Does Chrome OS success rest with enterprises?

During its Chrome OS preview event on Tuesday, Google Inc. surprised many observers by spending a great deal of time making a pitch to enterprises.

In addition to listing off a few big name companies involved in its Chrome OS pilot program, the search giant also brought partner Citrix Systems Inc. on stage to show off how business apps will work on the Chrome OS.

Search Engine Land blogger Greg Sterling said Chrome’s lack of on-board features might actually be “highly desirable” for enterprises looking to slash their total cost of ownership on PCs and their efforts to secure them.

“Chrome OS machines, in an unexpected way, now anchor Google’s overall enterprise strategy, which includes Google Apps (extending to third party apps through the Chrome Store and Apps Marketplace),” he wrote. “The vision is thousands of low-cost boxes in the enterprise running Chrome OS, accessing enterprise data and apps in the cloud, where everything centrally updated and controlled.”

Sterling added that Google could well become a formidable competitor to both Microsoft and Oracle in the enterprise in a few years.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, a blogger covering Linux and open source for ZDNet, agreed, adding that Google’s Chrome OS could make a huge impact on IT shops..

“If you’ve been in technology as long as I have, you’ve heard this idea come and go at least half-a-dozen times,” he wrote. “It’s an IT-centric idea, beloved by many a CIO, in which clients are mere fingers to the central mainframe hand.”

The combination of the cloud, wide availability of wireless networking, and Google’s new OS could finally make this idea a winner, Vaughan-Nichols said.

“Chrome OS, with HTML 5, gives the ‘desktop’ operating system far more flexibility than earlier models,” he wrote. “Simultaneously, cloud computing frees users from being tied to one particular server or data-centre. Chrome OS may indeed not prove to be wildly successful for most users, but I can see it doing extremely well as a business desktop operating system.”

But not all bloggers were so bullish on Google’s new OS.

Business Insider blogger Matt Rosoff referenced Google’s admission that it’s still working out how to support some USB peripherals devices as possible foreshadowing for how Chrome OS would likely fail. In addition to admitting support for USB storage drives isn’t even finished yet, Rosoff wrote that the company also danced around questions about which kinds of hardware would be supported upon launch.
“As a former colleague often jokes, Microsoft didn’t set out to build a slow, buggy, bloated operating system. It happens over many years, as a series of seemingly reasonable requests pile up, each adding more code and more dependencies,” he wrote. “Sure, Chrome can boot up in less than 60 seconds and resume almost immediately. But what happens when it’s got to load a bunch of hardware drivers?”

Rosoff added that completely ignoring peripherals, or supporting just a select few, would work fine for only a small minority of users — those who live exclusively on the Web.

PCMag blogger Mark Hachman made many of the same points as Rosoff in his blog post, but added that even business users will sometimes want to leave the Web to print, play 3D games, share files, connected a USB keyboard, and access external drives and SD cards.

“A specialized netbook (or a tablet) doesn’t have to do any of these things,” he wrote. “Whether or not Google’s audience will expect it to may be the real question.”

As for hardware vendors ready to build these specialized netbooks by mid-2011, Google announced just two: Acer and Samsung. This had Technologizer blogger Harry McCracken scratching his head.

“A year ago, Google said that Acer, Asus, HP, and Lenovo were on board for Chrome OS,” he wrote. “Maybe Asus, HP, and Lenovo are still gung-ho about the project, but I didn’t hear their names mentioned today.”

“I wonder if HP would now prefer to build any machine along these lines using its own Web OS?”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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