For the business community, especially small and midsized businesses (SMBs) looking to leverage cloud technology to gain an edge in productivity, a Chromebook for business offers a smart, flexible and affordable new computing alternative. In particular, SMBs who are already leveraging cloud-based applications and services for daily work will find this new breed of Chrome devices to be a powerful merging of their mobile and desktop computing experiences.

The OS Landscape

Mobile computing operating systems continue to jockey for position, with Windows, Android and Chrome OS each gaining traction in different market segments. With the emergence of a new breed of devices like Samsung’s new Chromebook Plus, business users may now begin to see Chrome as a powerful ally in the push for mobile productivity.

While businesses have looked to Windows as the operating system of choice for multitasking and productivity for decades, the form-factor of the Windows mobile PC has evolved in recent years with new detachable and convertible form-factors offering more flexibility than the traditional laptop. The optimization of Windows 10 for touch and addition of new features supporting mobile use – such as allowing easy transitioning from laptop to tablet modes – has further enhanced the appeal of these new Windows devices.

Simultaneously, Android has gained ground as an application platform to support tablets used for specific business functions on the go, such as telematics in transportation, mobile POS in retail or patient education and entertainment in healthcare.

The Chrome OS has been hugely successful in K-12 education, where millions of students are using affordable, easy-to-manage Chromebooks in the classroom. While Chromebooks haven’t been widely deployed in businesses, that could be about to change. Cloud connectivity and the rise of cloud-based productivity apps such as G Suite have put the new devices on the map for IT decision makers.

The Apps Environment

Born at the intersection of hardware and software innovation, the new Chrome devices tap directly into the cloud-driven nature of the mobile-first business environment. In a recent survey we commissioned with Spiceworks, more than a quarter of IT decision makers said their application strategy will be mainly cloud or only cloud within the next 24 months — more than double what it is today. Cloud-based applications will be a prime driver of enhanced business productivity.

Over half of respondents said they use Office 365 or G Suite apps to drive productivity. The benefits of such apps are clear: In our survey, respondents cited ease of use, increased access and improved collaboration as the key reasons for adopting Google apps.

Perhaps most importantly, momentum is building towards achieving a common platform for mobile and computing app experiences, with Google’s move in 2016 to make Android applications available on Chromebooks. The arrival of the vast Android application ecosystem on Chromebooks creates a unique opportunity to merge the mobile and desktop experiences, allowing users to access on their Chromebooks the same mobile apps they use on their smartphones. New Chromebook devices such as the Samsung Chromebook Plus enable users to take full advantage of this new, merged platform.

Looking Ahead

The Chrome OS has seen limited adoption in the business community until now. In fact, just 12 percent of decision makers in our Spiceworks survey said they will definitely or probably consider Chrome as an operating system. However, consideration for Android is much higher, at 44 percent. This suggests that a Chromebook designed to support both platforms could have broad appeal.

At the same time, innovative new devices bring a new level of versatility to the table for Chrome. With 3-in-1 flexibility — a keyboard for typing, a touch screen and a built in pen to write — the Chromebook Plus offers new means of productivity for the worker on the go. These features, combined with the flexible, convertible form-factor, offer a powerful pairing with the Google app ecosystem to drive true mobile productivity.

Another reason we feel confident in the growth of Chromebooks for business is that most users today simply don’t need a high-powered device, and are looking for affordable and flexible alternatives. Our Spiceworks survey found that just 6 percent of mobile users and 10 percent of non-mobile users have “advanced” computing needs, with a majority doing light multi-tasking with a few apps. Again, a device like our Chromebook Plus will deliver more than sufficient processing muscle.

Decision makers see some challenges on the road to adoption of cloud-based productivity apps: 37 percent cite compliance issues, 35 percent are concerned about compatibility with legacy documents and 31 percent note their existing investment in Windows infrastructure as a point of concern. Despite such hurdles, businesses looking to boost productivity and stay ahead of technology trends may find they have much to gain here. By considering a Chromebook for business, IT leaders can leverage the power of the cloud and take advantage of the breadth of the Google app ecosystem, leveraging a new class of powerful, versatile devices ideally suited to the computing needs of a creative, fast-growth enterprise.

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