The Chromebook is one of Google’s best kept secrets

In 2008 Google introduced Android, an operating system for smartphones. Three years later, Gartner estimates Android runs on 43% of the smartphones sold. In June of this year, Google introduced Chromebook running Chrome OS. So in 2014, will almost half the computers sold run Chrome OS?

Android turned out to be a great mix between configurability (like Symbian and Windows Mobile) and tight control (like iOS). Combined with hardware from vendors like HTC, LG and Motorola this is a very successful formula.

So now Google tries to do the same for personal computing. Bold or brilliant? Google kicked off by targeting home users. A Chromebook is a low-powered machine similar to a netbook, but built to Google’s specs. Lightweight (1.5 kg / 3.3 pounds), fast startup times (8 seconds) and long runtime (6+ hours). Prices average at 400 Euro / 350 GBP.

But the real argument for choosing a Chromebook should be user experience: no hassle with installing applications, software updates or defragmentation. Everything runs from the web. If your Chromebook gets into trouble, you just reset it or log in to a new one and continue where you left off. Sounds like an interesting proposition for the not so tech-savvy home user.

For businesses, the Chromebook may even be more compelling. Stripped from all the clutter Windows machines require. No antivirus or endpoint protection hassles or complicated SCCM administration.

Say goodbye to at least half your geeksquad. And for organisations dealing with sensitive information (who isn’t?) it gets better: Operating system and browser are built according to the ‘defence-in-depth’ concept. Browser tabs are sandboxed, user data is encrypted and stored on tamper-resisting hardware. In fact, local storage is for caching only, all user data is saved in the cloud.

A lot is being said about cloud and security. With a recent phenomenon like cloud it’s hard to tell, but who do you think will do a better job? Google, whose reputation and market share is directly related to their ability to safely and securely store customer information or your own IT department? An unfair battle for most IT departments.

But Chromebook for Business isn’t perfect. The management console will not be sufficient for everyone and enterprises don’t just throw away their bespoke applications or migrate them to run in the browser.

The Citrix receiver is no panacea either. For non-US organisations, there is also the Patriot act, which forces Google to share your information with US law enforcement. That, or the inherent fact that you lose some control and transparency using the cloud, may be a showstopper for some.

As always, business goals, your organisation’s culture, budget and risk appetite should be deciding factors for choosing an unrivalled concept like Chromebook for Business or stick with what you have. But for now, most striking is the lack of information or media attention for Chromebook for Business. Almost as if Google doesn’t want you to know about Chromebook.

Maarten Oosterink is a Capgemini Managing Consultant based in the Netherlands working on IT Infrastructure and IT Security related topics such as Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure Protection. He leads the Information Risk Management & Security Community of Practice in the Netherlands. He also enjoys coaching/mentoring colleagues and evangalise IT Security. A technical background and 10+ years of experience make what Maarten is today: passionate about IT security and enjoying his journey to a more secure world, hoping to tag along as many as possible.