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Google, Dell Make Enterprise Play with Chromebook Line

Google and Dell this week launched "the first Chromebook Enterprise devices," a joint effort to extend the Web-based Chromebook's footprint further beyond the classroom.

Unlike traditional Windows and Mac client devices, Chromebooks run browser-based applications, which can be located on a remote server or behind an organization's firewall, using Google's sandboxed Chrome OS operating system. Since Chromebooks debuted in in 2011, industry analysts had pegged them as "niche" products, and they were mostly used in North American educational markets.

Google has since addressed a number of business concerns. By Google's own admission, its Chromebook Enterprise efforts first got launched back in 2017 when Google announced its Chrome Enterprise license, which added more business capabilities. This time around, Google is claiming things will be simpler for organizations with the new Chromebook Enterprise devices:

Today, we're making it even simpler by introducing the first Chromebook Enterprise. Chromebook Enterprise devices come with everything businesses need right out of the box: trusted hardware and Chrome Enterprise capabilities available and ready to go -- no need for a separate license.

First Chromebook Enterprise Devices
The first Chromebook Enterprise devices are Dell's Latitude 5300 and 5400 two-in-one laptops, offered in 14-inch and 13-inch form factors. These machines can run Intel's 8th-generation Core i5 or i7 processors, have 32GB or 1TB of solid-state drive storage, and feature options for LTE wireless connections and USB-C docking.

The Dell Latitude 5300 and Dell Latitude 5400 Chromebook Enterprise devices are currently available in 50 countries. Dell also offers its ProSupport service for the devices in some of those regions, which adds automatic alerts about potential device and software issues via SupportAssist predictive technology.

Dell also unveiled its Dell Technologies Unified Workspace solutions for Chromebook Enterprise devices, which combine services and technologies from Dell, SecureWorks and VMware. Unified Workspace enables the delivery of factory-provisioned and customized devices directly to employees. It adds security and endpoint management capabilities, plus the ProSupport feature for resolving service desk calls about hardware and software issues, according to a Dell document (PDF).

As with other Chromebooks used for business purposes, applications such as Google G Suite productivity apps, get accessed over the Internet. Google maintains the Chrome OS cloud-based operating system on the devices. Additionally, Google has had a partnership with VMware since 2014 to support accessing Windows applications remotely via virtual desktop infrastructure technology.

Chromebooks Management and Dev Perks
Google is claiming that businesses using the current Chromebooks products can get the added capabilities of Chrome Enterprise via a "Chrome Enterprise Upgrade." The upgrade adds security enhancements such as protections against lost or stolen devices, "simplified orchestration" for things like device policies, client certificates and network proxies, and "flexible access" for Active Directory integration, advanced SAML-based single sign-on and more, as described in a Google document (PDF).

The Chrome Enterprise Upgrade also provides access to the "Google Admin console for Chrome OS" for centralized management of Chromebooks. The console now has an updated design with integrated search and is 10-times faster, Google claims.

Google also added some Chromebooks perks for developers. Developers can already use Android Studio and other integrated development environments (IDEs) for building Android apps for Chromebooks. They now have support for "managed Linux" in Chromebooks at the beta stage, Google's announcement indicated, although the particular Linux distros weren't mentioned.

Dell Announcements
Dell issued a couple of other announcements this week as part of the ongoing VMworld event. Dell and VMware co-developed a new software-defined wide area network (WAN) appliance for datacenters. The new Dell SD-WAN Solution product is designed to ease "legacy" branch-office networking issues and is "now globally available and supported," according to Dell's announcement. It uses a new Dell EMC SmartFabric Director for operations, which will be globally available next month.

Dell also worked with VMware to add Kubernetes support using Dell Technologies Cloud Platforms. It's enabled through "automated deployment of VMware PKS on Dell EMC VxRail," which will be available next month, Dell indicated in an announcement. Other additions include the current availability of Validated Designs guidance for organizations building hybrid cloud environments, Flex on Demand for controlling cloud services use and U.S. availability of the Dell Technologies cloud datacenter as a service offering called "VMware Cloud on Dell EMC."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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