This is how Google could potentially disrupt the enterprise IT market: release ultra-cheap Chromebooks with decent specs (including the ability to power the devices up via an Android smartphone charger), sell them to businesses as thin-client replacements (with Google’s Web services essentially replacing much of the in-house datacenter’s core functions), and wait for the money to roll in.
Would businesses go for it? It’s likely that more than a few would take the leap: although Microsoft held a tight grip on the enterprise for years, the rise of mobile devices as the center of peoples’ computing lives has introduced Android, iOS and other operating systems into the workaday environment, making businesses more open to new IT configurations. In addition, employees are used to Google Apps—and more to the point, many of them want to use Google Apps as part of their daily workflow.
Google’s new HP Chromebook 11 seems tailored for exactly that sort of strategy: it’s priced at $279, weighs 2.3 pounds, and boasts six hours’ worth of battery life (extendable, as previously mentioned, by the same charger used to repower Android smartphones and tablets). It runs Chrome OS, an operating system that requires a near-constant connection to the Web to most effectively run its portfolio of Google Apps, but is capable of some offline work.
It’s no secret that Google wants a bigger slice of the enterprise market, not to mention a hefty chunk of government business—it’s engaged in some highly publicized fights with Microsoft over municipal and federal contracts, for instance. Just this week, Google chairman Eric Schmidt told an audience at this year’s Gartner Symposium/ITxpo that Android is more secure than an iPhone—something which drew laughs, but seemed a clear play toward the businesspeople in the room who make corporate buying decisions. If Google decided to take its enterprise-and-government play to the next level and become more of a front-end player (in addition to providing backend infrastructure and services on contract), then something like an ultra-cheap Chromebook would probably be a good way to make that actually happen.