Business users already had the option of Chromebooks aimed specifically at them -- in particular, the high-end, $999-and-up Pixel -- but now they have a more affordable option from Dell and Google: the Chromebook 13, which starts at the far more affordable price of $399. Launched yesterday, the Chromebook 13 is being described as the "first premium professional Chromebook."
Introduced by Google in 2011, the Chrome OS-based Chromebooks are designed to run primarily on the Internet and the cloud. Thanks to their comparatively easy set up compared to conventional desktops and laptops, Chromebooks have been rapidly adopted in the education market, but they have not had as much buy-in from the business world.
Google and Dell are hoping to change that with the launch of the Chromebook 13, which features a number of new capabilities designed to make it "play well with others," according to Google. That includes more support for online file storage, connections to local printers and integration with Microsoft infrastructure.
For 'Business Undergoing Transformation'
The Chromebook 13 is designed for "businesses undergoing transformation, shifting to the cloud and rethinking how mobile and devices play into this transformation," according to a blog post by Saswat Panigrahi and Raghu Yarlagadda, Google's product managers for Chromebooks for Work. Companies like Netflix, Sanmina and Starbucks have already adopted Chromebooks for their "ease of deployment, security and ability to integrate well with existing technologies," they noted.
In addition to being easy to integrate into wider device ecosystems, the Chromebook 13 is also aimed at enterprise users who need to work on the go, said Kirk Schell, Dell's vice president and general manager for commercial client solutions.
Built with Intel Celeron Core i3 and i5 processors, the 13.3-inch Chromebook 13 features a touchscreen display, carbon fiber cover, backlit keyboard and Corning Gorilla Glass trackpad. It offers up to 8 GB of system memory and 12-hour battery life, along with a 720-pixel HD video webcam and dual array microphones designed to integrate with Google Hangouts.
Appeal for SMBs and Startups
The Chromebook 13 is also designed to work with the legacy apps that enterprises depend on, from Microsoft hardware to cloud-based storage providers like Box or Dropbox. With single sign-on, the device can plug into VMWare, Dell vWorkspace or Citrix's Chrome receiver, and VPN connections are supported by Pulse Secure, Dell SonicWall and Cisco AnyConnect via the Chrome Web Store. Panigrahi and Yarlagadda added that support for F5 Networks and Palo Alto Networks is expected to be added soon.
Worldwide sales of Chromebooks are projected to reach 7.3 million units in 2015, up 27 percent over last year, according to Gartner Inc. Educational users remain the backbone of the Chromebook market, with 72 percent of buyers in that sector.
While businesses have been slower to adopt Chromebooks, Google has been making a push to grow the enterprise market with a suite of Chromebooks for Work applications and other functional improvements.
"Chromebook is a device that can be considered by SMBs or new startup companies that do not have the resources to invest too much in IT infrastructure," said Isabelle Durand, a Gartner analyst. "Chromebooks will become a valid device choice for employees as enterprises seek to provide simple, secure, low-cost and easy-to-manage access to new Web applications and legacy systems, unless a specific application forces a Windows decision."
Loren Loverde, vice president for worldwide PC trackers and forecasting at the analyst firm IDC, told us that the Chromebook 13 should do better than the Pixel because of its polished design and competitive price. "This should appeal to users that are highly mobile -- which covers a growing range of businesses and functions like sales and field work," he said.