Chromebook plus VMware could equal big cloud win

Posted by Ron Miller on Feb 17, 2014 1:31:00 PM

Google bot in front of a Chromebook.Last week, Google and VMware shocked the world (or at least me) when they announced a deal to run legacy Windows apps on Chromebooks in a Desktop as a Service scenario.

The idea behind this deal is to offer low-cost Chromebooks with a link to the legacy Windows desktops that live inside most organizations today. Even as we shift to the cloud, there is a huge period of transition underway where companies with large investments in Windows infrastructure are not going to give that up and just switch to the cloud lock, stock and barrell.

Rajen Sheth, director of project management for Chrome at Google, described the deal this way in the Official Google Blog:

"Desktop as a Service (DaaS) helps bridge the gap between the cloud and a traditional desktop by allowing you to run your traditional software in the cloud and have applications appear on your Chromebook similarly to how they run today."

As one CIO once put it to me, if he switched to the cloud whole hog and shut down his data centers, it would be far too expensive to ever go back if it didn't work out and he wasn't willing to take that risk.

This arrangement gives that CIO and others a safe passage to the cloud that doesn't force him to change everything all at once. It may not be the optimal way to make the transition, but it may offer a path to the cloud that if it hadn't existed, the more timid, cloud-averse CIOs might not have taken at all. 

The beauty of this deal is it provides a hardware-software one-two punch. Google Chromebooks for the most part are lower-end machines that do the job without a lot of bells and whistles. The price tag has to appeal to cost-conscious IT executives, but the fact that it was 100 percent cloud-based might have scared some of those same executives away.

Enter the VMware second punch, which gives that same executive a bit of a security blanket to continue to run legacy applications in the cloud. 

To date, Chromebooks have been selling extremely well and according to data from NPD, comprised a full 21 percent of notebook sales for last year in a year when overall PC sales were "tepid." This was after barely registering the prior year, but to date these machines haven't really resonated in the business setting, appealing mostly to consumers and education.

This deal is designed to give Chromebooks a bigger push into the enterprise by providing the Desktop as a Service option to make it more palatable for business users.

But as Ben Kepes writing on Forbes points out, the deal inexplicably only allows users to run these desktop services on premises, which doesn't make a lot of sense, and negates a lot of the value of the Chromebook as a low-cost mobile alternative with a full keyboard and a trackpad.

It's worth pointing out that Amazon began offering Desktop as a Service back in November offering a similar set of cloud functionality as the VMware-Chromebook announcement, and this may be a defensive move on the part of Google and VMware to fight this service.

Whatever the reason, if it facilitates the push to the cloud at the organizational level, it could be a big cloud win.

Photo Credit: zoinno on Flickr. Used under CC 2.0 license.

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