- Advanced payment systems
- Electronic passports
- Electronic Ticketing
- Smart cards
Chrome is pushing for mobile productivity and cloud adoption with the next generation convertibles: main targets are SMBs, as well as education and retail solutions
– March 22, 2017: Entry level Chrome OS based commercial and consumer products built on Rockchip RK3288-C SoC which also includes the basic information about the current state-of-the-art in security, in supporting Android apps as well as in building solutions for engaging customers in public spaces with “smart signs” costing on par with traditional signage (i.e. the overall value proposition of the platform)
– March 22, 2017: Android security which is especially important as with the upcoming “Android apps on Chrome OS” (currently Beta) the whole Google Play store apps will become available on Chrome as well (in the upcoming Chrome OS 58 and 59)
The next generation of Chromebook: The new category of computing originally launched in 2011 has now been redefined (2+ min)
With this (according to Samsung and Google from the end of this post):
– “While Chromebooks haven’t been widely deployed in businesses, that could be about to change.”
– “Momentum is building towards achieving a common platform for mobile and computing app experiences, with Google’s move in 2016 to make Android applications available on Chromebooks.”
– “The Chrome OS has seen limited adoption in the business community until now. In fact, just 12 percent of decision makers in our Spiceworks survey said they will definitely or probably consider Chrome as an operating system. However, consideration for Android is much higher, at 44 percent. This suggests that a Chromebook designed to support both platforms could have broad appeal.”
– “Just 6 percent of mobile users and 10 percent of non-mobile users have “advanced” computing needs, with a majority doing light multi-tasking with a few apps.”
– “Enterprise use of cloud productivity apps is expected to increase, with 70 percent of organizations at least beginning to use cloud-based apps such as Office 365 or G-Suite from Google Cloud over the next 24 months.”
– “The next step for cloud-based productivity for business may be cloud-centric devices such as Chromebooks. Approximately half of the organizations surveyed reported that they could use a hydrid device that supports Android apps on Chrome for at least some of their end-users.”
Feb 10, 2017, Ars Technica Videos: Samsung’s new Chromebook [functionality] review [using the $549 Chrombook Pro] (11 min) functionality because the difference between the $549 Pro and the $449 Plus version is just in the processor/SoC (Core™ M3 vs. OP1 [RK3899])
⇒ read the related article as well: Samsung’s Chromebook Pro gives me hope in Chrome OS—thanks to Android’s help
Samsung’s Chromebook Plus and Pro garnered wins from Digital Trend’s Best of Show awards, Wired’s Best of CES awards, BGR’s Best Laptops of CES awards, LAPTOP / Tom’s Guide Best of CES awards, Gear Patrol’s Best Products from CES awards and 9to5Google’s Best of CES picks
The Samsung Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro are designed for Google Play so you can use all the apps you love in addition to movies, books and music. The new Samsung Chromebooks also offer a 360-degree rotating touchscreen, quad HD screen, built-in digitized pen and new lightweight metal design.
|Chromebook Plus||Chromebook Pro|
|Operating System||Google Chrome||Google Chrome|
|Processor / Chipset||OP1 [Rockchip RK3899], Made for Chromebooks. Hexa-core (Dual A72, Quad A53)||Intel® Core™ M3 Processor 6Y30 (0.90 GHz up to 2.20 GHz, 4 MB L3 Cache)|
|Graphic||Internal Graphics||Intel® HD Graphics 515|
|Display||12.3″ 2400×1600 LED Display (3:2 aspect ratio) with Touch Screen Panel||12.3″ 2400×1600 LED Display (3:2 aspect ratio) with Touch Screen Panel|
|Memory||4GB LPDDR3 Memory (on BD 4GB)||4GB LPDDR3 Memory (on BD 4GB)|
|Hard Drive||32GB e.MMC||32GB e.MMC|
|Color||Platinum Silver||Platinum Silver|
|Multimedia||Internal Dual Array Digital Mic
Stereo Speakers (1.5 W x 2)
720p HD Camera
|Internal Dual Array Digital Mic
Stereo Speakers (1.5 W x 2)
720p HD Camera
|Network||802.11 ac (2×2)
|802.11 ac (2×2)
|Ports||1 Headphone out/Mic-in Combo
2 USB-C™ [up to 5Gbps*, 4K display out with optional adapter, Charging]
MicroSD Multi-media Card Reader
|1 Headphone out/Mic-in Combo
2 USB-C™ [up to 5Gbps*, 4K display out with optional adapter, Charging]
MicroSD Multi-media Card Reader
|Power||30 W USB-C™ Adapter
|30 W USB-C™ Adapter
|Dimension||280.8 x 221.6 x 12.9 ~ 13.9mm (11.06″ x 8.72″ x 0.51″ ~ 0.55″)||280.8 x 221.6 x 12.9 ~ 13.9mm (11.06″ x 8.72″ x 0.51″ ~ 0.55″)|
|Weight||1.08Kg (2.38lbs)||1.08Kg (2.38lbs)|
|Software||※ Software can be changed without notice.
