Google exec discusses future for Google Apps, Chromebooks

Google exec discusses future for Google Apps, Chromebooks

Summary: Google's manager of Chrome for Business posits that Chromebooks are the next step for Google Apps, and the "sharability" of these netbooks are unmatched by any other device.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Chromebooks represent the next stage in enterprise collaboration, but there are some idealistic (and technological) hurdles to overcome, according to Rajen Sheth, Google's group product manager for Chrome for Business.

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While speaking at GigaOM's NetWork 2011 summit on Thursday, Sheth frequently compared the budding stages of the Chromebook brand to that of Google Apps.

After joining Google in 2004 when the enterprise division was just getting underway, Sheth was assigned the task of figuring out "some enterprise product," which evolved into Google Apps. In fact, the department started off with only one engineer.

Now, the Google Apps unit employs roughly 1,400 people.

Sheth explained that small businesses gravitated to it first, but most companies were horrified by the idea of putting emails and files somewhere else away from a firewall.

Obviously, times have changed.

"Almost every CIO we talk to now is building up their cloud strategy," Sheth remarked.

Sheth identified three characteristics that enterprise customers are gravitating towards today:

  • People want to be more collaborative and social.
  • They want to work from anywhere.
  • They want to have tools that involve them rather than be static.

"It's just so much easier to set up and for the end user to get to," Sheth said, adding that there is associated cost there as well, positing that it costs just a fraction of what most companies are spending now.

Sheth asserted that the Chromebook is just the next step in this field. However, there is a sort of "mind shift" that personal and business customers need to understand before buying into the Chromebook brand.

"We're not selling a device, we're selling a new paradigm of web-based computing," Sheth said. He added that Chrome developers want to get to a point where any device is your device -- meaning that any time you log into a device, regardless of whether or not you bought it, you can access your account.

The example here is that you can pick up any Chromebook and log in with your Gmail account, and your bookmarks, apps, and everything else tied to that account is readily available.

Here, Sheth used the example of Google's partnership with Virgin America. Passengers on select flights can rent a Chromebook for free and access the Internet (and their accounts) while in-flight. Sheth argued that the "sharability" of the Chromebook is unmatched by any other device, and such a program couldn't happen otherwise.

When asked by an audience member about why does the Chromebook experience not work as well as that on Android, to the point where he labeled the Chromebook experience as "mediocre," Sheth replied that there are many people who like the Chromebook UI, but that web-based technology is still evolving.

Sheth likened the path for the Chromebook to that of Google Apps a few years back when users weren't as excited about cloud-based apps. Additionally, he predicted within a few years, users won't be able to tell the difference between an app stored on the hard drive versus a web-based app.

Topics: Networking, Browser, CXO, Google, IT Employment

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14 comments
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  • LOL!

    [i]Chromebooks represent the next stage in enterprise collaboration[/i]

    Which is why no one's really buying them?
    William Farrel
    • RE: Google exec discusses future for Google Apps, Chromebooks

      @William Farrel <br>First of all "no one's really buying them," isn't even true. People keep quoting sales figures from the first six weeks of sales back in the summer. They are not selling like iPads, but they are selling, and when Amazon can actually keep them in stock the Acer Chromebook is consistently in the top 10 laptop sellers.<br><br>Second, they are next stage in enterprise collaboration, but as a new product the adoption will take some time. Both Android and Google Apps took over a year to really start selling, and Chromebooks have been out commercially for only 6 months.
      garylai
      • RE: Google exec discusses future for Google Apps, Chromebooks

