Why Chromebooks do have a role in your enterprise

Don't ignore Chromebooks because they're not the right solution for each and every user in your company

Reaction to Google's Chromebook announcement this week has ranged from wildly positive to, shall we say, less than positive. Regarding naysayers, I'm reminded of Clayton Christensen's writings on sustaining versus disruptive innovation. Chromebook is a disruptive innovation, and it will play a growing role in tomorrow's IT department. I've said it before, and I'll repeat it now: Plan ahead to use Chrome OS and Chromebooks in your enterprise.

ZDnet's Ed Bott isn't sold on the value or success potential of Chromebooks. He came up with five reasons why Chromebook isn't a Windows killer. I'd like to respond to Bott's five points.

[ InfoWorld's Galen Gruman has been beta-testing Chrome OS since December: Read his take on its fit. | Get the key insights on open source news and trends from InfoWorld's Technology: Open Source newsletter. ]

1. Google's pricing strategy is a step toward IT as a service

Bott says that the price ($349 to $469 if you buy one outright, or $28 per month to rent from Google) is too high "for a glorified netbook." However, Bott is focusing on the acquisition cost, not the total cost of ownership.

Back in 2008, Gartner estimated the total cost of a $1,500 notebook over a four-year period could range between $5,033 and $9,900. The ongoing cost far outweighed the initial cost by between 236 and 560 percent.

Google bundles the hardware, OS, maintenance, and some administration cost into that $28 per user per month. Companies can opt to pay $50 per user per year separately for Google Apps, an alternative to Microsoft Office and Microsoft Exchange. On a monthly basis, these two prices net out to under $35 per user per month.

Another point to consider is that the monthly fee, versus an upfront hardware cost, allows companies to plan their IT budgets more effectively. Some may see the pricing as allowing companies to move dollars from capital expenditures to operational expenses.

2. Automatic updates don't have to be a nightmare

Google claims that automatic updates enable a continuously improving system. However, Bott says that pushing updates to users can sometimes break things, and he calls them a nightmare.

The key difference between Chromebooks versus Windows PCs or Macs is there is only an operating system (really a browser) to update on a Chromebook. The apps are all Web apps, which don't reside on the Chromebook. Google and Chrome OS app providers can update their applications on their servers; they're no pushing out the changed application. Users connect to the Web and always run the most current version of the application.

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