Will Chrome OS Ever Replace Windows In Enterprise Environments?

    February 11, 2014

In 2011, Google launched the first Chromebooks – a laptop featuring Google’s very own Chrome OS. The machines and accompanying operating system were marketed as an affordable alternative to Windows for those who use computers to browse the Web and nothing more. Since then, Google has become a bit more ambitious with Chrome OS and its recent moves make it seem as if the company is targeting Windows.

Do you think Chrome OS will replace Windows in enterprise markets? Will you make the switch? Let us know in the comments.

In early February, Google announced a new product called Chromebox for Meetings. The hardware bundle includes a mini-desktop PC running Chrome OS, a microphone, a HD camera and a remote. In short, Google wants businesses to use this new product for video conferencing.

The Chromebox for Meetings is a bold move considering that a lot of businesses are still using Skype to hold video meetings. The Microsoft-owned company relies heavily on the fact that many businesses either operate on Windows or Mac OS X, and that easily allows said companies to integrate Skype into their business. With free Skype to Skype video calls, it makes collaboration through video easy and affordable.

So, what does Google offer differently with Chromebox? For starters, Chromebox for Meetings is made to accommodate both large and small meetings with support for up to 15 participants. Those participants can join in a call with their laptops, tablets or smartphones as well ensuring that everybody can join the meeting.

Another key difference is its size. The Chromebox is much smaller than even your mini-Windows desktop. The size allows it to be easily moved between rooms if your business calls for that sort of thing. The size also means it draws a lot less power than a traditional Windows desktop.

Perhaps the most important distinction, however, is its simplicity. Chrome OS has always prided itself on being a plug-and-play operating system and the Chromebox for Meetings claims to be no different. Google says you just need to plug in a display, complete a set up wizard and you’re good to go. That kind of simplicity can not be overstated in an enterprise environment where complexity can lead to a wasted day of setup.

Of course, Chromebox for Meetings isn’t the only product Google is using to target enterprise markets. The company has positioned its Chromebook as the perfect enterprise computer since their launch in 2011. It’s only been seen as such a replacement in recent months, however, with an NPD report from last month stating that Chromebooks made up 21 percent of all notebook sales in 2013. Furthermore, Chromebooks were the only computers to see growth in a market where sales of Windows-based PCs are stalled and Apple-based computers are falling.

Hardware is only a small part of a successful enterprise product. Microsoft’s success in the sector can be largely attributed to its range of products, like Office and Excel. Google has an answer for this as well with its Google Enterprise lineup of products, like Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs and Hangouts.

Google Enterprise also features services that are invaluable to the modern business. Products like Map Engine allow businesses to visualize their data using Google Maps. App Engine and Compute Engine give businesses the power of Google’s architecture to process data – big and small.

While that’s all well and good, it’s probably still not enough to convince the business that’s been with Windows for years to make the switch. For that, Microsoft is doing a good enough job itself in convincing businesses to switch to Chrome OS.

As you are probably well aware, Microsoft is finally ending extended support for Windows XP in April. Most of the world’s businesses are still using the decade-old operating system and will need something to replace it once Microsoft stops supporting it. While some companies will no doubt move to Windows 7 or 8, it’s not as simple for others. The size of its operation coupled with the cost of upgrading and training for a new version of Windows makes upgrading to Windows 7 or 8 almost impossible for some enterprise customers.

Google knows this and is already advertising Chrome OS as the affordable alternative to Windows for enterprise customers. Heck, just look at this recent advertisement is posted to its Google Plus page:

While the ad is mainly about Google’s decision to support the Chrome browser on XP through 2015, it’s intention is clear. It wants businesses to start using Chrome on Windows XP as a way to mitigate threats from malware, but it’s pretty obvious that Google is using Chrome as a gateway drug to get businesses hooked on Chrome OS.

With all that being said, there’s one major caveat for a business to consider. Do your employees use applications that run on traditional desktop environments? If so, you’re going to want to stick with Windows. Chrome OS is a Web-based operating system and all applications built for it run on the Web. More and more applications are making the switch to HTML5 and other Web technologies though. Within a few years, the desktop applications your employees now use may run on the Web with no problem making Chrome OS a far more attractive option.

Windows or Chrome OS – that’s the question that will be facing more businesses as Windows XP support ends in just a few months. While businesses can continue using Windows XP until 2015 without fear of malware, they’ll want to make the switch as soon as possible. During that time, you can expect Google to heavily market products towards the enterprise as a way to entice them over to Chrome OS. The Chromebox for meetings is just the latest product to do so, and you can probably expect a lot more in the coming year.

Will your business make the move to Chrome OS this year? Or are you sticking with Windows? Let us know in the comments.

Image via Google Enterprise/YouTube