5 Takeaways From Google's John Solomon On 'Unprecedented' Chromebook Growth

Solomon, Google's vice president of Chrome OS, tells CRN that the surge in Chromebook usage in business is just getting started.


Long known as a student-friendly laptop, the Chromebook has rapidly accelerated its expansion within businesses amid the shift to remote work this year, Google's vice president of Chrome OS told CRN.

The Google executive, John Solomon, said in an interview that Chromebook Enterprise devices have seen massive adoption during the COVID-19 pandemic--giving a huge boost to the devices that were initially introduced last August.

[Related: 5 Things To Know About HP's New Business Chromebooks And Thin Clients]

Sponsored post

Chromebook Enterprise devices--from PC vendors including Dell, HP Inc., Lenovo and Acer--run Google's cloud-connected Chrome OS but differ by offering enterprise-class manageability, security and other business features.

Meanwhile, surging demand for Chromebooks in K-12 education is also leading to faster-than-expected expansion for Chrome, and creating big opportunities for channel partners, Solomon said. He joined Google two years ago from Apple, where he served as vice president of enterprise and government, while earlier in his career he held numerous executive roles at HP including in the PC business.

What follows are five takeaways from CRN's interview with Solomon.

Growth So Far

Amid the shift to remote work and learning, “what we saw happen was just unprecedented in terms of demand for Chrome,” Solomon said. “Now as we know, there was demand for compute overall. But demand for Chrome went up much higher.”

Citing figures provided by The NPD Group, four Chromebooks have been sold for every non-Chrome notebook that’s been sold, he said. That translated to 109 percent growth for Chrome OS devices overall during the first quarter, year-over-year.

The growth was even stronger in education and enterprise, where Chromebooks grew 155 percent during Q1, Solomon said.

To enable work-from-home, "IT had to come up with something that could be deployed securely and could be managed easily, and was reasonably low cost. And it turns out Chrome was a really good fit for that," he said.

Driving Further Business Adoption

Importantly, Chromebook Enterprise devices aren't just for businesses that use G Suite for their productivity apps, Solomon said.

"Office users are rapidly migrating to the web, because the web version are becoming more and more performant," he said.

For apps that don't have adequate web-based versions, however, Google is announcing a forthcoming Windows app solution for Chromebook Enterprise from virtualization software maker Parallels.

"You'll be able to run Parallels for legacy applications on Chromebooks," Solomon said. "Let's say you're a hardcore Excel user and you can't use Excel in Office 365--you need client-side Excel. You could buy a Parallels' license and run whatever native Excel you want on a Chromebook."

The Parallels solution for bringing full-featured Windows apps to Chromebook Enterprise is expected to debut in the fall.

Growth Outlook

Based on the accelerated momentum for Chromebook Enterprise in recent months, Google is anticipating aggressive adoption for the devices going forward, he said.

"We think that in the commercial market, that Chrome Enterprise could be a third of the market," Solomon said. "I'm very confident we'll get to 30 percent."

And reaching that threshold may not be that far off, with Google currently expecting to reach that level of market penetration within 2.5 to three years, he said.

"If you'd asked me in January, I would've said that's a five-year goal," but the pandemic has sped up the timetable dramatically, he said.

Channel Opportunity

Solomon said that channel partners have played a pivotal role in bringing Chromebook Enterprise devices into businesses, and many have gotten more engaged with the concept in just the last few months as a result of the shift to work-from-home.

That's especially the case for large and mid-sized partners, he said.

"Whereas before they saw Chrome as an important education vertical, they're now like, 'Wait a minute, this is something that our enterprise customers want,'" Solomon said. "And they've been very receptive to training, so we've been doing a lot of training with the channel."

Education Growth

For Chromebooks in education, Google had previously been expecting the market to grow by 3 to 4 percent this year in the U.S., but that expectation has also been revised upward by the shift to remote learning, he said.

“Our current forecast for the market--this is our internal number--is that we believe it's going to grow around 15 percent,” Solomon said.

The change is that many school districts did not previously have a Chromebook for every student, but the need for learning-from-home has begun to change that, he said.

"They realized that they have to be 1-1, because otherwise they can't do remote learning," Solomon said.