Chromebooks become real option for enterprises with VMware deal

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students with Chromebooks

Image credit: wikimedia commons/Jeffery Billings

While Chromebooks have their following, the laptops have typically been regarded as low-end novelty devices. That might change with an announcement this morning from VMware and Google.

The agreement will have VMware offering desktop as a service to enterprise users with Chromebooks. The result is that business users can access any of their enterprise Windows-based applications from their Chromebooks.

At first blush, the result looks attractive. Some Chromebooks are quite a lot less expensive than Windows PCs. Why not use a low-cost Chromebook if it can deliver all the same apps as a Windows PC.

But it will be interesting to see the concept in practice. Desktop virtualization has never been as easy as it sounds. With VMware delivering it as a service, some of the headaches around management of desktop virtualization gets shifted away from IT admins. But IT departments will still have to take on some management.

Also, the cost of the Chromebook isn't the end of the story. Businesses will still have to buy licenses that let users access their apps even if they do so through the desktop virtualization service.

VMware doesn't appear to be offering a true desktop service right out of the gate. It said that initially, the offering is available to customers as an on-premise service but later will be delivered as a full managed, subscription DaaS offering. Businesses will be able to buy the service from VMware or from VMware service provider partners. The companies didn't say when the service would become available and they didn't reveal pricing.

While desktop virtualization has languished for years, the emergence of desktop as a service has revitalized the concept. Amazon Web Services helped kick of the renewed interest when it unveiled a basic desktop as a service offering recently. Then VMware bought Desktone, a company that offered desktop as a service. Cisco has also gotten in the game.

Now, it appears there's still some work that needs to be done to figure out the best way to deliver desktop as a service. It's curious that VMware will offer it itself, in competition with its own service provider customers.

Citrix has been banging a drum about how its model, which does not include offering desktop as a service directly to end users but delivers technology for service providers to do so, is the best route. Time will tell.

Read more of Nancy Gohring's "To the Cloud" blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @ngohring and on Google+. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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