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With AD Integration, Could Chrome Enterprise Interest More Microsoft Partners?

A new version of Chrome OS called Chrome Enterprise aims to make the Google operating system more attractive to business customers in a way that could also make Chrome more of a fit for Microsoft-centric channel partners.

Among many new business management features of Chrome Enterprise, one of the marquee changes is integration with on-premises Active Directory, a first for the 8-year-old Chrome OS, which was primarily designed for cloud-only management solutions.

"Businesses not yet ready for a cloud-only solution have wanted to manage Chrome OS with the on-premise identity and management systems they're already using. To help, Chrome Enterprise is now fully compatible with on-premise infrastructure through Microsoft Active Directory," wrote David Karam, product manager for Chrome Enterprise, in a blog post Tuesday.

Google rolled out Chrome Enterprise via the blog Tuesday and a webcast Wednesday.

"This integration allows employees to use their native credentials to authenticate across devices and Google Cloud Services like Google Play while centralizing management of user and device policies for IT admins," Karam said.

Another enterprise feature of the $50 per device per year Chrome Enterprise license is a partnership with VMware for unified endpoint management. VMware Workspace ONE will be the first third-party solution for managing Chrome devices, Karam said.

Other features exclusive to Chrome Enterprise, as opposed to Chrome OS, include managed Chrome extensions and browser management, printer management, single sign-on support, managed networks and proxies, managed operating system updates and enterprise support.

The comparatively inexpensive Chromebooks have been making market share gains in a generally declining PC market. Gartner estimated that Chromebook shipments increased by 38 percent year over year in 2016 as the overall PC market fell 6 percent. The base is small, however, with Chromebook shipments numbering around 9 million in 2016 against an overall PC market of 270 million units.

One of Google's main markets for Chromebooks has been education, and some Microsoft partners offer Chromebook solutions in that sector. For its part, Microsoft earlier this year launched Microsoft Intune for Education and OEMs rolled out low-cost Windows 10 PCs to better compete against Chromebooks in schools.

In that January announcement, Microsoft made its concerns pretty clear: "New Windows 10 Devices Offer Great Alternatives to Chromebooks."

With Active Directory support in Chrome Enterprise, Microsoft partners will have new reasons to take a harder look at Chromebooks for certain business deployments.

Posted by Scott Bekker on August 23, 2017 at 4:14 PM