        @garylai
        Actually the 30,000 figure was from a dubious Digitimes article which selectively picked out 5000 Acer sales to the end of July and multiplied them by 6 for the next 6 months to get the 30,000 estimate. The problem with this is that the Acer Chromebook was late because it was delayed by Microsoft's Chromebook patent extortion scam for Chromebooks which Acer was forced to negotiate and sign up to. This meant at best the Acer Chromebook had only about a week of sales to build up the 5000 sales. The sales through Amazon and Best Buy don't even represent the bulk of Chromebook sales, which were made direct to schools and businesses through a subscription and not through Amazon or Best Buy. The Chromebook's sold through Amazon and Best Buy were made without advertising, at a price premium over Windows laptops, and amazingly for such a novel operating system concept, without the ability to try them out, and they were aimed only as early adopters. Despite all this Chromebooks consistently remained in the consumer market sales charts in Amazon for a long time, which clearly indicates to anyone with any intelligence that there is a big demand for Chromebooks. Compare this with the tepid sales of Windows Phone 7 devices, which despite massive advertising, wide presence in retail outlets and no doubt lots of money paid out for good reviews and good blogger posts, simply refuses to sell.

        Basically it is impossible to consistently stay in Amazon's best sellers list without selling much larger numbers than the 30,000 quoted by the article and parroted across the Internet. There is clearly a concerted FUD effort to persuade OEMs not to sell Chromebooks, and to frighten off consumers from buying them, including the patent extortion scam by Microsoft rushed in to target Chromebooks.

        The question is why should Microsoft be attempting this if Chromebooks are a flop? The answer is that if Chromebooks were a flop and weren't a serious threat to the Windows PC/laptop monopoly (at least in terms of taking enough marketshare to potentially render it not a monopoly), then Microsoft and its army of PR agents, shills and astroturfers would not be bothered about it. The best explanation probably comes from the Dixons group - the UK's largest electronic retail outlet, who predicted Chromebooks would account for 10% of all computer sales in a year or so. To me this is more credible than any number of paid articles/blogs/posts by Microsoft's paid army of bloggers and PR agents, if it is one thing these successful retail chains know, it is the electronics retail market - after all it is how they earn their bread and butter.
        Mah
  • RE: Google exec discusses future for Google Apps, Chromebooks

    "Chromebooks represent the next stage in enterprise collaboration"

    Doubtful. Not any more than any other tablet device.

    "???People want to be more collaborative and social.
    ???They want to work from anywhere.
    ???They want to have tools that involve them rather than be static."

    All of which any device can provide. It's the ecosystem that's going to make the difference here, not the device.

    "Sheth asserted that the Chromebook is just the next step in this field."

    The problem with assertions is that they're, well, assertions. Without any facts to back them up, they might as well be asserting invisible pink elephants.

    "He added that Chrome developers want to get to a point where any device is your device ??? meaning that any time you log into a device, regardless of whether or not you bought it, you can access your account."

    We are the Enterprise of Borg. You cannot have a personal device, customized to your liking. It is forbidden.

    Yeah - not gonna happen. Unless you think becoming Borg really is good for our society.

    I don't really see "sharability" as something that is really needed or wanted for hardware. It's highly overrated. We're in an age where hardware is getting more personal, and it's the information that needs sharing, not necesarily the devices.
    CobraA1
    • RE: Google exec discusses future for Google Apps, Chromebooks

      @CobraA1
      (quote)
      We are the Enterprise of Borg. You cannot have a personal device, customized to your liking. It is forbidden.
      (unquote)
      This comment is just plain ignorant. It applies to Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8 Metro interface, which is largely non-customisable including the menu and sub-menu arrangement. It does not apply to Chromebooks.

      With Chromebooks you have your own personalised device as soon as you log in - on any device. The settings and everything else is stored in the cloud, and downloaded when you log into your Google account.
      Mah
  • RE: Google exec discusses future for Google Apps, Chromebooks

    "The example here is that you can pick up any Chromebook and log in with your Gmail account, and your bookmarks, apps, and everything else tied to that account is readily available."

    They'd better have a way for it to securely wipe the cache, otherwise that next person could steal all your business data that was left behind. Anyone with serious privacy concerns won't be sharing Chromebooks. (Just like they'd better not be doing private work from internet cafes.)
    PB_z
    • RE: Google exec discusses future for Google Apps, Chromebooks

      @PB_z
      Spoken like someone who doesn't understand Chrome OS.
      garylai
    • RE: Google exec discusses future for Google Apps, Chromebooks

      @PB_z
      Another ignorant comment. This applies to Windows PCs and Laptops which store all of their personal data and settings locally, and to a lesser extent to devices like iPhone and Android as well which store a lot of their data locally although some services are tied to the cloud.

