New data visualization apps for Excel 2013 could help Microsoft hang on to customers looking for better data visualization tools.
How Google's new $249 Chromebooks could fit into a BYOD plan
Last week, Google and Samsung teamed up to release a new $249 device that could find a place in the enterprise.
The surprise: it's not an Android tablet. It's a Chromebook.
Chromebooks run Google's Chrome OS, which is essentially a verison of the Chrome browser writ large. They have scant local storage, no support for peripherals like cameras or MP3 players, and no local apps -- everything runs in the cloud.
When they first came out in 2011, Google tried to promote them as an alternative to netbooks for cost-conscious consumers. They never took off: at $349 they were too expensive, and didn't do enough. In particular, they didn't have the wealth of apps that the iPad, Kindle, and other consumer tablets have.
But in the meantime, a funny thing started to happen. Chromebooks began to find a home in schools and some businesses.
Both companies are geographically dispersed and have lots of franchisees with widely varying degrees of technical skill. Both companies also operate entirely in the cloud and use Gmail and other Google services, although QDI also uses virtualization technology from Ericom to give users access to Windows apps running on a remote server.
In both cases, franchisees are welcome to use other computers -- as long as they bring their own. But if they want the company to supply one, it's probably going to be a Chromebook.
Why would businesses like these push Chromebooks? They are:
- Cheap -- the hardware costs $249, but companies must add another $150 for business support and a management console. But even then, they're still $100 cheaper than Microsoft's upcoming Surface RT, and less than half the price of a typical higher-end laptop. If you've got temporary or seasonal workers, you can rent them for $30 a month.
- Low-touch -- Google's web-based management console lets administrators provision the devices and control the software users are allowed to install on them; the OS software is updated automatically.
- Secure -- all apps are sandboxed, and users can't save files locally, which minimizes the risks if an employee loses the device in a coffeeshop. (There's some caching for working on Google Apps even when the device has no network connection.)
The new ones are reasonably attractive to end users, too. They're light (less than 3 pounds) and thin (0.7 inches), with 6 and a half hours of battery life. They look like Macbook Airs, or like any of a dozen ultrabook PC clones.
Chromebooks are probably not going to replace Windows PCs in big Microsoft shops that are already using Exchange, Active Directory, and other Microsoft management tools.
They're also questionable as a consumer product, even though Google is still pushing them as the "computer for everyone". (Although any blog post that highlights security is probably not meant for normal end-users.)
Surface has been a stiff so far, but Microsoft reportedly has big expectations for its next fiscal year. Here's why the company may not be crazy.
Brandon Porco, the chief technologist for defense contractor Northrop Grumman, says that IT will have to try lots of different things and move quickly to keep abreast of evolving employee needs. "Google has it very well-patterned: Launch and iterate."
Although Apple is often accused of not being an enterprise company, it's only in the last few years that Apple has abandoned its enterprise-oriented products. The real story may be that Apple's discovered that making enterprise-focused efforts simply don't deliver a huge return on investment.
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