Why It Makes Sense for Google to Rent Chromebooks
While it didn't generate a huge amount of hubbub last week, the Google Enterprise blog confirmed the launch of a strategy that many have been predicting from Google for some time: Chromebooks for rent. The blog post reported: "Organizations in the US can rent a new Chromebook starting at $30 per month or rent a Chromebox starting at $25 per month. Rentals are month-to-month, and there’s no long-term commitment."
This is a wise strategy from Google as it seeks to turn the enterprise into its next large market to conquer. Putting Chrome OS-based hardware in enterprises could be the final step in validating the operating system.
Google is even envisioning scenarios in enterprises where rentals of Chrome OS-based systems might make sense for temporary use:
"Imagine you’re setting up shop for a local political campaign and will have an influx of new, temporary workers. You can rent a Chromebook for each worker for the next few months, and return them when the campaign is over. Chromebooks meet the needs of most workers, making this rental program a great option for companies with seasonal workers, larger organizations who want to pilot Chromebooks, fast-growing startups and any company looking to preserve cash."
Google has also noted this:
"The rental includes Chrome hardware with 3-year limited warranty, the web-based Chrome management console to centrally set-up and control users, devices and apps, and 24/7 support. And the monthly payments actually decrease the longer you keep the device."
There are many cloud-based services that charge customers on a pay-as-you-go basis, so why shouldn't hardware work on the same fee schedule? In June of this year, I suggested that it would actually make sense for Google to pick up some of the costs to get Chrome OS systems into enterprises, through subsidies. That post noted:
"At $549 for the 3G model, the new Chromebook is simply too expensive. Users can get competitive laptops stacked with free software for that price, and take advantage of local storage and intelligent file systems that Chrome OS doesn't specialize in. The truth is, Google would be smart to kick-start the market for Chrome OS and Chromebooks by subsidizing systems and the software that comes with them."
That's why it won't be a surprise to see Google subsidizing rental fees for enterprise users, or adding incentives such as free, extra Google Drive storage in the cloud for enterprises. Google has wanted its OS to be accepted at large businesses--where Microsoft dominates--for a long time. Rentals and subsidies may both work toward that end.