Your next corporate computer might be a Chromebook

Your next corporate computer might be a Chromebook

Summary: If you're a System Administrator, an IT decision maker, or a C-level executive, you need to give the humble Chromebook some real consideration as the new corporate workstation standard.

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Quick, name a personal computing device that's simple and painless to operate, has a very low learning curve, is virus and malware resistant, is extremely secure, requires no extra software, and is inexpensive—less expensive than a phone, tablet, or laptop computer. Hint: It's a Chromebook.

It might be hard to imagine that there's such a device available to you and your users, that is all those things, but it's true. The Chromebook comes very close to being the perfect corporate computing device. 

What makes it the perfect educational computer also makes it the near perfect corporate computer.

If you've read my previous Chromebook-oriented entries, you know that Chromebooks have all of the following attributes/features going for them:

  • Price
  • Security
  • Light weight and small form factor
  • Instant On
  • Long battery life
  • Ease of use
  • Web only applications
  • Personalization
  • Use of peripherals (mice, keyboards, monitors, SD cards, USB devices)
  • Wireless networking
  • Large number of quality applications
  • Multimedia capability
  • Video conferencing
  • Management applications

So, if Chromebooks have all of these features and attributes, what is it that keeps them from being the perfect corporate computing device?

It isn't Microsoft Office. You can use the online versions of those apps at Outlook.com. You can use compatible ones with Google Docs. And your company probably already has Outlook Web Access (OWA) enabled for web-based Outlook work.

It isn't wired Ethernet. If your Chromebook doesn't have a wired Ethernet port, you can add a USB one for $12 or less.

It isn't the ability to connect external peripherals. The Chromebook can use external USB devices, monitors, keyboards, mice, SD cards, audio device, video devices, and just about anything that you'd use in an office, including network-attached printers.

It isn't Active Directory login or connectivity. That's covered by Google Apps Directory Sync and other methods.

What's still missing? Skype or Lync for creating conference calls, that's what.

Yes, I know about Google's Hangouts but I really like Skype. I also like Lync. At some point, I expect the two to merge into a single service, because they're both Microsoft properties now.

Seriously, Chrome OS needs something other than Hangouts for making calls and conference calls. There are a few Hangout-related apps but I still want Skype. I use Skype on other devices and I really need it on my Chromebook. Lync access would also work for a lot of businesses because they've standardized on it for internal chat and audio conferencing as well.

For Chromebooks to achieve their true potential in the enterprise, that's one final hurdle they'll have to overcome. Chromebooks have decent sound and video but the inability to use Skype or Lync is a major handicap.

Now, you might counter argue with "My phone can make calls and my tablet can make calls", both of which would be true. However, it's the convenience of having a single device that can do everything for you at your desk. Some companies are actually moving their employees to IP telephony to save money. It's a great idea but you have to have hardware that's compatible with those services to achieve that goal. 

I've said before, that all you'll need in the future is a phone, a tablet, and a super tablet, but at that time, I hadn't considered the Chromebook as a super tablet choice. I should have. However, to be honest, a couple of years ago* when I asked Google for a review sample of a Chromebook, I was kind of like, "Yeah, so what?". The whole thing didn't gel for me until a few months ago when I really sat down and checked out a couple of them.

Funnier still when I looked at that original Samsung Chromebook from Google, is that I couldn't give away a review on the darned thing, much less sell one. No one cared. Now Chromebooks are all the rage. No matter how many times I see a Zeitgeist in action, it still surprises me. I apologized to Google at the time for wasting their time and taking up a sample for a couple of months but I did try to stir some interest but it just didn't work.

Fast forward to late 2013 and to early 2014. I started really researching the Chromebook and decided that I wanted one of my own. It's not a huge investment. A week of working with one convinced me that this is truly the computing platform of the future. The days of fat, bloated operating systems are numbered. When Chromebooks hit the enterprise, it will truly be a Post-PC world.

And it isn't far-fetched to say that Chromebooks will enter the enterprise. Once managers, executives, and those who sit in C-level positions see what they can do at a price that's very business friendly, there's no turning back. Couple the price and ease of use with the extreme security and ability to wipe a device within seconds and you've got yourself an enterprise device.

Think of it not just in terms of purchase price. We all know how deceitful a purchase price can be, don't we?

