Partners looking to expand their Chromebook sales past the retail and education verticals and into enterprises will get help from a new Chrome Enterprise offering.
Released Tuesday and priced starting at $50 per device per year, Chrome Enterprise increases IT control of Google Chrome OS devices via integration with both Microsoft Active Directory and VMware’s Workspace ONE virtualization and AirWatch enterprise mobility management software. The subscription also includes from Google 24/7 support, managed OS updates, printer management, single sign-on, theft prevention and other security features. Eventually, IT or a provider will be able to set up managed app stores for users to download approved Android apps; this feature is currently in beta.
In an introductory post, Chrome Enterprise product manager David Karam said the goal is to provide a single, cost-effective solution that gives IT the flexibility and control to keep employees connected.
While Google has always enabled management of Chrome devices via open APIs and its own console, integration with Microsoft Active Directory will be a key selling point for enterprise customers. Chromebooks are already eating into U.S. PC shipments, according to Gartner. In the second quarter of 2017, PC sales totaled 14 million units, a 5.7 percent decline from the second quarter of 2016. While part of that is attributable to weak consumer demand, the education market was under particular pressure from Chromebooks, as partners know. In fact, according to Gartner, the Chromebook market has been growing much faster than the PC business: Worldwide Chromebook shipments grew 38 percent in 2016, while the overall PC market declined 6 percent.
All that’s holding back further cannibalization, said Gartner in the report, are the need for more affordable mobile data connectivity and better offline capabilities. That’s part of the story. A counterbalancing argument for partners is that Chrome OS is less susceptible to malware, including ransomware, and the hardware is inexpensive enough that a lost device isn’t a big budget hit for customers. Nuke it and move on.
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As for the AirWatch deal, VMware and Google jointly announced an expanded partnership to enable management of Chrome devices, essentially making them thin clients. As of September, VMware says it will become the first unified endpoint management provider to offer full control over Chrome devices – along with PCs, tablets and smartphones – from a single console via its Workspace ONE desktop virtualization platform.
“The consumerization of the enterprise has left IT managing multiple operating systems on a variety of devices — some provided by the business and others brought in by employees,” said Sumit Dhawan, VMware’s senior vice president and general manager, end-user computing, in a statement. “As Chrome OS continues to gain momentum, our customers are eager to manage these devices consistently along with all other endpoints, including mobile devices.”
Workspace ONE should offer better security thanks to robust auditing and tracking, including the ability to wipe a lost device. IT or a partner can enforce group-level policies based on geography, platform, department, role and more.
Partners can join a Chrome Enterprise webinar on Aug. 23 to learn more and take part in a live Q&A.