There is no doubt that what we knew as the PC segment is now moving aggressively to the Cloud. It is fascinating how long this has taken, though, as both Oracle and Sun tried to make this move back in the 1990s, and while their vision was strong, their execution fell well short. The issue was that the networks and servers of that time couldn’t handle the load; they lacked enough I/O suggesting the company with the best solution, IBM with their mainframe, would have been ideal, but they didn’t even want to play and instead exited the desktop segment.
Then we had the wave of Thin Client efforts that again tried to take this on, and while there was some limited success, that same lack of low latency network infrastructure and poor server design kept the effort from growing out of a niche group of low-performance users. Then Google tried to spin the market, and their technology wasn’t bad, unfortunately for them their business model of selling user information to third parties didn’t exactly wed their brand to Enterprise customers badly hampering their effort.
But they were the first to create a general-purpose Cloud Client with their Chrome platform, and as the world had gone from stationary wired PCs to laptops, they were the only ones with a true laptop Cloud solution at scale. Their Chromebooks became the leading mobile cloud desktop hardware in the market today. Ironically, however, Microsoft’s Azure platform and the Windows Virtual Desktop has the lead for the back end of this offering.
To address this opportunity, HP just released a complete Chromebook Line in the segment. Let’s talk about that this week.
Chromebooks To Chromeboxes
Unlike the old Oracle, Sun, and Thinclient offerings, Chromebooks are mobile, and they are designed to both function on and off-line. Off-line they are, compared to a Windows Notebook, pretty weak, but they also tend to contain fewer sensitive files, and a broad cross-section of viruses won’t run on them. More recently, the mobile Chromebooks got a sibling with the Chromeboxes which is a small desktop appliance that can be used in the same way while connected through a traditional wired or Wi-Fi wireless network.
Now initially, Chromebooks largely attempted to use ARM processors, but this created compatibility problems for local legacy applications, and now they run either Intel or AMD processors. This extra performance headroom allows for better alternatives because the products if needed, can generally be converted to Windows if the needs of the enterprise change. And, until 5G and Wi-Fi 6 rollout, wireless network performance largely lags what is required for a low latency desktop experience.
HP Starts with its DaaS (Desktop as a Service) Chrome Enterprise solution. This solution encompasses a multi-OS enterprise and allows for both IT and user choice while keeping costs down and manageable. DaaS services continue to gain in popularity and are a major part of Cloud Desktop solutions which, increasingly, tend to favor a service model.
One of the more interesting pieces of new hardware from HP is its Chromebox Enterprise G2 offering. This extremely small form factor solution is low cost, is so small it is nearly invisible on the desktop and carries most of the same benefits as the Chromebook devices.
The HP Chromebook Enterprise 14A G5 is a 14” full function AMD based Chromebook which appears to lead the class on performance targeting those that can’t yet live off the cloud and need to run heavier apps when they are away from a low latency network connection. This AMD based product is also for those that want a more traditional notebook design.
The HP Chromebook Enterprise x360 14E G1 is a 2-in-1 Intel-based configuration focused on users who need more portability and flexibility than performance. This notebook is more for those that will be connected more often or want the newer 2-in-1 configuration.
Both products look like high-end notebook computers, so users don’t feel like they are getting cheap hardware.
Chromebooks are gaining momentum as the ideal client for a Cloud-based effort. This trend is fascinating because you’d think Google would be stronger in the Cloud than on the desktop than Microsoft but, for this effort, for now, the opposite is true. HP is jumping on this opportunity with a line of mobile and desktop products using technology from both AMD and Intel to differentiate as a leader in this Cloud trend. Now let’s see how long it takes them to truly step out and differentiate this line as they have with their Windows efforts. HP’s effort is a nice start but, I expect, they’ll step up this effort sharply as the Windows Virtual Desktop gains traction. I also expect to see Microsoft continue to push back on the client with their innovative Surface Duo and Neo efforts.
I expect we are going to see a massive amount of innovation here on our march to the Cloud-based desktop.