May 16, 2011
Why Google’s Chromebooks are born to lose?
Rob Enderle writes why Chromebooks will fail. One comment wonders if Facebook paid for the article. We were surprised at how highly he rates ipad for enterprise and low Android tablets. We work enterprise and it seems reversed to us?
oogle’s Chromebooks risk repeating the same mistakes made by many failed predecessors, which could leave the door hanging open for Windows 8 to swoop in and dominate the cloud.
It is funny how often it generally takes for a new idea to stick in the market. We first started messing around with tablets in the early 90s. Now, nearly 20 years later, only one vendor has made a successful one: the Apple iPad.
Google’s new Chromebooks are essentially thin clients — lightweight computers dependent on servers (the cloud in this case) which have terminals as their distant ancestors. Sun and Oracle tried to bring the thin client concept to market 20 years ago and failed miserably. Their efforts continued on as products from Wyse and HP, but never became the PC alternatives Scott McNealy and Larry Ellison’s envisioned them as.
Still, as with tablets, the second time could be a charm. Google is hell bent on proving that ChromeOS can be what Larry and Scott hoped: a true replacement for the PC. In their favor, a lot of the negatives that nearly killed the initiative last time have disappeared. Working against them, Windows 7 is vastly superior, and the iPad already serves as a better PC alternative than ChromeOS can ever be. What we know of Windows 8 suggests it blends ChromeOS and iPad concepts into Windows. If Google misses its shot, Microsoft likely benefits. Let’s explore this.
Sun Ray oneThe birth and near death of thin clients
There was a lot of hope in the Windows wannabe camp back in 1993, when Larry Ellison first talked about thin clients, and Sun later embraced the ideal to create the Sun Ray one. A few years later, I hosted a bunch of CIOs in Europe at a desktop conference, and their reaction kind of summed up the problem. In the meeting there were (and this was unusual) a group of Sun executives who were listening in. They were supposed to act like well-behaved kids — seen and not heard. Unfortunately, they evidently missed that memo and started dumping on Windows. At the time, Windows NT was in its infancy, and folks weren’t that happy with how Windows 95 had turned out.
To my surprise, the CIOs and IT folks in the room tore into the Sun execs, explaining in great detail why the Sun Ray 1 thin client was brain dead stupid. It was a lock-in product that forced them to buy from Sun for all future upgrades (they preferred pitting vendors against each other). It was horribly expensive to implement. It had severe problems running current PC code. The migration costs were massive. Basically, they told Sun to take a hike because they weren’t about to trade some annoying problems for some catastrophic ones. The Sun execs looked like they had been hit by a bus.
Larry got that thin clients had to be cheap, and understood that they would likely play best in places like schools, where the security features inherent in them (it was really hard to mess them up compared to PCs) would be valued. However, he picked what appeared to be a girlfriend to run the independent company. Showcasing why executives shouldn’t think with their little heads, the effort failed.
Since then, we have seen some innovative alternatives from companies like Clear Cube, which did remote PCs, and full on thin clients from Wyse and HP, but these mostly went places where data entry was king, serving as replacements for terminals. PCs running Windows are so inexpensive and entrenched that thin clients just don’t seem to have any traction. But, then again, no one has really made a major push in this space for years either. And while mobile is huge in the PC space, it is more of an afterthought in thin clients. At least until now.
Posted by Staff at May 16, 2011 11:05 AM