back to article Google Chromebook: Will the revolution be subscribed?

Google will charge businesses $1,008 to use one of its browser-centric Chromebooks for three years, and the search giant is confident this will slice the total cost of today's business systems in half. That's according to Rajen Sheth, the Google product manager in charge of the company's Chrome OS for Business program, unveiled …

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Day

"If you lose your network connection, the machine is all but unusable."

For the target audience for this (desktops which spend all day on one application) this isn't going to matter even a bit as it is true now. I would expect that most call-centres need a working network to function properly. I would think that anyone who has a need to take a screen shot and then post it to a CMS just isn't the target for this sort of machine.

I think that the success of this thing will depend a bit on how much of the "$3300-$5800" represents the cost of support staff.

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Anonymous Coward

Network != Internet

They can have a working network, but not the Internet comnection these things need, so they would be paperweights unless Google lets companies run their own server with Google Docs, which seems unlikely.

Actually even when businesses have Internet it's usually well locked down at the firewall, which would also break a lot of Chromebook's functionality as previously reported here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/11/google_docs_firewall_issues/

Also I can tell you from own experience that there's NO WAY you'd be able to run any sort of serious call centre interface from a web browser. They need very fast user interfaces, with minimum mousing around, interactive notifications and these days they many even run a VoIP stack at each position. So you picked a bad example.

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Day

"...unless Google lets companies run their own server with Google Docs, which seems unlikely. "

Google have already announced that they are going to create local versions of the Google Docs apps.

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Anonymous Coward

Oh are they?

What they are supposed to be releasing (but haven't actually publicly shown anything working AFAIK, after they dropped Google Gears) is enabling offline access, not local versions.

Maybe you should be better informed on the differences and limitations of the technology before you go around recommending this.

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Day

Perhaps we are misunderstanding each other

I should have been clearer. When I said "local", this is what I was referring to: http://techcrunch.com/2011/05/11/offline-gmail/

I think you must know a lot more about call centre technology than I do; clearly it was a bad example but I can still see uses for this device. However, only time will tell whether it will be successful.

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Silver badge

$28 per month

And when you've exhausted your 'unlimited' annual data ration in the first week, what then?

What does this deliver that can't be achieved with a Citrix thin client system that costs half as much and actually runs full-fat Office applications that interwork with the rest of your systems, rather than a pale imitation?

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these have been around for years......

We used to call them terminals..... Even wyse had a laptop out years back in which you could have wifi.

Your it house is only as good as your planning and infrastructure allow. If it takes off and genuinely saves business money then great however will business trust google implicitly? Plus if it takes the burden off it does that mean it jobs going to the wall?

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Silver badge

Still don't get the point

The hardware that runs a chrome book could be used to run Android instead. It would be a vastly more useful device given the amount of apps, local storage and so on. It's not like anything done in Chrome OS couldn't be implemented in Android anyway.

It beggars belief that Google would even bother to keep the two operating systems separate like this. Just merge native client into Android and be done with it.

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@DrXym

Let's try an exercise. The answers are at the bottom for the lazy of mind, but try not to cheat.

1. Think about how Google makes money. Got it?

2. OK, now think about how Google could make money from Android, when they give it away for free.

3. Now consider again your stated main advantages of Android over ChromeOS.

4. With me so far? Now put it all together...

5. And finally, take a look at Chrome.

-dZ.

-------------

Answers:

1. Web advertisement.

2. There aren't many ways, other than promoting people to use their own apps or push them to the Web through a browser where advertisement is ripe.

3. Android's local storage and large amount of specialized apps mean that people will need and use the Web less, at least directly through their browser.

4. It is in the best interest of Google to push users into a Web browser and accustom them to using Web Apps instead of locally installed specialized apps. This is because the most common business model that has so far survived in the Web is that of providing services supported by advertisement; and Google provides, owns, and monetizes the platform for such advertisements.

5. ChromeOS is a Web browser, only a Web browser, and nothing but a Web browser. Simples.

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Alert

WRONG!

ChromeOS is not JUST a web browser!

It's also a way to bamboozle people into paying double what a proper laptop would cost, just to run a web browser!

