As Windows XP's Deadline Looms, Will Companies Switch To Chrome, Android?

Windows XP support is coming to an end this year -- and instead of being an opportunity for Windows 8 migrations, it could be an open door for Google.

At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, Las Vegas was buzzing with the usual flurry of new Android tablets and smartphones. But two large computer makers -- Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard -- debuted new desktops running Android. And while those all-in-one (AIO) desktops were consumer-focused, both companies said Google's operating systems (Android and Chrome) had potential in the corporate PC space.

For example, Thomas Jensen, vice president of worldwide channel sales at HP's Printing & Personal Systems (PPS) Group, said partners should explore Google's OSes.

[Related: Windows XP Retirement: 10 Essential Security Tips ]

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And Jay Parker, president of Lenovo North America, said Lenovo's new Android desktop could be utilized in a business environment.

Solution providers are taking note. George Brown, owner and president of Brown Enterprise Solutions in Dublin, Ohio, was in Las Vegas for CES and had a chance to see some of the new devices and gadgets on display.

"The market is wide open right now," Brown said. "And I think Android and Chrome are great."

Brown Enterprise Solutions, which partners with both Lenovo and HP, is exploring Google's platforms not just for mobile devices but notebooks and desktops as well. While Windows is still the standard for corporate America, Brown said using Android or Chrome over Microsoft's operating systems can generate significant cost savings.

"When you look at the cost of operating systems, you can save a lot of money going with Chrome or Android and working from the cloud," Brown said. "You can shave off $200 or $300 per machine, and if you're a small or medium business, then that can really add up."

Andrew Hertenstein, manager of Microsoft Data Center and Azure Professional Services at En Pointe Technologies, a national solution provider based in Gardena, Calif., said his company is working aggressively to migrate customers off of Windows XP before the April deadline. But Hertenstein said some clients are using the XP deadline as an opportunity to move to entirely new operating systems, from Chrome to Apple's iOS or OS X.

"We do see some customers moving off of Windows altogether," Hertenstein said. "That's definitely happening. But Chromebooks are still limited."

NEXT: The Rise Of The Chromebook

While Chromebooks are typically underpowered compared to most business-class notebooks, the devices have emerged as a popular form factor in the education market, specifically K-12. Vendors and distributors are taking notice; just about every major PC manufacturer, from Acer to Samsung, has introduced a Chromebook model.

In addition, Synnex this month was named the first distributor authorized to offer the Chrome Management Console to channel partners. The Chrome Management Console, which was previously only available through Google, is a web-based tool that allows solution providers to manage and deploy thousands of Chromebooks.

Eddie Franklin, vice president of sales, Public Sector and Vertical Markets at Synnex, told CRN that Chromebooks have applications beyond the education market -- but stressed that there's enough business to go around for both Chrome and Windows.

"We don't see this as an "us versus them" situation [between Google and Microsoft]," Franklin said. "We think there's room for both. And there's absolutely an opportunity for PC resellers to explore Chrome."

As for Android, the opportunity may be more complicated. While the fast-growing operating system is hugely popular on tablets and smartphones, it's not designed to go without a touch-screen interface -- and touchscreen-based AIOs have yet to take off in the corporate world.

"Businesses just aren't ready for a new kind of interface like that," Hertenstein said. "In fact, that's the only reason we see resistance from clients for Windows 8 on desktops. It's an OS that's built for touch, but they don't want a touch-screen interface on their desktops."

As for migrating to Windows 8, Hertenstein said it's still a work in progress. While the Windows 8.1 update has helped increase interest in the OS, En Pointe still sees the majority of Windows 8 deployments on notebooks and tablets with little upgrade action on the desktop (most Windows XP desktop migrations have gone to Windows 7, he said).

"I have not talked to a single organization yet that's 100 percent committed to Windows 8," Hertenstein said.

Is that leaving the door open for Google? In some specific industry applications or lines of business, Brown said, lower-end Android and Chrome systems can replace Windows PCs. Google's platforms still don't have the enterprise functionality to compete with Microsoft in the PC market, he said, but the ease of use and attractive total cost of ownership will keep Android and Chrome in the discussion until such time that they can compete in an enterprise environment.

"It's not quite happening yet," Brown said, "but in a couple years I think it's going to be huge."