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May 12, 2011
Initially, the Google Chromebooks for Business announcement from earlier today sounded like Google was set to alienate some channel partners. But now, updated statements suggest Google will allow partners to play a role in the new Chromebooks for Business strategy — which marries hardware, cloud software and support into a flat monthly fee. The big remaining question: Will managed services providers (MSPs) be able to remotely manage Chromebooks for Business devices? Here’s some analysis and speculation.
First, my usual background statement: Chromebooks for Business are Web-centric notebooks that run Chrome OS. The Chromebooks, from Acer and Samsung, are scheduled to debut June 15. Customers can buy the Chromebooks — or opt for the Chromebooks for Business service, which costs $28 per user per month in business, or $20 per user per month in the education vertical. A desktop Chromebook form factor also is expected but details are pending.
Initially, Google said Chromebooks for Business was a direct sales play. But about an hour ago, Google sent me a revised statement that’s far more channel friendly. It read:
“We currently are only offering Chromebooks for Business directly from Google. We plan to expand this product to sell through our Google Apps partners who provide a variety of value added services to our customers but have no other details to announce at this time.”
In other words: There’s a potential channel play here but the details are still forthcoming.
During his Google I/O keynote today, Senior VP of Chrome Sundar Pichai said Chromebooks will be “dead simple to manage.” He said Google is developing a Web-based administration console, which will allow IT managers to oversee Chromebooks in business. The big question: Will Google extend that Web-based administration console to MSPs and channel partners?
I still don’t have a clear answer to that question. But there is a bigger trend for MSPs to consider: If Chromebooks for Business catch on, they will potentially undermine traditional remote monitoring, patch management, anti-virus and other monthly maintenance fees that surfaced in the Windows world.
I’m not suggesting Chromebooks for Business will be an overnight hit. Traditional PCs and notebooks will be around for years to come. But the writing is on the wall: The balance of power continues to shift from the desktop to the cloud. The mobile device management (MDM) discussion will shift from antiquated patch-management debates to security, corporate compliance and data protection in the cloud.
Sure, it’s wise for MSPs to continue their traditional PC management businesses. But don’t underestimate Google Chromebooks for Business, tablets and other devices that won’t suffer from traditional PC management headaches.
Hopefully, Google’s Web management console will be available to MSPs. But ultimately, I believe, the real partner profits will involve application integration and cloud integration work.
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