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Joke

Exec option?

Wait till they remove the keyboard and provide the 'tablet' (for execs of course) and hardware premium subscription which'll cost double again...

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Silver badge

@DZ-Jay

Your questions are utterly ridiculous.

1. Advertising, services, apps

2. Google make billions from android. Even at the end of 2010 they were suggested they were making a billion that fiscal year alone. Not surprising when there are over 100 million android devices and more every day.

3. Yes 100 million devices vs zero. Devices which can be built to suit specific requirements such as appearing in a netbook form factor. A number of which have appeared already including the Eee Transformer.

4 / 5) Chrome OS is a thin OS to support a browser. If it hadn't escaped your notice, Android contains a browser - Chrome. Any missing functionality such as native client is surely easier to add to Android than maintain two completely different operating systems.

Producing two operating systems in the same space of devices is just an invitation for confusion. There is nothing whatsoever applying the same business model as proposed in their IO2011 presentation to a device decked out with Android. Except such a device would be vastly more useful for enterprises than ChromeOS.

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Happy

Exec option?

Prior art:

http://search.dilbert.com/comic/Etch%20A%20Sketch

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Silver badge

Not for me, but...

I can certainly see where this sort of device would be a very good fit. Little old ladies/gentlemen using the net for the first time, the facebook generation, anyone who is a consumer of the net world really, rather than a provider.

Business fit is a little more difficult, but many companies rely on web apps to do a lot of their interfacing to PC's, so you can certainly see a fit in many parts of companies.

Most definitely not all parts though - any sort of dev work, media work requires real machines.

Still, it does seem like a good first effort.

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Silver badge

If this is how you see it

then it will become the Amstrad Emailer of the future.

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Silver badge

Missed oppertunity

Why no sign of an ARM based one that is not limited to 1-2 hours battery life?

Or don't they have Chrome, etc, working well enough (if at all) on non-x86 hardware?

Meet the new MS, same as the old...

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WTF?

Battery life...

These laptops have a dual core atom processor with battery life between 6 (Acer) and 8.5 (Samsung) hours, not 1-2.

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I can see the target demographic...

You know, for example, those insurance sales types that come around with a lappie showing you quotes.

I suspect it may make sense for such singular use, if it were cheap enough. If there's barely anything on the lappie, ie everything on the servers, even if it's stolen, hopefully nothing private will be compromised. The machine is probably so locked up the end-user isn't likely to be able to screw it up either. The poor bastard that has to use it is also not likely to want to rip it off. Probably would think twice too before surfing pr0n on it etc.

Hmm... US$1000+ for 3 years. However...

The alternative is a more conventional and capable netbook, which is obviously cheaper to buy initially - and if you're good enough, they don't all necessarily need to run windows, they could, for an extreme example, run ChromiumOS and bar features like auto updates etc be essentially the same thing.

Factor in support costs... which would be cheaper?

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Silver badge
FAIL

Until reception is poor

Except that insurance sales type would struggle to sell anything once he comes into my house and discovers he can't get good enough 3G reception to acces his companies servers and I won't let him on my network. Then he can't sell anything.

How long would it take before said insurance company ditched their magical Chromebooks for traditional laptops and fired the person responsible for buying them? About 3 such instances I'd guess.

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Stop

Insider Trading

The potential here for google to use the business data it holds for what would technically be insider trading is immense.

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Gold badge

Oh no - it gets MUCH, MUCH better than that..

May I present to you, the Google Terms of Service, see google.com/accounts/tos.

You want to read, and especially interpret, clause 11 VERY carefully. 11.1 seems to impose some restrictions, but if you take 11.2 apart you will see that those restrictions do not mean a thing..

Now THAT is why I will never, ever have Google near any of my business work. Because I read this sort of stuff - and I know what actual risk that creates.

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ARM device

I think the manufacturers have missed the opportunity to use ARM based chippery in these instead of intel Atom for increased battery life and reduced costs as after all the only local app is the browser so compatibility wouldn't have been a problem.

