Google's Chromebook is a cheap alternative to a more expensive Windows or Mac PC or laptop, but up until recently it lacked any specific administrative oversight tools for enterprise IT. While IT might have liked the price tag, they may have worried about the lack of an integrated tool suite for managing a fleet of Chromebooks. That's changed with release of Chromebook for Work, a new program designed to give IT that control they crave for Chromebooks.
For just $50 per device, per year IT can now control and manage Chromebooks from behind the scenes. Network administrators can pre-install approved apps or block certain undesirable apps, control usage by machine to prevent unauthorized access, create policies across user groups, and perform other administrative features an IT pro would expect to have.
Chromebooks are inexpensive machines that run Google's ChromeOS. This is a completely cloud-based machine that works entirely in the Chrome browser, and working on one takes some getting used to, but Google is beginning to make a crossover between Android and ChromeOS where you can run certain Android apps on the Chromebook. This opens up many more possible business cases for Chromebooks.
I suggested in a blog post in September that Android apps could introduce a security issue for IT as rogue Android apps could bring with them malware or viruses. The administrative console could negate at least some this concern because IT can control what apps you can download and which ones you can't. Presumably, there could be a pre-configured Chromebook with all the apps an employee needs to do their job. They could then download additional approved apps, but not anything else.
While I haven't seen the console, and I don't know how this works exactly, it clearly gives IT at least some control over a fleet of Google Chromebooks for a reasonable price, and that could go a long way toward making Chromebooks more attractive for some jobs in the enterprise.
Does this mean Chromebooks could gain a foothold in the enterprise? It's possible they could begin to replace at least some more expensive machines in instances where the employee clearly doesn't need a super powerful laptop or desktop to do their job.
Clearly not everyone is going to want an inexpensive, all-cloud machine but for some employees it will be perfectly fine. Back in the day, people could download OpenOffice for free, but there was always the argument that accounting would never use anything but Excel and marketing would never use anything but PowerPoint, but that didn't mean you had to buy Office licenses for everyone --even though that's precisely what happened in most companies.
The same theory could be applied to Chromebooks. You could have folks who do just a few tasks use Chromebooks and distribute the more expensive machines to those who need them. Of course, Microsoft clearly won the Office/OpenOffice war because most companies bit the bullet and spent the money on Office licenses, but as more companies begin the shift to cloud services, it might make sense to buy at least some employees Chromebooks and cut the company's computing costs substantially.
And now with at least some administrative controls, available at a reasonable price of $50 a machine, the idea of using Chromebooks at work becomes even more viable.
Photo courtesy of Google.