Good and Bad Opinions on Chromebooks

Yesterday, I saw a post on five reasons why Chromebooks are a good idea. Then later, one on six why they’re not.

These aren’t point-counter point posts, but they do seem to take enterprise vs. consumer perspectives. Last week, during the IO keynote, I remember thinking that although the chipper marketing targeted a consumer’s perspective, that Chromebooks were a solid enterprise play.

Although Google said years ago that enterprise was a essentially a side business, they’ve clearly built a nice business unit, sometimes by accident, creating innovations like Wave and OpenSocial that fail to ignite a consumer fire, but make a lot of sense for enterprises.

Not by accident, Google Apps continue to chug along, adding features that have created a viable and attractive alternative for businesses of all sizes, and the omission of Google Apps from Chromebooks, at least initially, is the big piece that would really push Chromebooks over the top for enterprises.

So, while I agree that Chromebooks might be met with consumer apathy, especially at the proposed pricepoint, I see them as a huge gamechanger for enterprise.

Many of you are either in IT or understand its challenges. Large IT shops will likely pass due to existing large investments, single vendor lockin and support and security concerns, but for smaller shops, educational institutions and government agencies, the combination of Chromebooks and Google Apps will be very attractive.

I’m sure you have thoughts. Find the comments.




  1. Interesting, hadn’t heard of Native Client. This seems like it runs against what Chrome OS hopes to achieve on the security front though, and isn’t the web store a good enough substitute?

    I think the average consumer would be fine with a Chromebook. It’s Facebook, email, pictures, and YouTube plus Google Docs. Not much else is needed.

    Go-to-market strategy and support will be the biggest challenges for Google in the consumer space. If they partner with Facebook (unlikely), they’ll sell like hotcakes. People would buy a Facebook machine, but “nothing but the web” might be a bit too amorphous.

  2. “Large IT shops will likely pass due to existing large investments, single vendor lockin and support and security concerns,…” Good lord man, do you know how much it costs large companies to maintenance fees to Microsoft to stay current on Windows and the cost of new hardware to stay current on Windows?  How about the labor resources to test, push and support the weekly Microsoft security patches? Mega-dollars.Seriously, we are talking millions of dollars here.  Companies are switching out legacy Windows Client/Server apps for Web Apps as fast as possible and only a subset of employees actually need the full capability of MS Office.  This is a potential corporate goal-mine for Google.  A lot of companies have already moved to using Citrix to reduce the support footprint of the client machine so if you toss out Windows it’s looks mighty interesting.

  3. Sure, but MSFT has support in place, or rather there are established support outlets that can assist. Yes, it’s costly, but Chromebooks are a leap for many people. A change in paradigm is scary. 

    From what I’ve seen, large companies remain on the fence. They are getting closer every year, as is Google’s offering, but it might take another year or two. Google has had its troubles with large implementations too, and the one concern I hear is support. Google hasn’t proven they can support the demands of large enterprises or even consumers.

    I know this is a gold mine for Google and have saying this for years. That said, it’s clearly not moving at the pace I expected.

  4. I feel like we tried this back in the early internet days – the Network Computer, Citrix thin clients, Sun Rays and others targeted at the enterprise, and there were a few different companies that offered appliances either cheap or with a subscription plan (i-Opener for one).

    The only differences between then and now are that computational horsepower is cheaper, technology is better, broadband is nearly ubiquotous and that now we call it “the cloud”.

    I’m still not convinced this passes the “mom”. Even my mom has one or two “Windows only” apps that she runs and that likely won’t go cloud. For example she has an expensive sewing machine of some sort that you can use a GUI to define patterns, then pop them over to the machine and it sews them for you. It’s unlikely you could move something like that to the cloud via a Chromebook since it has to interface with hardware somehow. The other is from some online printing service that allows her to design and then order custom photo books; moving that to the cloud entirely would require her to upload all of her photos in their full resolution to some site on the Internet and do the layout there rather than locally. I can’t say that I think that’s going to be reasonable for most people.

    I can’t imagine enterprises don’t have similar issues. Something that covers 80% of what an individual user needs to do isn’t enough. You need a solution that does 100% of what a set of users need to do. Then you need that population of users to be big enough to justify IT doing something different for them than they do for everyone else.

    The problem Chromebooks will face is that they do less than similarly
    priced laptops AND they have all the same problems of Linux on the
    desktop. I remain hopeful that they will help break the stranglehold Windows has on the  desktop, and they are definitely a step in that direction. But I don’t think they’re likely “succeed” if you define succeeding as replacing Windows-based laptops for a measurable portion of the population in the near term.

  5. The difference this time is the web apps available do more and are more functional. Plus, people have years more experience under their interwebs belts.

    I’m with on the mother use case, and I think Chromebooks will meet with general user “meh.” Tablets offer a different experience (lean back vs. lean forward), and this paradigm shift won’t make much sense.

    For enterprises, I’m more optimistic bc I think the base use cases fit better. Plus, you have IT gatekeeping to ensure the people with legit requirements get what they need. Chromebooks offer another alternative, possibly a very common one.

    From what I’ve seen, I can’t agree with the Linux on the desktop problem. No of that is exposed. It’s just a browser. That’s literally all the user sees.

    The bar for success is much lower here than you’d think. Measurable success will be small for a while.

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