Google’s new idea for your PCs

Would you pay $336 a year for a small laptop? Google is betting you will, because it will be easier to manage than your current PC fleet.

How much do you pay your IT consultant? Chances are you may find their services add up to an unpleasant sum on your balance sheet.

Google thinks it has an answer: the Chromebook.

To understand the concept behind the Chromebook you need to understand that PCs are horribly complex creatures. They’re hard to secure and are prone to all sorts of problems.

That’s why you pay your IT consultant so much.

For more than 15 years, various attempts have been made to find a way around this cost and complexity. Most efforts have the big end of town as their target, because the huge PC fleets in big business (Departments of Education and Banks have 50,000 or more) rack up enormous support bills.

But since PCs hit $500 or less, small business has generally been left alone because the management tools that tame PCs for big companies cost a fair bit.

Enter Google and the Chromebook, a small laptop computer that looks a lot like the netbook computers handed out to school kids.

Chromebooks won’t have any operating system: they won’t run Windows or Mac OS. Instead they have a web browser and nothing else. They won’t run software, instead they’ll connect to Google’s cloud to access services like Google Apps for Business and Gmail. While Chromebooks can run conventional software if you’re willing to jump through some hoops and put up with a slightly weird experience, the idea is that you’ll instead use web applications like salesforce.com instead.

You won’t pay for the Chromebook: you’ll rent it. Google will launch it in the USA in June at $28 a month. Samsung and Acer will make the first Chromebooks.

The computers come with WiFi so the idea is you’ll connect to the cloud on a wireless network around the office. Chromebooks will have wireless broadband built-in, so if you pay more you’ll be able to get online whenever you’re covered by Google’s chosen carrier.

There’s lots more detail in the Chromebook web page.

Google says it will have Chromebooks in Australia late this year. When they arrive, can you imagine your business might be interested in this new approach to computers?

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