Google Chromebook pilots ahead: What we can learn from the CR-48?

Google Chromebook pilots ahead: What we can learn from the CR-48?

Summary: Google's Chromebook will be officially available June 15 and a bevy of corporate pilots are likely to follow. Here's a look at one early pilot with the Chromebook's precursor and the lessons learned.

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TOPICS: Apps, Google, Mobility
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Google's Chromebook will be officially available June 15 and a bevy of corporate pilots are likely to follow. After all, the Chromebook will at least warrant enterprise investigation given the potential costs savings.

Can the Chromebook trump the thin client? How about the desktop? Will the Chromebook be used primarily with Google Apps customers? What are the extra costs if you have to get to older enterprise apps via Citrix?

With those questions looming, we caught up with Glenn Weinstein, chief technology officer of Appirio. Weinstein handed CR-48s---a precursor to the Chromebooks coming June 15---to all 250 U.S. employees in a pilot to see what would happen. Appirio workers get a choice of a Dell laptop or Apple MacBook Pro. Weinstein wanted to see how the Chromebook would be used in the field.

It should be noted that Appirio isn't exactly the average enterprise. It operates completely in the cloud, which makes sense because it integrates Amazon Web Services, Google Apps, Salesforce, Workday and other SaaS applications such as NetSuite. "We vowed that we would never have a server," said Weinstein. "The entire business is operated in the cloud."

For perspective, Appirio is a software as a service and cloud systems integrator that specializes in doing things like connecting Google Apps to Salesforce implementations. Appirio is rated as a "strong performer" in the Salesforce.com implementation market, by Forrester.

Here's where Appirio fits in the Salesforce.com landscape:

With that backdrop it's no surprise that Appirio---the largest reseller of Google Apps---was an early Chromebook tester. Here's a look at Weinstein's top takeaways from the CR-48 (right), a clunky, underpowered notebook that still found users. Also: My Google Chromebook has arrived: First impressions after an hour

  • The Chromebook was used as a complement to other devices. "We gave to the CR-48 to employees and see what they would do with it and when they would revert to their laptops," said Weinstein. "Three months in the CR-48 exceeded expectations. The majority of employees are using the CR-48s every day, but not all day."

That usage is notable given the hardware imperfections of the CR-48, which had trackpad issues and was pretty basic. Samsung and Acer's hardware will be much more polished and will be able to handle cameras being added to the Chromebook etc.

  • Consultants reverted back to laptops when on customer sites. Weinstein noted that consultants had trouble with the Chromebook on customer sites that used Outlook. In other words, Appirio, which uses Google Apps, was a natural fit for the Chromebook internally. Externally, the Chromebook may be trickier to use if partners aren't cloud ready or SaaS happy.
  • Desktop sharing was a hang-up in the CR-48 pilot. Weinstein said one of the big hurdles with the first Chromebook pilot was the lack of support for desktop sharing. Appirio uses Citrix's GoToMeeting a lot. "We do a lot of desktop sharing and not having a GoToMeeting client was tough," he said. "We expect that hurdle to be crossed."
  • The Chromebook will ride shotgun with Apps customers---at first. Weinstein is waiting to get into the next Chromebook program since Appirio is interested in the devices as a reseller and customer. Weinstein thinks that Chromebooks may appeal to current Google Apps customers. Appirio deployed Google Apps at Genentech, International Hotels Group and Motorola so there's a big enterprise base to start seeding Chromebook accounts. Weinstein expects that the Chromebook and Apps will ultimately be bundled---at least that's Appirio's plan as a reseller.
  • Chromebooks can find a role in the enterprise. “The perception is that the Chromebook won't be appropriate for certain companies," said Weinstein. "You need to look at job titles more than companies. Most of the workforce can work on a browser-only machine," he said.
  • Google has a good total cost of ownership case with the Chromebook. Weinstein said Appirio's costs are really low for desktop clients. Since the company doesn't have a virtual private network, most of the laptop costs are related to the machines, customer care programs from Apple and Dell and helpdesk costs. In a nutshell, Appirio is paying $125 a month per employee for PCs. Most enterprises are pushing $400 a month. Weinstein said at $28 a month for the Chromebook his full cost with helpdesk support will probably be more like $50 a month per user. "The savings will be much more dramatic for other enterprises," said Weinstein. "Couple the Chromebook savings with Apps and moving off Exchange and there's a nice TCO story." Also: Google's Chromebook for business: Interesting math, but your mileage will vary
  • Change management costs will depend on culture. Appirio spends a lot of time on change management with Apps deployments. The focus is on executives and their assistants, who spend the most time with Google Mail and Calendar. Weinstein thinks that Chromebooks will have a cool factor that will help get employees on board. Chromebooks will be gradually adopted much like Google Apps has.
  • The security story will sell. "The Chromebook can't store data on the hard drive and that means more secure computing," said Weinstein. "If you look at the high publicity data breaches a lot of them come down to stolen laptops and client side problems. If you remove that lost laptop scenario it's more secure." When asked about a stored password on a Chromebook, Weinstein noted that Apps and Chromebooks will support two-factor authentication. "When you lose a Chromebook you just get a new one," he said.