AirDroid Premium (free one-year subscription, full version)
|※ Software can be changed without notice.
AirDroid Premium (free one-year subscription, full version)
Samsung Chromebook Plus will feature an ARM processor starting at $449 and will be available at major retailers, including Best Buy, in February. The Chromebook Pro will be powered by an Intel® Core™ m3 processor, designed for fast, responsive performance and will be available later this Spring. Both devices will come with the Google Play Store (Beta) pre-installed.
For the first time in the Chromebook lineup the Chromebook Plus and Pro come with a built-in pen, which is embedded on the side of the device for secure storage and easy access. The pen takes convenience to another level with tablet-like benefits, such as the ability to effortlessly take notes and capture on-screen content. The pen is ready to use out of the box with pre-installed Google Keep for notetaking and Samsung ArtCanvas for drawing. The newly developed pen has a 0.7mm pen tip and pressure sensitivity for precise screen capturing.
Feb 22, 2017, Chrome Unboxed Videos: Samsung [$449] Chromebook Plus Review (5- min)
“This review will be VERY different than most. Mainly, because 90% of this device has already been reviewed and broken down in fullness right over here in our Samsung Chromebook Pro review. Here’s the deal: Samsung released the Samsung Chromebook Plus on the world on February 12th, but gave tech reviewers (like us) an early peek at the Chromebook Pro in January.”
⇒ read the related article as well: SAMSUNG CHROMEBOOK PLUS REVIEW from which I will add here only the:
Here’s the bottom line for many of you. If you are buying a Samsung Chromebook with Android Apps in mind right now, the Plus should be where you gravitate to. You are likely to see less issue with apps for the time being.
If you are buying it to use as a productivity machine, you may need to wait on the Pro.
The Plus is fine for casual use and Android apps. All the good stuff from the Pro is here, minus the pure muscle.
The Pro is a better Chromebook, but right now, not a better Android tablet-type device. Given the current state of Android on Chrome OS, that doesn’t sound like a big loss. But as the app experience becomes more refined, we can’t definitively say that the experience on Intel-powered devices won’t always lag behind their ARM counterparts. It’s simply unclear.
Like we said, Wild Wild West for now. And, in that climate, hopefully we’ve helped you make a choice between these two very, very similar devices.
From Feb 24, 2017 on www.samsung.com/us/support/answer/:
- Initial Setup of the Chromebook Plus
- Connecting to a Wireless Network on Your Chromebook Plus
- Pairing a Bluetooth Device to Your Chromebook Plus
- Connecting Your Chromebook Plus to an External Monitor: “You can connect an external monitor to use multiple screens or to project your screen onto a larger display. Depending on your external monitor, you will need either an HDMI and USB C-Type cable, or an HDMI cable with a USB C-Type adapter.”
