Chrome OS to follow Google Apps adoption

Enterprise adoption of Chrome-powered netbooks will follow that of Google Apps, targeting smaller companies and educational institutions first, says exec.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Enterprise adoption of netbooks running Google's Chrome OS will follow the path of its hosted apps, in which small businesses were the initial adopters, says a company executive.

Speaking at a press event here Thursday, Caesar Sengupta, product management director for Google's Chrome OS project, explained that netbooks powered by the platform will be adopted first by smaller enterprises before garnering support from large multinationals.

Based on the search giant's Web browser, Chrome OS is targeted for release by the end of this year and will only run Web apps on custom-made lightweight machines.

Sengupta said Google Apps, the company's Web-based office suite, has so far gained traction with the SMB (small and midsize business) segment and educational institutions.

Because smaller businesses "behave like consumers", where they have fewer IT resources to support devices, a Chrome OS netbook that receives software support entirely from Google and its partners would appeal to such companies, he said.

The platform's security features such as sandboxing Web apps and auto-updates to its OS, will also save small IT teams from having to manage these devices, he added.

Larger enterprises, on the other hand, may be reliant on software that do not have Web versions and therefore, will not be able to access these applications on Chrome-powered devices, he said.

Because Chrome OS netbook users will not be able to install additional programs on the device, larger firms requiring the installation of VPN (virtual private network) software will also likely be hampered.

In addition, Chrome netbook users must access the Internet to view files and documents because the viewer software is Web-based. In his demo, Sengupta sent a PDF file to Google's servers in order to open and view the document within Google Viewer.

"Chrome OS will fit well within enterprises comfortable with the cloud," he said.

On concerns that the platform's Linux base will discourage non tech-savvy users from adopting the OS, Sengupta said Chrome's "familiar" browser user interface (UI) is expected to be more appealing to users.

Despite a strong start on netbooks, Linux began to see its popularity fall following negative reactions from users on its less-familiar UI, compared to that of Windows.

Google is working with a host of OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to build its Chrome netbooks, including names such as Acer, Asus, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo.

Asked about the likelihood of a Chrome-powered tablet, Sengupta said Google is instead focused on the netbook form factor, but noted that the open source version of Chrome, dubbed Chromium, could find its way onto a third-party tablet.

Both Chromium and Chrome share the same code base, but Chrome will be developed and supported by Google and its partners, while Chromium is an open source project released to developers.

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