Chromebook users are double-handicapped. If their connection to the Internet breaks they can’t work at all, and once they’re connected they’re limited to the Google desktop.
Chromebooks run ChromeOS, Google’s other operating system. What Android is to iOS, ChromeOS is to Windows — or so Google would like it. Google advertises Chromebook to students as a cheap alternative to laptops running Windows or OS X. You can lease one for as little as $20 a month, where a comparable laptop lists for $500 or more. That $20 lease also saves you from things like Word, antivirus software, patching upgrades, etc. So a cash-strapped student can have a computer with coffee money.
But if Google’s going to gain the kind of traction it got with Android, it needs to go after the enterprise. The challenge is that Google’s apps aren’t robust enough for business use when many applications are integrated. In today’s law firm for example, Outlook is the desktop. Document management is integrated with e-mail, Word and redlining, and retention. Google apps can’t do that, and students don’t care about that, which is why they’re an easier sell.
Now two companies, Citrix and SADA Systems, have products to bridge the Chrome/Windows gap. Citrix’s answer is the Citrix Receiver for Chromebooks, which allows users to connect with their desktop, whether it’s virtual or a physical box under their desk. Applications like MS Word or Adobe Standard come up in separate tabs. For example, on one tab you could have Google Docs and on another your Outlook client. That’s way better than using Outlook Web Access.
Similarly, SADA provides Chromebook users with remote access to Windows desktops running legacy applications. Users get unfettered access to all applications, regardless of whether they reside in the cloud, desktop or corporate network. It’s a good solution for smaller enterprises because it requires less back-end.
Inevitably, the desktop’s going to turn into a dumb terminal in the corporate environment. It just makes sense. Maintenance is reduced to zero and no data is lost if the device is stolen or dropped. The question is whose terminal will it be? Citrix and SADA Systems make a good case for Chrome OS.