Chromebook: Like Good Wine, It Gets Better With Time

With all the buzz surrounding the launch of Google Chromebooks today, you’ll have to excuse a Google executive for getting his metaphors a little mixed. Looking to explain why enterprise should dump the old PC model for a web-based O/S, Chrome for Business project manager Rajen Sheth compared the desktop computer to a car that loses value the minute it leaves the lot. The Chromebook, however, is like a house that remodels itself.

“You show up one day, the bathroom is remodeled. The next day, you have granite countertops,” says Rajen Sheth, a Chrome for Business project manager.

With Chrome OS for enterprise, Google is stressing the three S’s: simplicity, security and speed. Google claims new users can be up and running on the system within four minutes — and that includes unboxing time. Gone are the days when a new employee must wait for an appointment with an IT person to get up and running on the system. Everything can be done remotely. And when an employee loses a notebook or accidentally drops it in the shower, a new one shows up, gets turned on and is ready to go. No worrying about lost files. No installing drivers. No installing programs.

“An administrator never needs to touch it,” Sheth said. The newest versions of all Google programs like Google Docs and apps for business, plus anti-virus protection will update automatically in real time. “The Chromebook you have today won’t be as good as the Chromebook you have six weeks from now,” he said. Meanwhile, Google stresses, companies are free to add their own applications and even set up their own private clouds.

Starting today, Google is offering Chromebook for enterprise at $28 per month subscription with a three-year contract.

So why shouldn’t a business just get a Dell for the same price? Well, because the Dell doesn’t come with anything else, Sheth said. You still have to purchase anti-virus, backup, and management software. And desktop maintenance and update costs run an estimated $3,000-$4,000 over the hardware lifecycle. The company claims Chromebook will save businesses more than 50 percent, or around $3,000, in total cost of ownership over the three-year period.

Many IT departments aren’t terribly willing to jump into the unknown with a completely new system. And departments that rely on specialized software to do their work — or even finance departments who require the advanced features in Excel — may be less than enthusiastic about the trade-offs they’d have to make to switch to a Chromebook.

But in the end, the promise of significant cost savings might be the carrot that entices business owners to try Google’s non-traditional enterprise model despite all the unknowns and concerns over off-line capabilities. After all, granite countertops are nice, but when you’re running, say, an insurance agency, cutting IT costs are even nicer.