Google Chromebooks Arrive; Will SMBs Open Their Wallets?
Google Chromebooks from Acer and Samsung debut today (June 15), available for purchase on BestBuy.com and Amazon.com. The low-cost devices resemble notebooks and netbooks, but they run Chrome OS and depend fully on cloud applications like Google Apps.
Google has been careful NOT to promote Chromebooks as netbooks. The reason: Netbook buzz from 2008 has largely died down in recent years, especially as tablets and the Apple iPad gained momentum.
Early buzz from sites like ZDnet suggest Chromebooks are consumer friendly. The big question from TalkinCloud: Will small businesses embrace Chromebooks — and will channel partners support them?
I’ve got a strong hunch that Chromebooks will catch on within the education vertical first, as schools seek low-cost, cloud-enabled devices for students and teachers. Already, Google Apps for Education is a hit with schools. Now, I suspect, Chromebooks will expand Google’s footprint in the education market.
The SMB Challenge
I’m still not sure if or how Chromebooks will catch on within the SMB market. The answer may depend on another Google effort — called Chromebooks for Business. Simply put, Chromebooks for Business is service that combines hardware, software and support into a single monthly fee ($28 for businesses, $20 for schools).
Google has yet to announce a Chromebook for Business partner program. But during the TruMethods Schnizzfest conference last week, Google SMB Channel Lead Jeff Ragusa reiterated that Google remains committed to developing a partner model for the Chromebook for Business program, though details are still pending.
At only $28 per user per month, there won’t be much channel margin for partners. But there could be a silver lining. By driving down the cost of hardware and software, Google may help SMBs to free up IT budget for more managed services — including help desk services and NOC (network operations center) services from VARs and MSPs.
It’s far too early to say whether Chromebooks — and the Chromebook for Business program — will succeed. Also, TalkinCloud is checking to see if Google will promote Chromebooks — and Chromebooks for Business — through traditional channel distributors like Ingram Micro and Tech Data.
In the meantime, Google seems serious about promoting Chromebooks into business accounts. Pilot program participants included America Airlines, Groupon, National Geographic, Logitech, Salesforce.com just to name a few.
I suspect Google’s Chromebook efforts could help MSPs to start new conversations with customers. One prime example: Perhaps Chromebooks for Business will help MSPs to have broader customer conversations that cover hardware as a service.
No doubt, Google is triggering new chatter. SMB customers will surely ask more and more about cloud strategies involving Microsoft, Google and other giants. It’s up to MSPs to arm themselves with answers or informed opinions that move SMB customers forward.