Chrome has come a long way, but the journey might only just be starting
I was talking with some of my peers about the changing landscape of the digital workplace. ‘So, what do you think about Google Chrome Enterprise,’ I asked. Not for the first time, I was met with a couple of blank stares. Maybe Google needs a bit of advice in getting its message out? Let me help. Google Chrome Enterprise is an operating system (Chrome OS), a browser (Chrome), and a device (Chromebook). There’s plenty of ‘cloudy’ stuff too of course, with the likes of G Suite being the more familiar component, but this is Google setting out its alternative desktop agenda as Microsoft flounders amidst the turbulent waves of forced Windows 10 upgrades and migrations.
Are you a ‘cloud worker’?
So, who’s Google Chrome Enterprise aimed at I hear you ask. Well, it’s for the ‘cloud worker’ of course. I suspect we’re going to hear this term used quite a bit, so we might as well get used to it. A cloud worker is someone who spends most of their time working with cloud-based, browser-based apps and services. You’re probably well on your way to becoming a cloud worker yourself if you’re using Office 365, Salesforce, ServiceNow, etc. Indeed, with the growing prevalence of SaaS solutions and cloud delivery models, we’re all going to be cloud workers before long. This will eventually put the term in the same meaningless category as ‘information worker’, but let’s not worry about that for now.
Chrome OS: the optimum thin client
I’ve written about the viability of Chrome OS as a real alternative to Microsoft Windows in previous articles, including a mention of CloudReady from Neverware (a Google-invested firm) if you want to quickly and easily retrofit Chrome OS to your existing PC fleet. But it’s the combination of Chrome OS with desktop and application virtualisation solutions that put it over-the-top for me. Chrome OS devices (Chromebooks, Chromeboxes, Chromebases and converted PCs) present a range of advantages if we consider them as thin clients. They’re relatively mainstream, they’re affordable, they’re manageable, they’re self-maintaining, and they’re very capable. They won’t suit every use case, but they do sit very comfortably between Windows PCs and zero clients. The capabilities of Google Chrome Enterprise come to life when considered alongside partner products, such as Citrix Workspace. Using the Citrix Workspace app for Chrome (formerly known as Citrix Receiver), IT departments can provide instant access to SaaS and web applications, virtualized Windows applications, files, and even legacy desktop environments if needed. I expect we’ll also see some intriguing options come to market when Microsoft makes its Azure-based Windows Virtual Desktop generally available. The offering promises to deliver a multi-user Windows 10 experience that is optimised for Office 365 ProPlus and the subscription generating revenues that go with it. And I see no reason why those revenues can’t equally well be generated on AWS or Google Cloud Platform.
What does Google Chrome Enterprise mean for your organisation?
Setting aside Chrome OS and Chromebooks for a moment, the Chrome browser itself is designed with enterprise IT administrators in mind. It can be managed using Windows Group Policy and has over 400 policy settings to choose from. Please don’t use them all! You can also configure policies on Mac and Linux computers, of course. You’re already on the Google Chrome Enterprise glidepath if you’ve deployed the browser across your enterprise, so you might want to consider which direction this is taking you. There’s no need to panic, but it’s worth considering how this plays into your desktop strategy. Chrome has come a long way since its introduction in 2008, but the journey might only just be starting. What do you want Chrome to become? Let us know.
Originally published on Freeform Dynamics’ Computer Weekly Blog – Write Side Up