I really don't see what these chromebooks can do though that a traditional linux or windows laptop using google docs, gmail etc could do just as well for a similar price and with the added benefit of being able to run local apps if a online version doesn't exist.

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Alert

Workstation Ergonomics

Unless companies who adopt the laptop provide a dock and a proper monitor then it's going to be a much less comfortable working setup for their staff.

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Stop

[PLZ imagine a title that adds glory to this comment.]

I can see how it saves 3 working hours every time you bring a new laptop into use --- removing epidemic quantities of bloatware. The rest of the economics seems more spurious.

Management and sales will refuse because they want shinier overpowered stuff (as they mostly only need it as a paperweight).

Argueably, most employees need LESS connected machines, as their time gets consumed by chat, facebookery, YouTube, and commenting on YouTube (and ElReg? Inconceivable!).

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Happy

Thin clients...

It's just thin clients for the Google world and for a lot of uses it makes the world of sense by offloading the much of the server management to Google, couple it with you're own Citrix server and use Google Apps for email etc and I think for low end admin, call centre, sales teams etc this has legs. Reduces IT costs mostly by reducing need for support and admin staff and you're own server infrastructure, those jobs will presumably be moving along to cloud providers rather than in house...

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Anonymous Coward

Thin client for google...

So a browser then.

This product fails on SO many levels... but as others have pointed out.. SOMEONE will buy them.

I do have a question though. Why whoud Wintards drop their beloved platform for something as foreign as this and yet refuse to join the Lintards or Mactards which are not quite as foreign but equally or perhaps even more secure than this 'Google host your OS & Data" product?

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Coat

Free for all

Dear Sir,

what would worry me about such a platform is that is from google for google by google. Have we forgotten what google does best? Data mining, anyone? I wouldn't dare run my company on that stuff.

The fact that a Register reporter cannot use a Chromebook might not be because of the Chromebook, though. Even the reporter, supposedly using a normal book/laptop/desktop machine cannot use that, judging by the number of typos in his article.

"Chrome OS simplifies the operating system by moving ... malware at startup time.": That, to me, does not sound like a simplified OS. A simplified OS would be something akin MSDOS that can run 1 application which is browser, and does little else. Akin a simplified calculator which can only add and subtract... It sounds, thusly, more like an altered OS that does certain (specialised) things and does not do certain other things at all. You'd still need the basic things for an OS: Filesystem, Memory Manager, Scheduler and IPC. No Filesystem => How can they run the Flashdisk? No Memory Manager => No Memory. No Scheduler => Sounds like DOS. No IPC => How can the keyboard notidy the OS that somebody is tapping away...

Lastly, the whole thing probably is cheaper to many a user. I mean, thousand bucks for three years is virtually nothing. However not being capable of determining when the OS is updated may or may not be a disadvantage for many organisations, especially if updates start to go bad. In addition to that, I'm wondering what the additional ramp up of the Citrix Farm will cost and whether that evens out that cost savings on the front.

Certainly a change in pace and direction, which is also what google is good at. But will it stick? I would, at least for the time being, advise against it, unless of course, you're the organisation's web 2.0 twatbooker and the only thing you can do is twat and book all sorts of nonsense into a browser.

- Mine is the one with a Dell Vostro 3700 in the pocket

Regards,

Guus Leeuw

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Gold badge

Correct conclusion

As a matter of fact, you have it in writing. As I told in another post, look at their Terms of Service at google.com/accounts/tos - see point 11. I won't touch them with a barge pole..

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Silver badge

We had these 20 years ago

In the university. We called them "terminals" and used them to access our PDP-11 machine.

They were more fun though than these new hinged ipads...

This is a daft idea as are those who would use them.

Need network connection to run - daft

Keep most data on (very) remote storage - daft

Use a US company as the remote storage - daft daft daft

Run everything in a browser - daft (use AT386 for that, why pay for all the fancy hardware?)

Think you save money using that crap - daft

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Web printing, are you kidding me?

I work for a financial institution. The IT department at my company has gone through considerable lengths to set up a secure corporate network infrastructure. Now, suppose a user is given a Chromebook (most of our apps are web-apps), and they are connecting through a secure Wi-Fi access point.

