No question about it, the PC is taking a backseat to mobile tech in both the consumer and business worlds. But some companies can't part completely with Windows because of issues like legacy apps or existing workflows.
Google and VMware have proposed a solution:Give those people Chromebooks, and virtualize their Windows desktops and apps to those devices via HTML5 by way of VMware Horizon View's desktop as a service.
It's pretty clear why Google joined forces with VMware for this. After all, both companies stand to gain plenty from the death of the desktop as we know it. For Google, Chrome is becoming its version of the desktop, so it's looking to make Chrome available in as many venues as possible. But this particular move comes off mostly as a ploy for Google to push Chromebooks for businesses -- right on the heels of yet another of its enterprise-related debuts, the $999 Chromebox videoconferencing bundle.
Google is hoping that companies opt for the Chromebook/Horizon combo as a way to replace aging Windows XP devices but still keep running the legacy desktops and apps they need. That's the scenario painted by Caesar Sengupta, vice president of product management, Chrome OS, when I spoke to him earlier today.
"What we've found," he told me, "is that a lot of companies are adopting Chromebooks for cloud deployments because they're easy to manage and very secure. But those companies still have some legacy applications left over, and they want to figure out how to get these legacy apps to their users. We make it very easy to transition from where they are right now to move to a cloud world without having to make too many changes."
But if businesses have their pick of devices that support HTML5 for mobile workloads, would they necessarily pick Chromebooks? Maybe not exclusively, but it's clearly Google's hope that Chromebooks become part of the same arsenal of mobile tools as Android -- to give people the choice of a keyboard or no keyboard and without the legacy overhead that a keyboarded device has typically been associated with.
That's where this plan faces its biggest challenges. Google and VMware alike were able to quote me figures about Chromebook sales and notes about individual companies adopting them (such as Softbank). But the majority of companies could simply opt for Android or iOS as their mobile experiences, in big part because their mobile workloads may no longer be keyboard-centric.
Google's tenacity with Chromebook has been striking, and while it may not have paid off to the extent that Android has, all Google might need is the right combination of niche use cases to make it a success, or at least Google's idea of a success. There's still a long way to go before this proves to be one of them.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.