My take: The key for Chromebook pilots will be supporting the must-haves in the enterprise. Google's partnership with Citrix is key and further details on a VMware partnership will also be welcome. The Chromebook doesn't have to do everything, but just enough to become a complement. The economic story is there and that will generate plenty of interest. In the short run, Chromebooks will appeal to companies already using Google Apps. Whether it's Chromebook, desktop virtualization or something else, the long-term trend is in place: Companies are going to be looking to ditch the laptop management business.

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Topics: Apps, Google, Mobility

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46 comments
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  • It's all about choice. Thanks Google.

    Brought to you by: Linux
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, ~-~ Your Linux Advocate
    • If it were only so.

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, ~-~ Your Linux Advocate

      Re: It's all about choice ... Well, yes, and also about good old fashion dollar bills. I'll let you decide which is more important for the survivability of ChromeOS.
      kenosha77a
      • Were it not for Linux where would choice be?

        @kenosha7777
        nt
        Dietrich T. Schmitz, ~-~ Your Linux Advocate
      • Only

        Windows, OSX, BSD, Unix.

        Nothing, really. :P
        Michael Alan Goff
    • Then correct the statemnet to make it true

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, ~-~ Your Linux Advocate

      Windows: Its all about giving you choice.
      OS X: It's all about giving you choice.

      Choice existed long ago, it's just that most people didn't choose Linux.

      There's something to be said about "usability" too,
      Will Pharaoh
      • RE: Google Chromebook pilots ahead: What we can learn from the CR-48?

        @Will Pharaoh Touche'
        ItsTheBottomLine
      • RE: Google Chromebook pilots ahead: What we can learn from the CR-48?

        @Will Pharaoh

        :)
        bainsmac
      • The correct statement to be even more true

        [i]Windows: Its all about giving you choice.[/i]

        Try telling my employer that.

        [i]OS X: It's all about giving you choice.[/i]

        If you've got the bread to pay for it.

        [i]Choice existed long ago, it's just that most people didn't choose Linux.[/i]

        No, they didn't know about Linux. The average person has never heard of Linux before. Having no knowledge about it means the same as having no choice.
        ScorpioBlue
      • RE: Google Chromebook pilots ahead: What we can learn from the CR-48?

        @Will Pharaoh And most people don't choose Windows either, they just use what came installed on their PC.

        By the way I have replaced Windows with Linux on all my friends laptops and no one has ever complained about usability or anything else for that matter, and I know that in 5 years time their computers will still be running as fast as they were on day one.
        guzz46
      • I see, guzz46. So people choose the hardware

        @Will Pharaoh
        and give little thought to what it runs for them. It is not like the consumer decides he wants a Windows machine, then looks at what hardware is available with Windows as the installed option.