- Charging Your Chromebook Plus
- Shutting Down Your Chromebook Plus
- Inserting and Removing the Micro SD Card for Your Chromebook Plus
- Setting Up Google Classic Printing on Your Chromebook Plus
- Transferring Files via USB on Your Chromebook Plus
- Locking Your Chromebook Plus
- Toggling Airplane Mode on Your Chromebook Plus
- Using the Chromebook Plus Shortcut Keys
- Casting from Your Chromebook Plus
- Using Your Chromebook Plus as a Tablet
- Using a USB-C Cable with the Chromebook Plus
- Pairing a Bluetooth Device to Your Chromebook Plus
- Setting Up Google Cloud Printing on Your Chromebook
- Changing the Screen Resolution of Your Chromebook Plus
- Using the Chromebook Plus Stylus
- Using the Webcam on Your Chromebook Plus
- Using the Touchpad on Your Chromebook Plus
- Using the Fullscreen Mode for Apps on Your Chromebook Plus
- Accessing Task Manager on Your Chromebook Plus
- Changing the Background on Your Chromebook Plus
- Enabling/Disabling Extensions on Your Chromebook Plus
- Changing the Time Zone on Your Chromebook Plus
- Downloading and Installing Chrome OS Apps on Your Chromebook Plus
- Downloading and Installing Apps from the Google Play Store
- Uninstalling Google Play Store Apps from the Chromebook Plus
- Running Apps on Your Chromebook Plus
- Adjusting Password Settings on Your Chromebook Plus
- Creating a Google Account on the Chromebook Plus
- Signing in as a Guest on Your Chromebook Plus
- Cleaning Smudges from the Screen on Your Chromebook Plus
- Performing a Powerwash on Your Chromebook Plus
- Performing a Recovery on Your Chromebook Plus
- Performing a Chrome OS Rollback on Your Chromebook Plus
- Updating the Chrome OS on Your Chromebook
For comparison: Same form factor convertibles for education
March 2, 2017, Google Blog: More versatile Chromebooks and new content options
(the 2nd part of Schools in Sweden have made Chromebooks nummer ett (number one)!)
As global Chromebook momentum continues, this year at Bett we announced a new generation of Chromebooks for Education. These versatile devices bring even more mobility to a wider range of classrooms worldwide, including in the US where, according to Futuresource data, Chromebooks reached 58 percent of device sales in 2016.
Today we’re excited to announce HP is bringing its addition to the family with the [$350] HP Chromebook x360 11 G1 Education Edition, available in mid-April. HP’s rugged 360 degree convertible Chromebook will feature USB-CTM charging and optional stylus and world-facing camera capabilities designed for the specific needs of schools.
These new devices—and the dynamic ecosystem of content and apps they support—help evolve technology usage into one that is anchored in student content creation. For example creative apps on Chromebooks are now available in Sweden and other European countries at a discount from select resellers. In addition, Chromebook administrators are now able to approve a library of Android apps and install them on select managed Chromebooks.
The role of technology in education will continue to grow in 2017 as students and teachers share their stories of digital success across the world. We’re proud to see Chromebooks at the centre of this transformation, powering global classrooms into the future.
From March 9, 2017, HP Education Products: [The $350] HP Chromebook x360 11 G1 Education Edition Datasheet
From Jan 24, 2017, Google Blog: A new generation of Chromebooks, designed for millions of students and educators
Chromebooks have been the device of choice for educators because of their simplicity, security, shareability and low cost. And at Bett this week we’re introducing a new generation of Chromebooks designed to adapt to the many ways students learn. Look out for new Chromebooks from Acer, Asus, HP, Dell, and Lenovo in addition to the recently announcedSamsung Chromebooks—a powerful option for educators. With new apps, stylus and touch capabilities, we expect our partners will continue to build an even wider variety of Chromebooks in the future, including detachables and tablets.
More versatile Chromebooks
At Bett we’re featuring two devices: the [$350] Acer Chromebook Spin 11 and the [$300] Asus Chromebook [Flip] C213, arriving late spring. We worked with educators and partners to design these Chromebooks for the specific needs of schools:
- Stylus capability: Both Chromebooks come with an intelligent, affordable stylus for student note-taking and drawing. The low-cost pens resemble #2 pencils with a unique eraser for correcting mistakes and don’t need charging or pairing, so they can be shared and easily replaced if lost. These Chromebooks use an input prediction model built using Google’s machine learning to ensure writing is extremely responsive. And with Optical Character Recognition in apps like Google Keep you can easily search handwritten notes.
- World-facing camera: Schools everywhere have asked for world-facing cameras so students can use Chromebooks to capture photo and video from all directions. We carefully designed the camera on the keyboard side, so when a Chromebook is flipped, the camera faces outwards and students can hold it like a tablet.
- USB-C charging: We heard from educators that multiple chargers and slow charging wastes precious time for students. Going forward, all Chromebooks will have standard super-fast USB-C charging, so one Chromebook cart can charge any device quickly.
