Google lands a one-two-three punch by adding the Chromebox desktop system to its end-user hardware line that now includes a refreshed Chromebook Ultrabook, both of which run what Google calls the "always new" Chrome operating system. In the process, the search giant adds another dimension to the enterprise BYOD playing field.
The latest editions to Googles hardware
lineup include the new Samsung
Chromebox Series 3 desktop and a refreshed Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook Ultrabook
and are simple to use, consumer-oriented devices that depend on the cloud for
the bulk of their application and storage capabilities.
devices became available June 14
and run only Googles Chrome operating
system, which is combined with a mandatory agreement to accept updates,
something Google calls the always new computer experience. Googles approach
is a not unreasonable way to prevent performance-robbing bit rot that affects
most Windows-based systems over time as a mish-mash of drivers, application
settings and orphaned files degrade system reliability.
Labs tests of both systems, we found that the tight coupling of the Chrome app
store with the Chrome operating system running on the devices left little room
for application conflict or end-user configuration errors.
I tested the all-new Samsung Chromebox Series
3, which is the first iteration of the Google Chrome OS in a desktop product.
The compact-form-factor device measures 7.6 by 7.6 by 1.3 inches and resembles
a set-top device.
The Chromebox uses a 16GB solid-state drive (SSD)
and comes with 4GB of RAM and an Intel Celeron B840 dual-core (1.9GHz)
processor. I tested the unit with a 19-inch Hewlett-Packard monitor. The
graphics hardware is rated to support up to a 30-inch display.
The Samsung Chromebox offers plenty of
conventional ports for connecting peripherals. The unit supports Bluetooth and
comes with six USB ports, a Digital Video Interactive (DVI) port and two
DisplayPort plus ports. The Samsung Chromebox can also be connected to an HDTV
via one of the two DisplayPort plus ports. The fanless Samsung Chromebox is
well-suited for space-constrained environments where performance and robust
support for productivity applications is a secondary concern.
Applications for Chrome devices come from the
Chrome Web Store. I was able to add applications and browser extensions to
Chrome from the store and then access them just by logging on to either the
Chromebox or the Chromebook. While Im a big fan of Google apps like Docs and
Calendar, most enterprise users will need to find workarounds to get
traditional and widely used applications such as Word to work on Chrome
Organizations that use Citrix to host
applications can use the Citrix Receiver on Chrome to access these
applications. Last year, Ericom released AccessNow, a Remote Desktop Protocol application
that runs on Chrome and provides an RDP client that enables end users to
connect to remote Windows desktops and applications. Most IT managers will find
that while these apps provide much of the access end users want, the management
framework to ensure that governance and security requirements are followed are
still in the earliest stages of development.
Chromebook Series 5 550
The second-generation Samsung Chromebook
comes in a fairly slim, lightweight Samsung case and is built around an Intel Celeron
867 dual-core processor with a 16GB SSD and 4GB of RAM.
Network connectivity is inordinately
important for Google Chrome devices and the new Samsung 5 550 (priced at
$449.99 for the WiFi model and $549.99 for the 3G Wireless Model) and the Acer
AC700 Chromebook (starting at $299 and not tested here) can optionally use
Verizon 3G cellular service in addition to the wireless LAN capability found in
the previous-generation Chromebook. Unlike the latest Apple MacBook systems,
the Samsung Chromebook 550 also has an RJ-45 wire-line port in case a wireless
network is unavailable or unable to provide enough bandwidth.
The new Samsung Chromebook comes with two
years of 100MB-per-month 3G service from Verizon, which is about enough for
moderate email and social media (without video or large picture files) usage.
Of course, paid monthly data service plans are available starting at 1GB of
data for $20 per month.
The device has a bright 12.1-inch matte
screen that I found easy to use for hours at a time. I was easily able to use
the device all day long with the WiFi connection for Web browsing, checking
email and participating in social media. And the Samsung Chromebook Series 5
550 is the very first laptop I have ever used (including the MacBook Air) that
correctly dissipates heat in the center rear of the device, thus minimizing leg
and wrist discomfort by keeping warmth away from body contact