Welcome to another in our One on One series of conversations with some of the most thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. Rajen Sheth, Group Product Manager for Google Chrome for Business and Education, spoke with Brent Leary in this interview, which has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, page down to the loudspeaker icon at the end of the post.
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Small Business Trends: Could you give us a little bit of your background?
Rajen Sheth: I’ve been at Google about seven years, focused on our Enterprise products. I helped start the Google Apps product line and have now taken on Chrome and Chrome Apps for businesses. Through all of this my goal has been, How do we improve the experience of businesses? How do we make it simpler for them to use computing?
Small Business Trends: Let’s talk about what you are doing with the Google Chromebook. Some people don’t know exactly how it compares to a traditional laptop or a tablet.
Rajen Sheth: The difference is along three dimensions: speed, simplicity and security. First, speed: Your traditional laptop takes several minutes to load, and programs might go slow at times. The Chromebook is very fast. It loads in less than seven seconds. It is one of the fastest browsing experiences you’ll have.
Second, simplicity: It is also a lot simpler. We have tried to design it so that it is simple for the average user to get in, get out and do their work as simply as possible.
Last, security: It’s a much more secure experience. Built-in security technologies make the Chromebook safer from viruses and malware than anything else out there. Also, your data is actually not stored on the device, so if you were to lose your laptop, none of the data goes with it. That’s been a huge problem for corporations – people having [sensitive data] on a laptop that gets lost.
Small Business Trends: Do you need to be connected to the Internet in order to use the Chromebook?
Rajen Sheth: You can use it connected or disconnected, depending on the application you are using. Many applications are now available offline within the browser. We are planning to launch offline access to Google Apps for Gmail Calendar and Google Docs later this summer.
However, we have oriented this device to make sure you can be connected most of the time. For example, it connects using ethernet and Wi-Fi, but also has a built in 3G card. There is a special plan in the U.S. with Verizon where you can get a certain amount of 3G coverage for free out of the box, then purchase pay-as-you-go type plans for more coverage.
Small Business Trends: How does the Chromebook compare to the latest tablet devices?
Rajen Sheth: We’ve really focused on the laptop and the desktop. We believe the tablet form factor has a lot of promise, but still people do most of their work on a laptop or a desktop, so we oriented the Chromebook towards that experience. We tried to make it something that could replace your traditional laptop and make it a lot simpler to do your work.
Small Business Trends: There are great applications under the Google Apps umbrella. Do these come on the Chromebook? How do you use Google Apps with the Chromebook?
Rajen Sheth: It is optimized to work, not only with Google Apps, but with a variety of Web-based applications. You can load Google Apps in the browser, just like anything else you use apps for. In the Web Store, we have a variety of other applications that you can one-click install. In fact, this is probably the first new operating system where you don’t need new applications. You can use this with browser-based applications behind your firewall, or with virtualized desktops and things like Citrix and VMWare.
Small Business Trends: Where can somebody get their hands on a Chromebook?
Rajen Sheth: We have two manufacturers so far: Samsung, which has the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook, and Acer, which has the Asus700 Chromebook. These are available on Amazon for consumers and through Google for businesses.
For businesses, we have a unique deal where, rather than paying upfront for a laptop, you pay $28 per month for the laptop, the services and support around it, the ability to manage the laptop and a replacement program. It makes it easier for businesses to manage their computing. Go to Google.com/chromebook to find out more.
Small Business Trends: Do you get automatic updates to the Chrome OS?
Rajen Sheth: That’s one thing we spent a lot of time trying to optimize. Chrome upgrades seamlessly in the background, and the next time you restart your Chromebook, you have the new version.
Small Business Trends: If you could peer out a year or two from now, what can we expect to do with a Google Chromebook?
Rajen Sheth: One big trend is that more and more business applications are moving to the browser–everything from Google Apps to SalesForce.com to WorkDay to ZoHo. A couple years out, people will be able to do everything in the browser that they need to do for a business, and the [experience] will be as rich as anything you can do on a desktop. People will naturally move to a browser-based world.