      It doesn't apply to Chromebooks which store all data and personal settings in the cloud, and automatically and securely encrypts locally cached data so personal data is not available to other users or guest users. Guest user data is not cached locally after termination of the session, and the Chromebook offers the option of not locally caching any data locally for other users as well who are ultra paranoid. Chromebooks are the most secure client OS out there by a large margin and the only one that is safe for device sharing.
      Mah
  • RE: Google exec discusses future for Google Apps, Chromebooks

    "We are the Enterprise of Borg. You cannot have a personal device, customized to your liking. It is forbidden.<br><br>I don't really see "sharability" as something that is really needed or wanted for hardware. It's highly overrated. We're in an age where hardware is getting more personal, and it's the information that needs sharing, not necesarily the devices."<br><br>Wow.<br><br>You miss the point completely. It's not about a device being physically shared. And no customization options need to be taken away. It's all software, remember?<br><br>It's about the vision of your device *being* the cloud.<br><br>The hardware is just the chassis that carries and realizes your "cloud device". It can be an Android phone, ChromeBook or Windows box. It doesn't matter. It can be something that hasn't even being invented. It can be easily upgraded and replaced without having to restart your customization from scratch (but you don't mind having to do that, I gather). It can also be easily shared, as sharing is nothing more than temporary replacement.
    mcamelo
  • RE: Google exec discusses future for Google Apps, Chromebooks

    Chromebooks - LOL! What a joke. If they're the next step, why is no one buying them, Google?

    Nobody wants a web-only OS.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: Google exec discusses future for Google Apps, Chromebooks

      @Cylon Centurion

      That assertion is clearly backed up by millions of dollar in market research. LOL
      mcamelo
  • RE: Google exec discusses future for Google Apps, Chromebooks

    Our experience with the Chromebook in a high school educational setting has been tremendously positive. It's a great device to roll out to students in both mobile cart and 1:1 environments. The Chromebook becomes invisible to the students and teachers who can focus on what really matters... teaching and learning.
    bweinert
    • RE: Google exec discusses future for Google Apps, Chromebooks

      You raise interesting points about the benefits of the Chromebook for education. However some institutions will still require access to Windows applications. In order to extend the benefits of Chromebooks schools will need to provide quick and easy browser-based access to these Windows applications and also to virtual desktops. Ericom AccessNow provides this support and enables Chromebook users to connect to Terminal Servers, physical desktops or VDI virtual desktops ??? and run Windows applications and desktops within a browser window, without having to install anything on the user device.

      Here's an example of a large school district that is using Ericom AccessNow to provide 30,000 students and staff access to Windows applications from Chromebooks, iPads and other devices:
      http://www.ericom.com/pr/pr_111206.asp?URL_ID=708

      Ericom also offers special pricing for education customers.

      For more info, and to download a demo, visit:
      http://www.ericom.com/html5_RDP_Chromebook.asp?URL_ID=708

      Note: I work for Ericom
      AG4IT
  • RE: Google exec discusses future for Google Apps, Chromebooks

    There are two general opinions of Chromebooks.

    1. People that have never used them and know little about them generally dismiss them.
    2. People that have given them a fair chance and tried them who really like them.

    There is very little middle ground. Just read the reviews of Chromebooks on Amazon or from educational institutions, for example. After a few days of using a Chromebook something usually connects with people, and they just get the concept and get accustomed to the minimalism of the OS, the speed of boot, and the no-hassle of cloud computing.

    Shareability is a big deal, at least in my family. My Chromebook is shared by all four members of my family seemlessly, taking only a few seconds to switch between user accounts with all data and bookmarks segregated. Try doing that on a tablet. You can do it on a Windows laptop, but it is not nearly as fast to switch between user accounts.
    garylai