We learned a huge amount about what Google is aiming to do with its Chrome operating system this week. The cloud-focused system software for PCs and laptops is more of what analysts might call an enterprise play -- it's aimed at grabbing customers from large organizations likes corporations, universities and the like -- rather than something primarily geared towards the wants and desires of regular consumers.
Start with the pricing options Google announced. With 10 or more users, a Chrome customer can get on a subscription contract plan and pay $29 a month per user ($20 for schools). The price includes not just a spiffy Chrome laptop but also a full warranty, tech support and software updates for the three year term of the contract. That may be an appealing proposition for big organizations used to spending much more per user to support complex and convoluted networks of PCs running Windows.
At the other end of the spectrum, the purchasing options for Chrome OS laptops aimed at consumers and us ordinary gadget geeks seem far less compelling absent the enterprise support services. At $429 or $499 for a Samsung 12-inch Chromebook, for example, the laptops will have to get pretty good reviews to be worth the price.
After all, they have minimal storage and limited ability to work without being connected to the Internet. Printing is no simple matter, either. A low-priced Windows notebook might better meet many consumers' needs, especially if they need to run specific programs like Microsoft Powerpoint or Adobe Photoshop. And Apple's iPads can do an awful lot at the same price point.
I think Darren Murph at Engadget summed it pretty well:
I had my doubts about Chrome OS' ability to truly grab hold in a market that isn't exactly prepared to rely solely on the cloud, but with Google's new efforts to enable offline support for vital applications -- as well as Citrix Receiver for times when desktop apps are needed -- my view is changing. It's sort of funny to think that Chrome OS may gain its traction within the enterprise first, but for companies desperate for simplicity in the IT room, today's pricing model instantly makes a ton of sense.
In the case of Android, by contrast, everything that was announced seemed geared towards attracting regular consumers - movie rentals, music storage, home automation. Notably absent were some of the features enterprise customers were looking for like better proxy settings, better remote device management and better security.