by Swapnil Bhartiya

Chromebit may be the hottest enterprise device ever

News Analysis
Apr 01, 20154 mins
Desktop VirtualizationLinuxOpen Source

Will this sub-$100 device repeat the success of Chromecast?

Google continues to surprise us with new products that not only simply work, but also make computing more affordable for users.

The company has announced a new breed of device called Chromebit. It’s an HDMI stick, similar to Chromecast, that comes with a full-fledged Chrome OS operating system. Chromebit is not an entirely new concept, however. Intel announced something similar called the Compute Stick early this year.

Unlike Intel, which isn’t exactly well known for marketing and selling such devices, Google has mastered the art. Their Chromebooks are still the best sellers on Amazonand then when Chromecast was announced it was an instant hit and is still a bestseller on Amazon.

Google will be selling the Chromebit for under $100, which is a sweet spot for both individuals and enterprise customers.

A bit of business

I see Chromebit as an excellent thin client in an enterprise set-up where all core apps live and run on enterprise servers.

For those who don’t know what a thin client is, here is a crash course. Thin clients are underpowered devices with a minimal OS whose sole purpose is to provide a user with an interface to access applications and data on a remote server.

The advantage of using thin clients is that the data and applications can be managed securely from a central location.

This also cuts down the cost of hardware, software, power and maintenance. Instead of managing 1000 machines, you have to manage just one central server. And thin clients’ low cost makes it cheaper to replace machines. Thin clients also make ‘work on the go’ much easier as users can access their ‘workstation’ from anywhere — as long as they can connect to the central server.

According to a recent IDC report, “Thin Clients closed the year taking 96% of enterprise client devices and, despite the overall slowdown, managed to grow 4.6% in 2014.”

Disconnected reality

I can clearly see many use-cases where small and medium businesses would love the concept of Chromebit, but one of the biggest drawbacks of Chrome OS devices, including Chromebit, is their inability to work with local networks. They don’t have the native capability to talk to standard protocols such as SSH, SMB or SFTP, which makes them fairly undesirable in a set-up where customers run their own servers.

There has been some breakthrough recently when third party developers have written applications bringing support for SSH and SFTP to Chrome OS. However, customers may feel more confident in a platform that has native capabilities developed and supported by Google itself.

Living in your own cloud

Cloud is on the rise, more and more enterprise customers are moving to the cloud. Even the CIA moved to their own on-premises cloud. Since any third party player can write an integration with Chrome OS’ file manager Files using open API, connecting to self hosted cloud such as Seafile or ownCloud many not be very hard.

More being thin and on cloud

Chrome OS devices are also capable of running legacy Windows applications. Google signed deals with Citrix and VMWare to bring their virtualization to Chrome OS devices and it may extent to Chromebits.

Enterprise customers keep a close eye on total cost of ownership (TCO). A $100 device with extremely inexpensive support by Google and zero investment of software upgrade and offers a near-perfect solution.

Chromebit is also a great device for small- and medium sized businesses (as well as home office users) who don’t really have expertise and resources to erect high-end IT infrastructure. This $100 device could not only cuts cost for them, but also enable their employees to be more mobile.

It can also be used for displays – just connect the device to the HDMI port and manage the display remotely without any blue screen of death. It sips power and it’s easy to manage.

Icing on the cake

Google is bringing Android apps to Chrome OS, which means Chromebit users will get access to all those millions of Android apps.

Wait for this summer when Chromebits hits the market. It’s going to get hot!