Google Chromebooks Tough Sell for Some Enterprises

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-05-23 Print this article Print

Losing a Windows-based laptop is a huge deal, because the locally-stored data will be lost with it. Losing a Chromebook, where the apps and data reside in the cloud, has all of the inconvenience of a mosquito bite, or so Google espouses.

While some argue that the lack of a lot of internal storage is a negative for the Chromebooks, Weinstein said those folks miss the point: the Chromebook pushes data to the cloud, which is a a huge step forward for enterprise security.

Weinstein noted that most security breaches are mostly due to lost laptops, unsecured laptops, thumb drives, or corporate network breaches.

"The security concern about the cloud is the ultimate red herring because you almost never hear about that. You never hear someone got into the database and viewed customers' data. Because of the data sharding Google does across multiple servers, even if there was a physical intrusion of Google data center and someone grabbed a hard drive, it wouldn't be useful because you wouldn't make any sense out of it. Chromebooks' storage limitations are its strengths."

IDC analyst David Daoud said he sees the sweet spot for Chromebooks in the enterprise, where the cloud computing model is making its way with deliberation.

Cost-constrained companies with IT managers charged with filling IT infrastructure are tasked to look at the cloud as an IT alternative for cost savings. This is particularly true in government, where budgets may be slashed by 10, 15 20 percent in government. "Cloud is a potential solution to cost-containment. Customer relation app, e-mail apps to cloud.

The challenge, Daoud noted, that the enterprise market remains very comfortable with the Microsoft Windows platform and the existing IT infrastructure. Not only legacy Windows apps, but legacy Unix/Linux-based programs built for a specific application.

To bring Chromebooks to the mass market, Google is going to need serious understanding of how IT infrastructure in the enterprise works and how to get there.

"What else is Google offering to enterprise to make it compelling?" Daoud asked, noting that enterprise procurement specialists are accustomed to asking soup-to-nuts implementations.

"Chromebooks bring their own sets of values, and companies will try it, but I'm very skeptical as far as it going mainstream, mass market in the near term," Daoud said. "It will be difficult for Google to tackle that mindset without clearly understanding it the way HP, Dell, IBM and the other big system integrators do."

Forrester analyst Frank Gillet said there is a place for Chromebooks in the marketplace, noting that the model is a twist on the thin client model, albeit with a rich client. Unlike thin clients, Chromebooks include processors, sensors and flash memory.

He envisions Chromebooks, when crossed with a Citrix Receiver or VMware ACE virtualized desktop product that let users visit apps remotely, will be appealing for a certain class of information workers. For example, this will be valuable for companies who need to temporarily issue computers to a contractor.

Google's Sheth agreed. "You can use this with browser-based apps behind the firewall, with Citrix-based apps. A lot of customers are moving almost everything to a browser or to a virtualized form factor so in those kinds of cases, this works extremely well."

However, like Daoud, Gillet questions whether Google is equipped to larger numbers of commercial customers maintaining fleets of Chromebooks.  

"They sell search appliances and Google Apps, so they have some experience dealing with commercial organizations, but not lot of broad experience," Gillett said. "My biggest question is: Is Google cut out to do this, which is a far piece from organizing the world's information online and advertising?"



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