At VMworld, Dell announced that they would be releasing the first Chromebook Enterprise devices. These might be the first “enterprise” specific Chrome OS devices, but Google has already been pushing to get more organizations to adopt their OS, with management possible through Chrome Enterprise.
Due to the similarity of several product names, it can all get very confusing very quickly, so, let’s break down what Chromebook Enterprise is and review the current management options for Google services.
This is Google’s newly announced solution, which specifically refers to the Chromebooks themselves designed to be used within the enterprise through Chrome Enterprise. Dell announced the first two Chromebook Enterprise devices at VMworld 2019.
So, what separates Chromebook Enterprise laptops from regular Chromebooks? The main differentiator is that each device comes with Chrome Enterprise without organizations having to purchase a separate license. Additionally, you can expect business-grade devices with replaceable parts, allowing IT to service them, as needed.
Dell released two Latitude Chromebook models at the end of August, while also announcing they will resell G Suite and Drive Enterprise. Dell previously sold Chromebook models aimed at education use cases and consumers, but these are more business ready. The two models are the Latitude 5300 2-in-1 Chromebook Enterprise and Latitude 5400 Chromebook Enterprise. Both models offer some robust features, including an 8th generation Intel i5 or i7 processor, LTE broadband, SSD, and upgradeable RAM up to 32GB. The original press release mentioned prices starting at $699 for the 5400 and $819 for the 5300, but the website shows much higher prices. (UPDATE: I have been told the price difference is due to the inclusion of Dell ProSupport.)
While Dell might be the first out of the gate with Chromebook Enterprise devices, Google says more OEMs will release models in the future.
How to manage Chromebooks, Chrome OS, and Chrome browser
Google’s naming conventions make things a little confusing, with Chromebook Enterprise referring to actual devices not helping matters much. So, let’s examine how you can manage Google services.
Organizations have been able to use Group Policy to manage Chrome browser on managed Windows devices for a while now. Google offers admins policy templates that they can implement, which include device-level policies whether a user logs into a Google account or not, as well as preferences that users can change.
For organizations with Chrome OS devices, admins can use Chrome Enterprise. IT can manage Chrome, Chromebooks, and other Chrome OS devices, as well as the Chrome browser on a variety of OSes. Admins could previously manage Chromebooks and Chrome browsers through the Google Admin Console for almost a decade, but in 2017, Google released Chrome Enterprise as an official management solution. It provides all the usual management features like security; updates; printing services; and integrations with identity services like Active Directory, fleet management, and single sign-on. Admins have to create managed Google accounts for users; and then users sign into the Chrome device or browser. Of course, customers can federate the Google accounts to their existing directories.
One more recent management tool that Google released is the Chrome Browser Cloud Management, where admins can control Chrome across multi-OS environments. This tool doesn’t require users to sign into Google, only the admins using it. Instead, admins push an enrollment token to users via Group Policy and other methods. When used, the token registers users to specific organization units. After enrollment, Chrome Browser Cloud Management pushes policies down to the user, including policies around Chrome browser extensions. Admins can turn on optional reporting features from the dashboard as well.
Google continues to add more tools and solutions around Chromebooks in the enterprise. Enterprise-class hardware is just one more reason that organizations might find Chromebooks to be more attractive. It’ll be interesting to see if it is able to gain any sort of foothold in the enterprise against Windows and Macs.