What if the user has to print a document containing sensitive client credit information? The network area needs to be expanded to include the Internet in order to print, seriously? And this is not counting the anachronistic absurdity of expending a round-trip through the void just to make a copy on the machine 10 feet away.

I can imagine others arguing that our institution is not the target audience, but then who is? Any sort of organization has private or sensitive information that it must protect from the rest of the world.

This is all going to flop rather hard.

-dZ.

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Thumb Up

Damn....

You know what? You have managed to clearly and cleanly point out in a few short paragraphs exactly the point that so many of us have tried to make, and been shouted down time and again by Google fanbois.

Thankyou. Absolutely spot-on statement.

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Anonymous Coward

Nice post dZ

I especially like what Google says themselves in their Cloud Print FAQ:

"Yes. Google keeps information about the print job in question (the job title, the printer you sent it to, printer status information) as a record, along with your Google Account ID. We need this information in order to process the jobs you send for printing, and to allow you to view and edit your printing history through the Cloud Print dashboard."

and

"Documents you send to print are your personal information and are kept strictly confidential. Google does not access the documents you print for any purpose other than to improve printing."

Improve printing? Will the blacks come out darker after Google accesses the documents?

Google is seriously aiming for those with more than two screws loose with this product.

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Anonymous Coward

Samsung and Acer

I just want to know how did Google convince Samsung and Acer to manufacture and quite likely lose a lot of their own money on this idiotic project.

Maybe they threatened to revoke their Android licences? Seems to have worked to get Skyhook off the phones...

http://thisismynext.com/2011/05/12/google-android-skyhook-lawsuit-motorola-samsung/

After all for Google this is peanuts, they had to have Chrome already and a Linux disto isn't that hard put together. But Samsung and Acer have to actually make this things, ship them all over the planet and support them when they break.

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FAIL

Turkeys voting for Christmas?

I don't see it. The $3300-$5000 cost of a desktop involves an IT department and lots of man hours.

So that same IT department is going to vote for a solution that will put half of them out of work?

Anyway, we've been here before with Windows Terminal, Wyse terminals, etc, and at the end of the day the standalone PC and laptop beat most of them out of existence. So why should this device be any difference?

At the end of the day Google is using its brand as the driving force for change, and that simply isn't going to happen.

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Terminator

If people spend less time on corpulent presentations...

...that would be great, but we are dealing with the insecure business person, so how well would the Chromebook handle today's presentations?

As many people spend time working on presentations (instead of writing clear concise reports), technology will need to support such activities. As most users don't understand the concept of picture resolution, presentations are getting larger and larger. If a $100 camera regularly produces 4Mb JPEG files, those pictures will be embedded in 20-40Mb presentations. The technologists would have you believe that a 4Mb photo need only be stored in one place in the cloud, and the presentations that want to include it need only store a URL. However, if you wanted to take a presentation and present it at a conference in the sub-basement of a hotel in a busy foreign city (even in the western world), the venue-supplied internet connection is likely to be very flaky - rendering all the images in your presentation is as 'missing image' error messages.

The solution would be a compact (MacMini-sized?) server that would hold proxy copies of the presentation content while on site - browsable by presenters, conference crew and attendees. The same presentation URL would then resolve to a cloud version when people get back to the internet.

Knowing Google's funding model, the price for running a local Google Docs server could be 'carefully targeted' advertising appearing in your docs (downloaded when the server last had a reliable internet connection).

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FAIL

Reducing TCO

Reducing TCO? That's a laugh.

In a serious enterprise, whatever you save in hardware costs, you'll have to spend tenfold on upgrading your leased line to an ultra-low latency, high capacity connection. Why does latency matter? Because all those individual seconds lost in HTTP transactions adds up to a massive loss of productivity for staff over one year, never mind three.

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Silver badge

Re: Missed oppertunity

"Why no sign of an ARM based one that is not limited to 1-2 hours battery life?"

I get 8-11 hours on my Intel Atom based Samsung N220.

