Google Chromebooks Finally Reach Cloud Channel

Google Chromebooks cloud-based notebooks

Launched earlier this year at the Google I/O conference, Google Chromebooks are small, low-cost notebooks based on Google's Chrome OS that access apps and services via the browser. At their launch, Google Apps resellers said they felt left out because Google had not plotted a strategy to enable the channel to offer Chromebooks. In a recent e-mail to CRN, Google said a Chromebooks channel program would launch sometime by years' end.

Google resellers told CRN that Google has launched a pilot channel program for Chromebooks and made that program available to a limited number of Google Apps resellers. Google also confirmed that it has extended Chromebooks to some Google Apps resellers.

"The channel is tremendously important to us. We've been very deliberate about how we extend our reach since Chromebooks represent a new way of thinking about computing. Over the past several months we have been selling the product direct from Google and our next step is to involve some of our existing Apps resellers to open up the channel," a Google spokesperson said in an e-mail to CRN.

According to a pair of Google Apps resellers, the Chromebooks pilot channel program gives resellers the ability to sell the Chromebooks hardware bundled with the Web-based management console, which lets administrators configure and management Chromebooks and user accounts through a control panel to set and enforce user and device policies on Google Chromebooks.

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"We're reselling Chromebooks and the management console," said Allen Falcon, CEO of Cumulous Global, a Westborough, Mass.-based Google partner.

Falcon said Cumulous Global and other partners in the Chromebooks pilot program will offer Google Chromebooks in one- and three-year pre-paid terms. During the term of the contract, users can return Chromebooks for free replacement or repairs if there is an issue.

And while select Google partners can now offer the hardware and management console, Google resellers said services around Chromebooks is the biggest opportunity.

Falcon said that in Cumulus Global's case consulting, training and other services opportunities will be a major opportunity. Falcon added that his client base has shown interest in Chromebooks since they were announced.

Falcon also said he sees the early opportunity for Google Chromebooks within his education customers that seeking a smaller total cost of ownership and more convenience in computing. Falcon said that Cumulous Global can create new services around Chromebooks and include VDI, remote desktop and other capabilities to add new functionality and reach.

Tony Safoian, CEO of SADA Systems, a North Hollywood, Calif.-based Google reseller that is also part of the Chromebooks pilot channel program, said the new program comes at a time that demand is increasing for Chromebooks, especially in education and public sector environments. And with new Chromebook form-factors expected soon, Safoian said there will be plenty of opportunities.

"There's actually more [demand] now that people understand it better," he said.

Safoian said partners have flexibility with pricing and can set their own price. Partners can also offer training, administration, deployment and setup services for Chromebooks. Safoian said SADA is also working with Ericom AccessNow, an HTML5 RDP Client for Chromebooks that offers Web access to applications and desktops that run on Windows Terminal Services, RDS and VDI platforms. SADA Systems also offers its own Chromebooks services to Web-enable legacy and desktop applications.

"This is embracing the era of really low cost, ubiquitous endpoints," Safoian said, adding that it extends mobile and cloud computing to more customers that could afford the buy a fleet of laptops for students or employees. Safoian called Chromebooks a "model for the future of computing."