You don't have to buy software for it. You don't have to use antivirus software. You don't have to spend a lot of money training someone to use it. You can connect to your corporate VPN, authenticate via AD, and do just about anything you want, well, with the exception of use Skype or Lync for phone calls. Still, the Chromebook is the near perfect computing device for corporate networks.

*Eric Lai beat me to saying that Chromebooks could be used as corporate computers back in October 2012. If I had spent more time with the unit that Google sent me, I'd have come to the same conclusion and beat him to the punch. Unfortunately, it just wasn't my time. Nor was it his, considering the commentary he got for saying it.

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Topics: Mobility, Google, Hardware, Google Apps

About

Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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189 comments
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  • Google Apps Directory Sync

    I would argue that this is a big, huge deal in many large corporations and one that is not easily cracked as you make it in this article.

    Also, online only version of Office are ok-ish for some users but still a non-starter for many.
    JustMeUK
    • @JustMeUK

      It's not that hard. You can also use a certificate to do this: http://www.sedc.k12.ut.us/images/docs/Google/chromebooks_wireless.pdf
      khess
      • This just happened

        People say "Chromebook is so easy to use" then start linking to PDF files explaining how to do basic things that just work on other devices. Users don't want to read a PDF to get things working. That's one reason why Chromebook has about 0% market share.
        timacheson
        • The reason why chromebooks have about "0% market share"...

          ...which isn't actually true BTW, is that viably priced PCs have been sold for 20+ years and viably priced chromebooks have been sold for less than 2 years. In the early days of a new product, of course that product will have lower market share relative to the competing products it is trying to replace.
          CHIP72
        • Huh?

          Turn the unit on.
          Connect to WiFi or Hardwire network
          Login with credentials
          Start working!

          If you have gmail you know how to use the Chromebook.
          Yes Google Docs and Google Sheets aren't as powerful as MS Word and MS Excel but the gap is closing quickly.

          There are many companies and government agencies that have successfully switched and are not looking back to the days of Microsoft.

          Apparently you have never tried a Chromebook. And it is easy to simulate on Windows - just load Chrome browser and work in there. Word processing, spreadsheets, presentation, technical drawing and project management are all available for free or little cost.
          Sing the Blues
          • the gap between Sheets and Excel is VAST

            and isn't closing any time soon. Try EditGrid for a much better online spreadsheet. Even EditGrid isn't close to Excel.

            Sheets lacks basic functionality which has been considered necessary for decades, such as summing over multiple worksheets. Then there's pivot tables. The list goes on and on.

            EditGrid, the Excel web app, Zoho's and ThinkFree's spreadsheets are all superior to Google Sheets. IOW, Google has the least useful/capable online spreadsheet. USE AT YOUR OWN RISK.
            hrlngrv 
          • Re: the gap between Sheets and Excel is VAST

            I just tried summing over multiple worksheets in Sheets - worked fine.
            Then tried entering a PivotTable in Sheets - worked fine.
            What other essential basic functionality does it supposedly lack?
            Andbag
          • No chance for Chromebooks on my watch

            No Google software should be on your network. Do you want your activities tracked by a vendor like Google, selling or using your activity for ads and available for government hacking. Keep your shop clean, no Google browser, No chromebook, no Google+, no, no, no!
            rollguy
          • Many? Names a few American companies and ...

            ... U.S. / State government agencies who have "successfully switched and are not looking back to the days of Microsoft".

            No enterprise customer who cares about security is going to agree to authenticate their employees with a Google, or any other external entity.
            M Wagner
          • Huh?

            Chrombooks are crap, and that's being nice. People want real computers with real software not Google's mickey mouse products.
            Blogsworth
      • A downside to this, which will keep it out of many an enterprise:

        Google.

        Enterprise, entirely reliant on Google Corporation to survive.

        I'm sure that's wont be an issue...
        William.Farrel
        • so you're too young . . .

          . . . to remember when you could have substituted Microsoft for Google in your comment? Back in the 1980s and even early 1990s IBM was serious, MSFT was untested.

          Times change.
          hrlngrv 
          • You miss the point entirely

            with either IBM or Microsoft, your data, your choices, your control resided with you, and you alone.

            MS, IBM, Unix, Linux, Apple - it doesn't matter you control your data, your business.

            Chromebooks operate with Google at the controls, not you. They determine your options for browsers, databases, office suites, photo editors, design programs, and of course if something doesn't exist...
            William.Farrel
          • IBM was a paragon of customer choice?