        You give too little credit to your fellow humans, instead labeling them as mindless beings incapable of deciding what operating system they prefer.

        :|
        Tim Cook
      • Red herrings

        [i]and give little thought to what it runs for them. It is not like the consumer decides he wants a Windows machine, then looks at what hardware is available with Windows as the installed option.[/i]

        That's generally true, yes. For most people, they just expect any OS that's on there. The OS is an afterthought. The browser I can use to get to the internet. Since 99% of the PCs already come with Windows, that's already taken for granted.

        Try not to confuse that with 'love' or 'appreciation', k?

        [i]You give too little credit to your fellow humans, instead labeling them as mindless beings incapable of deciding what operating system they prefer.[/i]

        Only when it suits you in this particular case. Otherwise (to you) they're just a bunch of unquestioning lemmings, willing to take whatever MS shovels at them.

        I know because I used to be one of them. A typical Windows user.
        ScorpioBlue
      • RE: Google Chromebook pilots ahead: What we can learn from the CR-48?

        @Will Pharaoh
        Windows doesn't give you choice, and it isn't customers who didn't choose Linux. It is about the market manipulating cartel Microsoft runs in order manipulate OEMs and Windows pricing and rebates in order to keep OEMs from loading non-Windows operating systems.

        Apple Mac only survived because Apple does not have to sell it's products through PC OEMs.

        If you want to see what happens when the customer has a choice, then look at Windows Phone 7. A stunning 1.7% of smartphone sales, despite billions spent on promotion. That is what happens to Microsoft products when you dob't have a market fixing cartel in place. Incidentally Microsoft understands this all too well, and that is why it is attempting to form cartels in the mobile phone market with Nokia. What happened when customers had the choice there? Nokia's sales plummet by 66% after announcement of the deal.
        Mah
    • RE: Google Chromebook pilots ahead: What we can learn from the CR-48?

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz

      Nevermind the user's never gonna see the OS, just the browser.
      CobraA1
    • RE: Google Chromebook pilots ahead: What we can learn from the CR-48?

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz, ~-~ Your Linux Advocate Thought you were old enough to recognise the thin client scam?
      tonymcs@...
  • We will have to wait and see

    Appirio is highlighting the flaw that was found in the Netbook. Namely, that it the Chromebook did not replace the laptop or desktop. The Chromebook was used to augment the laptop. Taking the Appirio model, it was $128 per month for the laptop plus an additional $28 per month for the Chromebook.

    Consumers and Enterprises will need to think long and hard on the use case of the Chromebook. Is it a cost-savings tool that can be used to replace "more expensive devices" or is it a tech gadget that is purpose-built for web surfing?
    Your Non Advocate
    • Maybe you need to ....

      @facebook@...<br><br>re-read the blog, without your fan boy glasses on.
      Economister
      • It's in black and white $128/month plus $28/month is the cost

        @Economister Exactly. Re-read it.<br><br>"The Chromebook was used as a complement to other devices. We gave to the CR-48 to employees and see what they would do with it and when they would revert to their laptops, said Weinstein.
        Your Non Advocate
      • Tedious

        @facebook@...

        How the study was conducted for very valid practical reasons and how Appirio sees Chromebooks being used in enterprises are two VERY different situations. I am not surprised however that this point is lost on you.

        You have made it even more obvious: you need to re-read the blog - again.
        Economister
      • RE: Google Chromebook pilots ahead: What we can learn from the CR-48?

        @Economister

        Fair enough. How Appirio actually uses the Chromebooks and how they intend to position them in the market are two *very* different things.

        Appirio used the chromebooks to augment their day to day activities. They will attempt to resell chromebooks and position them as desktop replacements.


        In other words.....wait for it.....Just like netbooks. The only difference between this go-around is that we have Chromebook resellers instead of consumer electronic stores.
        Your Non Advocate
      • I give up

        @facebook@...

        Wrong again, better luck next time
        Economister