Google’s Chromebook Pixel as a play for the enterprise? It’s not so crazy.

Yesterday, Google unveiled its rumored high-end netbook replacement-the Chromebook Pixel. While I haven't gotten my hands on one yet, I was really impressed by the specs and apparent build quality.

Yesterday, Google unveiled its rumored high-end netbook replacement—the Chromebook Pixel. While I haven’t gotten my hands on one yet, I was really impressed by the specs and apparent build quality. It’s the closest thing I’ve seen to a Macbook Pro, from the anodized case to the super-high resolution Retina-like display. Unfortunately, it also comes with a price to match, as the starting price is $1299. LTE and a larger SSD notch it up to $1449.

This new Chromebook did get me thinking about the target market. Up to this point, Chromebooks have mostly been a geek-gadget. They’re relatively cheap, require little-to-no maintenance, and necessitate a constant internet connection. And of course running only Chrome apps can be limiting (albeit, a smaller challenge everyday as the catalog grows). Gabe tested one a year and a half ago and hated it due to its low performance and lackluster use case.

But this new piece of hardware is clearly a jump beyond netbook-like performance. And while I still think it’s incredibly expensive for what it does, it opens up a world of possibilities in the enterprise.

I should start with a disclaimer: I realize no corporation is going to run out and replace all their cheap $600 Dell Latitudes with $1300 Google Chromebooks. But by developing this, Google has signaled it wants a halo product to show off the capabilities of their ChromeOS ecosystem.

And while a cursory glance at the product and its price might leave you scoffing, a closer look at what comes in the package changes the landscape a bit. Besides the Chromebook, you also get a terabyte (!) of cloud storage from Google. For free. For 3 years. Current rates for Google Drive storage for 3 years are $1800 by itself even without the Chromebook. Tack on the LTE option and you get 100 MB a month for two years as well.

Google has undercut their own pricing model to put a device in your hands that allows you to do all your work from wherever you are on a premium machine inside a secure environment that requires little-to-no management. Presuming your corporate enterprise can find its way to porting their apps into Chrome, or using one of the thousands already inside the ecosystem, you begin to realize that Google has removed almost all the requisite in-house management from companies and given users storage, management, and remote access, hosted reliably by Google servers—all for $1299.

Of course still making the sales pitch that this is the way to go versus cheaper alternatives to Dell or HP in an entrenched ecosystem isn’t exactly an overnight proposition. And let’s be honest here—from the perspective of many businesses, this product doesn’t do anything better than what they’re already using and may in some cases actually do things worse. Reviews on the Chrome Store show that Citrix Receiver and similar RDP solutions are middling at best on ChromeOS. Google Docs still has a long way to go before unseating Office (keeping in mind we do have Office365 in the pipeline).

But if Google can prove the robustness of the platform and offer a laptop priced in line with current competitor offerings, we might be on to something not too far down the road where the top-to-bottom packaging of the hardware, ecosystem, storage, and management becomes appealing for the price-point and those RDP options don’t matter as the Windows environment's necessity fizzles.

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Great point about the value of the "plan" on the back end. It's almost like we're getting to the point where enterprise IT could be like mobile phones. Sign a contract for the service and they throw in the device for free.

Has anyone tried Office 365 on one of these? I mean it the web apps should work fine, and SkyDrive should work. Really with that the only limiting factor is that you can't work offline? (Though you can with Gmail and Google Docs web apps, so maybe Microsoft could add that? Or maybe that would be enough?


There's also the option of using this, or any other Chromebook "thin client style" to connect to VDI or RDSH. We (Ericom), provide such a solution, and also Citrix, and now maybe also VMware. Yes, you do need to be online to use this approach, but then you can use the Chromebook with essentially any Windows application.


True Dan!

And on top of that, there's also the Chromebox for desktop - almost dummy client - solutions.

Further, was browsing Google+ and a friend of mine who works at Google mentioned he's the guy who released Linux kernel patches to allow for installation on these. They followed just a few hours after the initial announcement - so that door is open now too.


Brian, "the only limiting factor is that you can't work offline?"  Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln? People are willing to put up with that limitation on a $250 machine, but when you have to pay more than six times as much, expectations go up.

And Dan, doesn't spending $1,300 defeat the whole purpose of a thin client?

This Gizmodo article perfectly summed up my feelings on the Pixel:



I totally agree that Chromebook Pixel should not be the device of choice if all you need is a thin client. In fact, if all you need is a thin client for RDP/ICA/PCoIP then any Chromebook may not be the optimal choice. I was just pointing out that with the Chromebook, Pixel or otherwise, you are no longer limited to just web apps - you can have access to Windows apps as well.

BTW I like this analysis of Google's possible intentions for the Chromebook Pixel:




I have to staunchly disagree with the Gizmodo writer's least in terms of the enterprise value. He sounds more like a toddler in a high chair smashing his fists than making cogent points. He complains about screen aspect ratios and free LTE.

My argument is that you're not buying the device, you're buying into the much larger ecosystem behind it, which when you look at current competitive options - this is a steal. What we spend here at TechTarget managing all t he stuff Google would handle for you is probably comparable or worse when you consider the time, money and hardware investments.

As far as Brian's point - this does have local storage and offline capability so that issue, whether accepted or not, is put to bed.


I think the larger ecosystem would be an IT guy's worst nightmare. It's not like moving to an enterprise cloud or hosting service, where you know specifically where all your data is (for compliance reasons) and, in some cases, you can pay for single-tenant servers. If a company bought Pixels for 50 employees, they could end up with corporate data stored on 50 different servers, or even in 50 different data centers. If Google were to build an enterprise-focused back end for Pixel, maybe it could work, but for now, security and control concerns are too big of a roadblock.

Plus, what happens three years after purchase, when Google starts charging $600 per user per year for storage? Using the TechTarget example, say we have 600 employees. Four years after buying 600 Pixels, the company would have paid ($1,300 x 600) for the machines + ($600 x 600) for storage = $1.1 million. I can't imagine our TCO for full-fledged PCs and old-school network file shares is that high.


Well, the back end is already in place - to a degree:

Infancy, for sure - but watch - this is their next move. Treating it like a consumer device is the mistake being made by most of the media coverage here.


After three years at TechTarget we buy new laptops for employees. I assume companies will do the same with the Pixel, you buy a new one every three years. So yeah, you're still paying $500 per year or whatever, but that's really no different than how it works today.


The question I have is what is with all the localized horse power? I don't see web based applications really needing that degree of performance on the local gear.

I can see using the lower end unit with cloud resources, I think it would be great for connecting to my personal XenDesktop.  Years ago I dumped my home personal machine for a virtual unit, and just connect to it with my tablet or work machine.

But I am just wondering what will all that localized horsepower be utilizing for?



Your thinking about web apps past, not web apps future. Consider web apps that utilize features like WebGL and WebRTC, not to mention more mundane stuff like video and animations. Also, it turns out that people like to keep a lot of tabs open simultaneously.



@Dan those are the same comments I have been hearing for the past 20 years.  The web is a delivery mechanism, and client side applications that render and process code from the net is not new.  But if there is a need to have applications local to render web content then why can't people put other apps on the local device to render and process?  Why limit your device to just a single type or style of app.  Gets us into the whole shoehorn every situation into a particular design.  But with this much horsepower local you would think you would want to execute local apps separate from your browser apps.  Some people can use multiple type and locations of apps despite what MS says with windows 8.  :)  I still feel that this laptop has too much local resources that will not be utilized.  And does not have any killer apps that will utilize this kind of hardware.