I was recently approached by a vendor who started manufacturing Chromebooks prior to the holiday season. While Chromebooks saw some acceptance in the consumer sector over the gift-giving season (primarily because of price and gullibility), they wanted help understanding why Chromebooks are not taking off as business devices.
To me, the reasons are obvious. Chromebooks represent the anti-PC. It's a netbook that can do a few things, and is primarily a consumer-oriented offering. So, when approached with concern that Chromebooks were not seeing uptake in the business world, I was a bit shocked. First, I was shocked to hear that a vendor would actually consider marketing Chromebooks to businesses. And, secondly, I was shocked to realize just how disconnected most vendors truly are.
In What the Heck is Happening to Windows?, Paul recently went on a rant about how disconnected Microsoft seems to be as they prepare to release Windows 8.1 Update 1, and of course, we've seen just recently how HP is starting to charge for firmware updates and then suggesting this is good for customers because they decided it is.
It happens all over.
So, what are the drawbacks for using a Chromebook as a business device?
- Chromebooks require a steady connection to the Internet. Business users like to work offline, and they don’t always have access to the Internet when roaming. To clarify for commenters: I made this point a bit too simplistic for some, it appears. Many apps don't work fully – or at all – without the Internet connection, or they need to be configured while you still have the connection to work offline.
- Microsoft Office is the standard office package for business. Office 365 is growing like gangbusters. Microsoft Office cannot be installed on a Chromebook, making it a worthless as a business device, unless end-users can live with using Office 365 web apps.
- The majority of companies have policies against storing company data 100% in the Cloud. Chromebooks rely on Google Drive (cloud-based storage) by default to store files. And, there are further policies against using other consumer-oriented services (like Dropbox) for storage.
- Google is considered the least trustworthy of any cloud provider, and even though many use Gmail and other services personally, they would never consider Google as a business solution.
- The Chrome Web store and ChromeOS plugins don’t offer enough to run real a business. They could in the future, but right now it's just not possible.
- Critical business applications that need to be installed locally do not run on Chromebooks.
- Most PC purchase authorization goes through a central group, and decisions are based on corporate IT policy. No matter how much the industry makes of BYOD, it just isn’t happening on a large scale.
To me, we are headed toward a day when a Chromebook-like device will be the norm. Personally, I believe the Chromebook is just a few years ahead of its time. The seven points I shared can all be fixed, and I fully expect the majority of those issues to go away in 5-10 years. But, not now.
Did I miss reasons that are keeping Chromebooks out of your company? Let me know.
Are you allowing Chromebooks in your organization? If so, what are the top pain points you are addressing?