A world of content on Chromebooks
Now educators have even more ways to find great educational content on Chromebooks:
- Android apps:Last May, we announced that Android apps were coming to Chromebooks. In the coming weeks, Chromebook administrators will be able to create a library of approved Android apps and install them on select managed Chromebooks. Students will be able to access millions of Android apps, like Toontastic and Science Journal, for learning both online and offline.
- Adobe has released a suite of Android apps optimized for Chromebooks. The Adobe Creative Cloud apps, including Photoshop Mix, Lightroom Mobile, Illustrator Draw, Photoshop Sketch, Adobe Comp CC, and Creative Cloud Mobile will be available for free download, expanding creative options for students and the capability of stylus and world-facing camera.
- Creative apps: Today we‘re also announcing that creative apps on Chromebooks—WeVideo, Soundtrap, and Explain Everything—are available in the U.K. and Nordics at a discount from resellers XMA, Lin Education and Avalon Solutions when purchased as a bundle.
Recent updates to Google Classroom
On all Chromebooks, students and educators can use Google Classroom to collaborate, stay organized and save time. The Classroom Android app, now available on Chromebooks, opens up new possibilities to students in how they use their devices. With the help of a stylus-enabled Chromebook, students can complete their math homework by hand or sketch a visual for a science project by annotating documents directly in the Classroom app.
Students, teachers and administrators can also use their Chromebooks to try out the new Classroom features we rolled out earlier this month. Now, teachers can assign work to a subset of students, rather than just the entire class, and use new types of Classroom notifications to manage assignments. For administrators, we now offer more insight into how Classroom is used, with Classroom metrics in Admin Console reports.
We believe in the power of technology to help students learn how they learn best and teachers teach the way they find most effective. We’ll continue to work with educators in 2017 to build tools that support the important work they do every day.
From Jan 24, 2017, Acer press release: Acer Announces New [$350] Chromebook Spin 11 (R751T) at BETT 2017Rugged and versatile convertible Chromebook with Wacom EMR stylus is specialized for classroom use
- Acer Chromebook Spin 11 (R751T) is a convertible Chromebook with military grade durability (U.S. MIL-STD 810G2 compliant) and extra features that make it perfect for a busy classroom environment
- Wacom® EMR (Electro-Magnetic Resonance) technology and stylus let students write and draw directly on the screen as naturally as with pen and paper
- Acer Chromebook Spin 11 is fitted with two Acer HD wide view HDR webcams – one 1MP camera above the screen and another 5MP camera above the keyboard
- 360° dual-torque hinge design means Acer Chromebook Spin 11 can be used in four modes with wobble-free touch experience
The Acer Chromebook Spin 11’s design is specialized to handle the rough-and-tumble of the classroom. Adhering to the stringent U.S. MIL-STD 810G military standard2, the Chromebook Spin 11 is tough and can withstand daily knocks and drops, whether a drop from a table or being jostled around in students’ school bags. Thanks to a reinforced chassis structure and rubber bumper surrounding the keyboard, the Chromebook Spin 11 can withstand drops from heights up to 48 inches (122cm). The design also incorporates a unique drainage system which can endure up to 330ml of spilled water and channels liquid away from important components. As a further barrier to damage, the keyboard has recessed keys that prevent students from removing, swapping or otherwise interfering with the keys.
Built on the Chrome operating system, the notebook has an 11.6” HD IPS display with highly accurate touch sensitivity. It is powered by either an Intel®Celeron®quad-core processor N3450 or Intel®Celeron®dual-core processor N3350 depending on model. It also and comes with 4GB/8GB LPDDR4 memory and either 32GB/64GB on–board storage through eMMC flash.
Wireless connectivity comes through with 2X2 MIMO 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, while wired connectivity comes through with 2 USB Type-C ports (USB 3.1 Gen 1 – up to 5 Gbps transfer of data, DisplayPort over USB-C and USB charging) and two type A USB 3.0 ports as well as a MicroSD card reader.
The Chromebook Spin 11 (R751T) weighs in at 1.4kg and measures 296 x 206 (D) x 20.5 (H) mm and has up to 10 hours of battery life.
