Looking at Chromebooks

HP Pavilion Chromebook

Today Google unveils a new Chromebook in the form of 14″ HP Pavilion Chromebook. It seems they may be gaining traction.

For the curious, I have put together a small summary from my notes after attending a Google presentation on the subject. 

The Chromebook as an IT concept is an interesting thing as it steps away from the traditional laptop and well-known deployment and management techniques.

Only a relatively small number of people will yet have had the experience of deploying and supporting these combined device+service in a production environment with real users, the sort that provide unpredictable events*

In the seas of technology offerings for both home and business, the pitch is the Chromebook as a new offering for business, i.e. the ‘Chromebook for Business’, but why now? A number of factors are coming together to facilitate these offerings:

  • Computing, bandwidth and device costs are all trending downwards
  • Software as a service approach presents all functionality via browser
  • HTML 5 is becoming a unifying common denominator for devices
  • Chromebooks minimise the OS to run Chrome only
  • Desktop is the Operating Environment
  • No local install bar base OS and Chrome as Operating Environment
  • Built in 3G, powering a move towards merger of laptop form factor with Tablet speed

A question less often considered in the SME environment, but most certainly in larger IT environment will be centred around security.

  • Dual copies of OS, which are signed and firmware only boots signed and verified against inboard backup images.
  • System has remote wipe, and single flip switch wipe, allowing wipe of user home.
  • Chrome is on a six-week release cycle, with OS auto updates, update is implemented on the standby OS image.
  • The user then gets switched onto new image with the old in standby, presumably on this occurs on reboot.
  • Only when the new boot-up is verified are the new copies of the OS image written over the old image.

There are plenty of other features to consider, some of which are aimed at the enterprise (centrally managed policies spring to mind), and some of which, such as Google Talk that are less commonly seen in use.

For most businesses, the low price should at least allow some experimentation and testing to see if the business workflow could be suitable for migration.

Google have a page or two up on Chromebooks here.

*Usually they’re human.

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