Your next corporate computer might be a Chromebook

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.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

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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