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Chromebooks are fine for K-12 kids. But do they make sense for business?

Increasingly, yes.

Google has this month started advertising Chromebooks on prime-time TV. The campaign features the slogan, “If you’ve changed the way you do pretty much anything, You Chromebook.” The ad shows people watching TV, working out in the gym, etc. — the idea being that whatever you do, you can do it on a Chromebook.

That includes working.

The big draw is Android apps, which are increasingly available on Chromebooks. That makes sense since both Android and the Chrome OS are owned by Google. Android is the world’s top-selling smartphone OS (with an 85% global market share, according to IDC), so the number of people comfortable with the interface is huge.

Google Pixelbook

Google calls its $1K Pixelbook “the high performance Chromebook”

Some the shift is generational, points out IDC research director Linn Huang. In a report issued this past September, Huang explained that younger workers "get" Android. “Millennial consumers," he wrote, "have a strong affinity for Google's services and familiarity with cloud computing and should represent a modestly but steadily growing audience for Chromebooks.”

Work features

But who wants to use a Chromebook at work? Google says frequent travelers, office roamers and remote workers.

From an admin's perspective, Chromebooks are easy to deploy, manage and replace. A single system can be easily and securely shared among multiple workers, too. Once the user logs in, the system is “theirs.” And once they log out, it’s not.

Here are some other Chromebook features that could make these systems attractive to your business customers:

> Low prices: Chromebooks are mostly less expensive than comparable Windows PCs, and they're certainly cheaper than Apple Macs. Chromebook prices start as low as around $200, though a more robust system with an Intel processor and sturdy metal case will retail for about $500 to $600. Google’s Pixelbook is the outlier, with prices starting at a remarkable $999.

> 2-in-1 design: Some Chromebooks have flexible screen hinges, and most now have touchscreens, so users can also run the devices in tablet mode.

> Free storage: Google gives each Chromebook user 100GB of free Drive storage for the first 2 years. After that, however, they’ll have pay for anything over 15GB.

> Multitasking, both online and off: Chromebooks with more powerful Intel processors and higher RAM (typically 4GB) can now multitask. While these systems are designed to be mainly used when connected to the internet, there are now more than 200 Chrome apps that can run offline. Even more are said to be coming.

> Portability: Most Chromebooks weigh less than 3 pounds, meaning users can lug them around. They also have battery lives promised at up to 10 hours, meaning the systems can be used for a full workday without needing a charge.

> Android: Chromebooks sync seamlessly with Android phones and tablets. Like those devices, Chromebooks also update automatically in background mode.

> Apps: For business users, Chromebooks offer Google’s full G Suite of apps for communications (Gmail, Hangouts and Calendar) and collaboration (Drive, Sheets, Docs and Slides). You can also get apps from Google PlayStore, including Evernote, Skype and Slack.

Work models

So what’s out there in the way of Chromebooks for business? Quite a lot.

To give you an idea, here are just a few, with their starting retail prices:

> Acer Chromebook R13: $399 and up

> Asus Chromebook Flip: $249 and up

> Google Pixelbook: starting at $999 (!)

> HP Chromebook 13: $499 and up

> Lenovo Thinkpad 13 Chromebook: $399 and up

> Samsung Chromebook Pro: $449 and up

No, Chromebooks aren’t for everyone. There are still plenty of business users whose work requires a regular desktop or laptop PC. And for them, there are plenty of cool Windows 10 systems on the market.

But for the right customers, this new generation of Chromebooks could be the right solution. So when asked to recommend new PCs, keep these new Chromebooks in mind. They could be your customers' next PC.

 

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