but that doesn't cover communications charges if you get a 3G version. When you compare it against the price of a Windows laptop, it's pretty steep. HP, for example, will lease you a business-class laptop for $16 per month, including Windows 7.

When you start adding a lot of devices, that price difference adds up. In fact, even if Google Apps is included in the price of the device, it's still expensive. Add the local access impact and its more expensive yet. In other words, the Chromebook really doesn't compute.

The automatic silent updates are probably the biggest problem for any but the smallest businesses. The reason is that IT managers are charged with making sure that their computing environment is both secure and functional.

This is why many large companies handle their own updates; before they allow any operating system updates, they test them to make sure they don't break any mission-critical applications, including custom-developed Web applications. These managers also need to make sure that the new updates work with the existing security systems and that the update process doesn't create any avoidable network impact.

So if Google sends out a Chrome OS update that works fine with Google Apps, but doesn't work so well with Microsoft Office 365, there's a problem if the company is a Microsoft shop. Likewise, any internal applications that the company is using in the course of its business must work with the update or it can't be installed. Problem is, Google isn't giving any choice to the IT manager in this. The devices will be updated as Google chooses without notice to anyone.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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