Google has bolstered its Chromebooks for Work program to give businesses more value for their money and more capabilities for their employees.
The broadened program features were unveiled by Saswat Panigrahi, the product manager for Google's Chrome for Work division, in an Oct. 8 post on the Official Google for Work Blog. Google has had a Chromebooks for Work program for some time as part of an effort to provide management and support to business users, but the new offerings add to those services.
The latest feature additions for Chromebooks at Work focus on improving identity management, device manageability, virtualization, performance and pricing, wrote Panigrahi. Companies will be able to access these expanded capabilities through a new annual subscription of $50 per device, in addition to a one-time $150 fee, he wrote. Both fees are in addition to the cost of the Chromebook and will cover premium business features, management console use and 24/7 support. The new pricing is so far only available in the United States and Canada, according to Google.
"Single sign-on, a popular customer request, lets you log in with the same credentials and identity provider that you use in the rest of your organization," wrote Panigrahi. "This feature uses the universal SAML standard and works with most of the major identity providers including CA SiteMinder, Microsoft AD FS, Okta, Ping Identity, SecureAuth, and SimpleSAMLphp. We're also adding multiple sign-in, which allows you to securely and quickly switch between work and personal accounts on your Chromebook."
In addition, Chromebooks will be able to have improved certificate management for wireless networks to improve security, he wrote. "Businesses, schools and government institutions can now easily provision Chromebooks with client certificates to access 802.1X EAP-TLS wireless networks and mutual TLS protected Web resources. Using the Admin Console, IT admins can pre-configure their secure networks, push certificate management extensions and pre-select certificates to be used with certain Websites and networks. Partners such as Aruba Networks, Cloudpath Networks and Aerohive Networks have already integrated this functionality."
The new tools, for instance, will make it easier for IT teams to provision devices using an Admin Console so that Chromebooks for new employees can get a set of approved and useful bookmarks, as well as other standard device settings, he wrote. The Admin Console also can allow IT workers to configure settings for signed-in workers on all other platforms, including mobile devices, wrote Panigrahi.
Virtualization was already possible with the cloud-based Chromebooks through a program announced in February with VMware, but a new Citrix Receiver optimized for Chromebooks also debuted recently, he wrote. The Citrix partnership "provides more direct integration with Chromebooks and enables new features including seamless integration with Google Cloud Print; cut-and-paste between local and virtualized applications; better audio and video playback; improved license and application usage monitoring; and protection from end-to-end SSL connections," wrote Panigrahi.
The VMware partnership allows critical legacy Windows applications to be hosted and delivered via the cloud so that Chromebook users can access them through Web browsers, according to an earlier eWEEK report. The service is made possible by mating Chromebooks with VMware's Horizon DaaS product.
Google also recently teamed with Nvidia and VMware, he wrote, to develop technology that speeds the delivery of graphics-heavy virtualized applications to Chromebooks, allowing users to run 3D modeling and simulation applications often associated with more robust hardware.
Chromebooks and their desktop brethren Chromeboxes run Google's Chrome operating system and feature a wide range of preinstalled, cloud-based Google services and products, including Google Docs and Google Calendar. Chromebooks allow users to do their work online with less need for on-machine storage for large applications and files.