2 Tested by qualified 3rd party labs for certain tests procedure under MIL-STD 810G (Oct 2008) for environmental conditions that include high and low temperatures, humidity, vibrations, mechanical shocks on drops, rain, dust and sand.
Jan 25, 2017, ASUS via HEXUS.net: ASUS Previews [the $300] Chromebook Flip C213
Visitors to Bett 2017 given exclusive first look at world’s first ruggedized Chromebook with a 360°-flippable display
- World’s first ruggedized Chromebook to feature a versatile 360°-flippable display that enables multiple usage modes
- Fully protected against everyday knocks and scrapes, with 11-hour battery life that offers full-day operation for simplified logistics
- Modular design for easy tear-down of field-replaceable parts reduces downtime
London, UK (25th January, 2017) — ASUS today gave visitors to the Bett 2017 show in London an exclusive preview of the upcoming [$300] Chromebook Flip C213, the world’s first ruggedized Chrome OS-powered laptop to feature a 360°-flippable display.
Built to military standards of durability, Chromebook Flip C213 offers educational users a tough, reliable and powerful laptop that is easy to use, manage and service.
The ruggedized construction features a wraparound reinforced rubber ‘bumper’ to protect the chassis and I/O ports from minor knocks and scrapes, and the all-metal 360° hinges are covered with strong zinc alloy caps. The 11-inch touchscreen display features a covering of tough, scratch-resistant Corning® Gorilla® Glass 4.
With a 46Wh battery designed to deliver over 11 hours of continuous use, Chromebook Flip C213 minimizes the need for recharging during the normal working day, making it the ideal laptop for busy classrooms.
The 360°-flippable display with its stepless any-position hinge makes Chromebook Flip C213 exceptionally versatile, offering multiple usage modes all the way from productive laptop to handy tablet.
Chromebook Flip C213 features dual cameras, including a 5MP rear camera for photos and videos. It also supports an optional stylus incorporating Wacom EMR technology for intuitive and natural painting, sketching and handwriting input.
To minimize downtime, Chromebook Flip C213 is designed for easy field servicing, with a modular construction that enables IT staff to replace key components — such as the keyboard and battery — in a matter of minutes.
Full product specifications will be announced at a later date.
AVAILABILITY & PRICING
ASUS Chromebook Flip C213 will be available from July in the United Kingdom for £349.99 without a stylus or £399.99 with a stylus. Please contact your local ASUS representative for further information.
From Samsung Business Insights
(Recommended Samsung whitepaper:
Streamlining Business with Chrome)
For the business community, especially small and midsized businesses (SMBs) looking to leverage cloud technology to gain an edge in productivity, a Chromebook for business offers a smart, flexible and affordable new computing alternative. In particular, SMBs who are already leveraging cloud-based applications and services for daily work will find this new breed of Chrome devices to be a powerful merging of their mobile and desktop computing experiences.
The OS Landscape
Mobile computing operating systems continue to jockey for position, with Windows, Android and Chrome OS each gaining traction in different market segments. With the emergence of a new breed of devices like Samsung’s new Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro devices, business users may now begin to see Chrome as a powerful ally in the push for mobile productivity.
While businesses have looked to Windows as the operating system of choice for multitasking and productivity for decades, the form-factor of the Windows mobile PC has evolved in recent years with new detachable and convertible form-factors offering more flexibility than the traditional laptop. The optimization of Windows 10 for touch and addition of new features supporting mobile use – such as allowing easy transitioning from laptop to tablet modes – has further enhanced the appeal of these new Windows devices.
Simultaneously, Android has gained ground as an application platform to support tablets used for specific business functions on the go, such as telematics in transportation, mobile POS in retail or patient education and entertainment in healthcare.
The Chrome OS has been hugely successful in K-12 education, where millions of students are using affordable, easy-to-manage Chromebooks in the classroom. While Chromebooks haven’t been widely deployed in businesses, that could be about to change. Cloud connectivity and the rise of cloud-based productivity apps such as G Suite have put the new devices on the map for IT decision makers.
The Apps Environment
Born at the intersection of hardware and software innovation, the new Chrome devices tap directly into the cloud-driven nature of the mobile-first business environment. In a recent survey we commissioned with Spiceworks, more than a quarter of IT decision makers said their application strategy will be mainly cloud or only cloud within the next 24 months — more than double what it is today. Cloud-based applications will be a prime driver of enhanced business productivity.
