Google Chromebooks (those low-cost cloud notebooks that run ChromeOS) continue to take small steps forward. We've spotted four examples of Chromebook progress in recent days. But are Chromebooks really starting to catch on?
First, let's look at the anecdotal progress:
- TigerDirect.com recently began selling Chromebooks from Acer and Samsung, joining Amazon.com and BestBuy.com as online Chromebook resellers.
- Google has launched a Chrome extension that supports remote access -- somewhat similar to Citrix's GoToMyPC, notes Wired.
- SADA Systems is now promoting web-enabled Windows apps for Chromebooks.
- And Google itself is promoting Chromebooks in a retail store in London.
Chromebook Reality Check
Those are important signs of progress. But for the Talkin' Cloud readership, I'm most interested in so-called Chromebooks for Business and Education -- which combines software as a service (SaaS) with hardware as a service (HaaS). Chromebooks for Business and Education start at about $20 per user per month (for schools) and $30 per user per month (for businesses). That price includes everything -- cloud software, hardware and remote support -- at the flat monthly fee.
Dozens of schools and businesses have been piloting Chromebooks. However, I haven't heard about any big Chromebook customer deployments since the devices officially launched in June 2011. Also, I've yet to hear how Google channel partners -- traditional VARs and MSPs -- will potentially resell Chromebooks.
In some ways, I think Chromebooks, like netbooks, could suffer from a market squeeze.
- Notebooks: Generally speaking, I think most users want full-blown notebooks that include local software.
- Tablets: Many of those same users embrace tablet computers for content consumption -- reading, listening, watching...
Still, Chromebooks may find a market niche. As the cloud becomes ubiquitous and some customers seek to regain control of employees' mobile devices, Chromebooks may offer the perfect, well-managed, l0w-cost solution. But Google has to start banging the Chromebook drumbeat a little louder each time a new customer embraces the Chromebook model. That's assuming, of course, customers are marching forward with Chromebooks.