Since their introduction over two years ago, the buzz around Chromebooks hasn't always been positive. Although recent news about Chromebook growth in the consumer market has improved this picture, negative press still hasn't been hard to come by this year.
Infrastructure & Operations professionals with responsibility for end user computing and device portfolios should ignore the naysayers. In fact, it’s time to take a fresh look at whether Chromebooks might fill a legitimate computing niche for your company.
In a major new Forrester report, we present an analysis of the enterprise Chromebook space. Let me first be clear that Chromebooks won’t replace all or even most Windows PCs, Macs, and tablets. But for companies that are (1) willing to segment their workforces (offering Chromebooks to specific classes of workers in a mixed environment with PCs and tablets), (2) adopting Gmail and/or Google Apps, or who are (3) deploying the devices in a customer-facing (think kiosk) scenario, Chromebooks are definitely worth investigating.
Moving workers to Chromebooks generates these benefits (plus others covered in the full report):
- Infrastructure professionals can spend time on innovation, not maintenance. Chromebooks offer the prospect of radically reducing the amount of time IT staff spends “keeping the lights on” for devices. As one IT leader told me, “instead of spending time installing software on laptops, or creating images, I'd rather have my desktop services people work on implementation of technologies related to location awareness or 3D printing.” The CIO of another company added, “I want to get out of the laptop business.” Chromebooks offer high uptime, low service costs, and scalable deployment of new web-based applications and content.
- Employees naturally gravitate toward collaborative computing scenarios. A move to corporate Gmail remains pretty much a prerequisite to the adoption of Chromebooks. Once Gmail is in place, Chromebooks can promote collaborative work styles. One CIO reported that workers at his company started to use Google Drive and other collaboration tools “organically and automatically” after the adoption of Gmail. Chromebooks reinforce the value of these tools and represent the next logical step in empowering collaboration.
Although our analysis shows that Infrastructure buyers should consider Chromebooks, these devices aren’t for everyone. Companies with a large presence in China, for example, will find that Google’s famed clashes with the Chinese government handicaps the performance of Google Apps. Although Chromebooks are highly portable (and offer optional wireless subscription options), for many hyper-portable business scenarios, tablets might be a better choice.
Overall, though, it’s time to take the Google enterprise proposition seriously - and enterprises should conduct a fresh evaluation of Chromebooks. I would invite Forrester clients to read the entire report here, where we help you determine whether Chromebooks might be right for your company.
Posted by JP Gownder
J. P. Gownder is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research serving Infrastructure & Operations Professionals. Follow him on Twitter at @jgownder.