This syndicated post originally appeared at Yankee Group Blog » Zeus Kerravala.

This week at Google’s I/O developer conference, the company announced the general availability of two Chrome OS Laptops.  Both Best Buy and Amazon will be selling the devices made by Acer and Samsung.  The Samsung “Chrome Book” will have a 12.1 inch display and have integrated WiFi and Verizon 3G and will be priced at $429.  The Acer device will only be $349 but will be WiFi only and have an 11.6 inch screen.  Both devices tout long battery life and are optimized for accessing content out of the cloud.

Google also announced a very compelling business package where organizations could lease the Chrome Books for $28 per month per user.  The $28 price tag includes the laptop, full warranty, support, service, end of life replacement and a device called the Chrome Box to allow companies to connect the Chrome Book to the corporate file systems.

In my opinion, this is an important evolutionary step for the device market, for both consumers and corporate workers.  Almost every part of technology has transformed to be web optimized.  To quote my colleague, Sandra Palumbo, “we access what we want, when we want” because we’re always connected.

One might argue that the tablet addresses the cloud era – and it does – but tablets are largely display optimized devices.   That is they’re great for presentations, for watching movies, playing games, but the lack of keyboard makes it a poor input device.  For that we still need to rely on laptops, running Windows that were built for an era of portability and not mobility with an optimized user experience.

The Chrome Book is designed to address a world where we live in the cloud.  We put documents, movies and music in the cloud, we collaborate through the cloud and generally use the cloud as our main information repository.  This is only possible because we have near ubiquitous access.  So in my mind, Chrome Book is the first device really designed with the connected user in mind who wants to do more than display information.

Because the Chrome Book is optimized for cloud delivery it provides a much better, faster user experience than a traditional Windows laptop.  There’s no need to install local virus scanning and other thing that makes the Windows boot up time almost unbearable in this day and age of instance access.   It’s virtually an instant on.  And, if a device is lost or stolen, it’s no big deal because the content is all in the cloud.

The company most threatened by this is obviously Microsoft.  The Microsoft corporate dominance starts with Windows.  Companies that run Windows run Office, Exchange and Share Point.  If a company chooses to run Chrome OS, they might just choose Google Docs and G-Mail.

Our research is focused around the thesis that the companies that find a way to provide a high quality, connected user experience will be the long term winners in this era of pervasive connectivity.  With that understanding, Chrome OS gives Google a legitimate shot at taking some corporate share from Microsoft.

Redmond, what’s your next move?

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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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