This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter - Recent posts by Zeus Kerravala.

Cisco, Avaya and the rest of the field should be embracing Chrome OS as a way to rip the Microsoft foundation out of companies that Lync will be built on.

All eyes are on Interop this week but there’s another significant conference running in parallel to it and that’s the Google I/O Developer Conference. Day two of the event was focused on Chrome OS and its release into the market. Six months ago Google released a handful of beta units to the industry and after only half a year of beta testing it looks like Google is finally ready to bring the Chrome OS laptops to market.

What Google announced was that beginning June 15, two laptop models, one made by Asus and one by Samsung and will be sold by Amazon and Best Buy. The Samsung laptop will have a 12.1-inch screen, have WiFi and 3G services, touts an “all-day” battery (you can do this when you’re not spinning a drive continually) and will retail for $499. The Acer Chrome Laptop will be WiFi only, have an 11.6 inch screen, also have an all day battery and be priced at $349.

At those prices, I don’t expect consumer take up to be overwhelming but that’s not where the Google guns are aimed. Google also announced a great value for businesses–a lease arrangement that will give businesses the laptop, support and end of life hardware replacements for $28 US per user per month. Now, practically speaking not all companies will want all of their content in the cloud, so Google has added a device called the Chrome Box, which is a device that can be used to connect the Chrome OS Book to the corporate file systems and is included in the $28 per month price. So for that low amount a company can have the laptop, the Box, full warrantee, support and end of life replacement.

With this offering Google has clearly put Microsoft in the cross hairs. Once it secures the desktop and OS it can more aggressively go after the Office monopoly with Google Docs and also can challenge the Exchange base with G-Mail. The war is on and Google has stepped up its offering big time.

So, is a Chrome OS really ready for business purposes? I think it has a realistic shot at taking some significant share quickly. If you know me, you know I believe share shift occurs during market transitions and this transition is tied to the cloud. We live our lives in the cloud today. Netflix, iTunes, Xbox, Shutterfly, Facebook, whatever. We get what we want, when we want because we’re connected to the cloud, and businesses can do the same thing.

The Chrome OS Laptop is almost a purely web driven device so if you get all of your content from the Internet it means it’s instant on, there’s no need to run local virus scanners and other things that slow down your laptop. Everyone gets frustrated with how long Windows takes to boot. In fact, I joke often that Windows 7 drove me to Mac. This takes care of that problem. For IT managers, it simplifies IT greatly. No patches, software updates, security concerns. If a user loses a device, fine. It’s cut off from accessing the network and no content is lost.

Now truth be told, Google did make provisions for some local storage. Users can download and store music, videos and a handful of applications if they choose to, so it’s not a totally cloud driven device, but it is the closest thing we have to date.

Offline mode can be a challenge as well but that problem is rapidly going away. In the meantime, Google is banking on HTML5 to solve those issues. Regardless, the trend to the cloud is here and the Google Chrome Laptop is the first device that’s been optimized for the fact we’re moving our lives to the cloud, the Google cloud if they had their way.

This is, by far, the biggest threat Microsoft has had to its huge corporate installed base. Mac has made some penetration but it’s a premium priced brand so its installed base is limited to higher end users or a few niche use cases. Also, Apple hasn’t really even tried to sell to corporations. Almost all of its penetration has been through consumer demand.

Google’s offering however, does make the IT department’s life easier. It addresses the consumerization trend as well. It lowers the cost of PC management and it can lower the overpriced Microsoft software maintenance costs. Because of this, I do think it’s likely we’ll see some companies give it a try. This could pose a huge threat to the other business units at Microsoft. Once Windows is out of there, why run Office, Exchange, Share Point and Lync?

One final note to the industry I watch and that’s the UC market. All of the major vendors here–Cisco, Avaya, Siemens, etc–should find a way to get their UC solutions to run on Chrome OS. The value proposition of Lync is largely tied up in the fact that if a company has a Windows desktop, then Lync makes great sense. If you’re not running Windows, why run Lync? So Cisco, Avaya and the rest of the field, YOU should be embracing Chrome OS as a way to rip the Microsoft foundation out of companies that Lync will be built on.

Game on.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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