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nice, but

it's a nice enough concept - I've been using a Cr48 for some months now - and for simple use cases works great (checking IMDB while watching something on telly, responding to a quick email) but the browser centric full screen view of the world is pretty painful (no IM, no skype, google voice/talk can't make a call) and takes some getting used to

the lack of ability to work without network cripples it for me though - I travel a fair bit and not all planes have WiFi so I can't catch up on email (even if I used gmail for everything.... which I don't. Exchange and Outlook mostly, and there's probably no off-line version of OWA due just yet!) so the iPad or another slate device is probably more use (or a real laptop for the same money)

for businesses... the subscription thing is a bit of smoke and mirrors... the price is just for the device, if you want to run Google Apps as well then you still have to pay for them on top which makes this much less exciting when compared to a traditional windows desktop/laptop plus OS plus office suite...

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Bronze badge
FAIL

The most humorous thing...

...to me at least, is Sanjay Dhar's claim that " you don't have to spend the time replacing files and drivers and applications"

OK, I might give him applications, but apparently, he missed the meeting about network storage and system imaging that most corporate IT organizations have had!

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Grenade

Not for me

This reminds me of the dumb Vax terminals I replaced with PC's at Cigna and the SUN Java station "network computers" that were suppose to eliminate desktop computers and help SUN sell the big servers back in the late 90's. Years later now we have Google trying to usher in the golden age of limited computing on cloud based devices? The only limited use computing devices gaining any traction these days is tablets and even they have local storage, local apps, and full functionality when not connected to the Internet. Good luck with this Google. You aren't going to sway many Windows users and Apple users are probably already laughing at this. The Asus Transformer makes a mocker of these Chrome OS toys.

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Thumb Up

sounds good to me.

But I have been using linux for while, so I am "special".

From one of my previous lives in corporate support, not having a cap lock on the keyboard should reduce "unable to login" calls by about 70%. Not being able to install unveted software will prevent users from installing games, worms, viruses, registry cleaners, defraggers and other pestware. With a local file system and USB, users can lose files to flash disks (if flash was good enough for Osama,,,).

The big problem is the same as usual, if the applications are ANY different than MS office, they are TOO different, and the chimps will need to be retrained. It took them years to reach their current level of incompetence, and it will take years to retrain them. Fortunately, MS is already changing interfaces and cloudifing apps, and has started the process.

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Citrix cost?

How much will the Citrix stuff cost?

The should include native clients for both VNC and RDP.

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Not even remotely "revolutionary"

Timesharing. X-Termainals. Network Computers. Thin clients. We've seen all this before, and we know it sucks. How is this not strictly less powerful than a laptop PC, which can run a browser and do thousands of other apps and games and not be a useless brick when there is no network connectivity?

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Paris Hilton

Another good idea. Won't amount to much though...

This is clearly 'the next big thing'. And probably like about 95% of such monumental changes, it will amount to nothing in the real world.

I think the biggest positive about Google's move is that it continues the trend of trying new ideas and options. If companies didn't try new things, we'd stagnate and all be sitting here with run-time Windows (or GEM!) and Word Perfect.

From an ergonomic viewpoint, particularly for people who have a low number of 'simple' apps, that they use intensively, the laptop form-factor just doesn't cut the mustard. But that's an easy one to solve (so why is the Chrome desktop unit not out yet???).

I think the whole ChromeOS device is confusing two major elements; replacing conventional 'fat' devices to reduce IT support costs (that far exceed the capex purchase costs) and also introducing the concept of cloud computing.

As a new client device, it offers little that can't be had from Wyse type terminals in the office and netbooks hooking back into corporate systems for mobile people.

As a new model of managing data and deploying (cloud) apps, the world - by that, I mean the vast majority of major companies - just will *not* release their sensitive data to some foreign company.

It's rather ironic that in an attempt to answer functionality criticism, Google are offering a more capable local file system. For all the imperfections of todays corporate IT, Google may end up making Chrome far more like existing OS's, just to get acceptance (and meet real every day needs), and that's going to lead to the mother of all compromises.

In a world with 6 billion people, you can always find a market for a new idea. ChromeOS may be relevant to some people, but it won't change the world, nor the way that we work. But good for them, for trying!

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