            What alternative universe do you live in?

            You're also apparently unaware of renting mainframe timesharing capacity from IBM or 3rd party mainframe service providers. Not materially different than using CONTRACTED/PAID FOR Google services, which are available for use with Chromebooks.

            Yes, Google determines what browser you'd use with a Chromebook, in much the same way that Apple determines what browser you use with an iPad and to some extent MSFT itself determines for Surface tablets and any other Windows RT devices. The difference for Windows RT is that any 3rd party willing to throw money down the cr8pper could try to develop a browser for Windows RT.

            As for office suites, do you believe you can't use Zoho Office or MSFT's own Office web apps with Chromebooks? You *could* even enable developer mode and install OpenOffice or LibreOffice into /usr/local and run them without using chroot. It wouldn't be pleasant unless you also ran a second window manager, which you *could* also do. Or you could install crouton and use it to chroot many different Linux distributions CONCURRENTLY running with ChromeOS. Try finding anything similar for Windows.

            You seem not to be able to understand that Chromebooks can run any web apps which can run in the Chrome browser. You may not have much choice of locally running software, but that's not the point of Chromebooks.
            hrlngrv 
          • IBM was one of many companies offering you ...

            ... ON PREMISES data solutions. They still are. The fact that you own the hardware on which your data resides is exceedingly important to most enterprise customers.
            M Wagner
          • Spot on, Farrel

            You ended your post with 'of course if something doesn't exist'. Yeah, like Youtube in December 2008 was great: flexible, intelligible, intuitive and customizable interface. That's what USED to exist before Google goons trashed it successively. So now, I moved to vimeo, where I pay $200 per year to get that functionality back.

            Someone will inanely miss the point here, and say 'business doesn't use Youtube'. Actually, they do; it's a necessary part of explaining what one sells. And were I a business, I'd be hopping mad at all the hitlerian changes Google made.

            The larger point, though, is this: if Youtube, which clearly has to be a revenue generator, gets such shoddy treatment from Google, what do you think will happen to the OTHER services it 'now' offers? Not to mention, its fickle support history, here today gone tomorrow.

            I seriously wanted to buy a Pixel for my business partner, who hates computers. He only wants internet and email. But when Google pulled its LYING Google Plus to pretend the thing was successful -- lying, because it FORCED YOUTUBERS to use it, in order to post -- when Google pulled that, I realized I'd be shackling my partner to the whim of the insane Google programmers.

            Not for my business. NO. When someone else comes up with a competing version of a thin client machine like the Chromebook, then I'm interested. But so long as Google runs its version, I'm counselling everyone to stay away. The only thing worse than MSFT's hitlerian policies, is Google's.
            brainout
          • ...$200 a year?

            To customize an interface?

            What exactly do you need which can't be done with greasemonkey and a little time checking for usable or readily tweaked user scripts?

            Do I hate the default tiny window on youtube? Yep.

            Did I go pay money somewhere else to fix it? Nope, I put a script in that scrolls the player to the top and fills the browser window with it automatically.

            Not like those sorts of things can't be done with a chromebook, nor are you prevented from putting another OS on it if you're so picky or start feeling like a jew in 1930's germany, given your use of the term "hitlerian" there...
            Max™‮‮
    • One's next corporate computer might also be a Chromebox

      Eh, Ken?
      Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Chromebooks are a corporate mistake!

      If you can't control the computer OS and its process, you are a mere tool of it.

      Never in this world MS Word can be compared with Google Docs. Just try to go beyond =A1+A23 and you will have a big headache trying to do the things that Excel does without any pain.

      Chromebooks are expensive! People advocate that is cheap but this is not true.
      Low quality display, low specs, poorly designed, low quality plastic, restricted applications, not built to the development of any professional task beyond email composing or basic text edition, not for serious gaming, IT IS NOT GOOD IN ANYTHING!!! It should cost 99 dollars! And I have to forget that your soul (privacy, thoughts, desires, interests, dramas, interactions, and much more) is given almost for free to Google.
      mxgms
      • Agreed

        I could not agree more mxgms... Chromebooks are a HUGE JOKE... perhaps they are only suitable for kids, and maybe not even for them... I can't believe that this guy Ken Hess is saying so much good things about them.

        People at IT would not even consider the Chromebooks not even for a second. It has no use for IT related stuff.
        tezla