Over half of respondents said they use Office 365 or G Suite apps to drive productivity. The benefits of such apps are clear: In our survey, respondents cited ease of use, increased access and improved collaboration as the key reasons for adopting Google apps.
Perhaps most importantly, momentum is building towards achieving a common platform for mobile and computing app experiences, with Google’s move in 2016 to make Android applications available on Chromebooks. The arrival of the vast Android application ecosystem on Chromebooks creates a unique opportunity to merge the mobile and desktop experiences, allowing users to access on their Chromebooks the same mobile apps they use on their smartphones. New Chromebook devices such as the Samsung Chromebook Plus and Pro enable users to take full advantage of this new, merged platform.
The Chrome OS has seen limited adoption in the business community until now. In fact, just 12 percent of decision makers in our Spiceworks survey said they will definitely or probably consider Chrome as an operating system. However, consideration for Android is much higher, at 44 percent. This suggests that a Chromebook designed to support both platforms could have broad appeal.
At the same time, innovative new devices bring a new level of versatility to the table for Chrome. With 3-in-1 flexibility — a keyboard for typing, a touch screen and a built in pen to write — the Chromebook Plus and Pro offer new means of productivity for the worker on the go. These features, combined with the flexible, convertible form-factor, offer a powerful pairing with the Google app ecosystem to drive true mobile productivity.
Another reason we feel confident in the growth of Chromebooks for business is that most users today simply don’t need a high-powered device, and are looking for affordable and flexible alternatives. Our Spiceworks survey found that just 6 percent of mobile users and 10 percent of non-mobile users have “advanced” computing needs, with a majority doing light multi-tasking with a few apps. Again, a device like our Chromebook Plus or Chromebook Pro will deliver more than sufficient processing muscle.
Decision makers see some challenges on the road to adoption of cloud-based productivity apps: 37 percent cite compliance issues, 35 percent are concerned about compatibility with legacy documents and 31 percent note their existing investment in Windows infrastructure as a point of concern. Despite such hurdles, businesses looking to boost productivity and stay ahead of technology trends may find they have much to gain here. By considering a Chromebook for business, IT leaders can leverage the power of the cloud and take advantage of the breadth of the Google app ecosystem, leveraging a new class of powerful, versatile devices ideally suited to the computing needs of a creative, fast-growth enterprise.
Data protection is a top concern for businesses moving to the cloud. Here’s how to use identity management tools to protect against security threats.
March 8, 2017, Google Cloud: Developing mobile strategies with Android & Chrome (Google Cloud Next ’17) by Max Coppin, Enterprise Partnerships [Partner Development Manager], Android, Google: In this video, you’ll learn how to build mobile strategies tailored to your business growth and goals. With Android’s diverse ecosystem of partners and devices, you can create an agile, comprehensive mobile strategy that helps keep your workforce productive and your data secure.
March 15, 2017, G Suite: Optimizing your Retail Business with Google Chrome (17- min) by Chris McLaughlin (Strategy and Solutions Manager, Android and Chrome at Google)
– Retail is being disrupted by digital. With a need to improve the in-store experience, retailers want technology to optimize employee effectiveness and customer experience.
Chrome devices empower retail store employees and delight customers while improving IT efficiency.
Cloud-based applications offer businesses the opportunity to increase workplace productivity and boost employee collaboration, and they come with an adoption curve that enterprises can ride all the way to the cloud via the Chrome platform on the new Chromebooks for business, a fully cloud-based approach to computing.
Starting on the curve can begin via a corporate- or department-wide strategy, or even through organic growth; for example, when Android power users introduce their devices into pre-existing business processes, their co-workers follow suit, and the project team subsequently reaches further into the cloud for all their productivity solutions.
Starting With Android
Android is a popular on-ramp to the cloud application adoption curve. The first phase of the curve can be reached through “bring your own device” (BYOD) users wanting to access corporate email from their personal Android devices, enterprises mobilizing their first legacy app, or businesses developing a mobile-first initiative where they equip an entire department, such as their sales or executive team, with mobile devices.
Many enterprises are pushed toward cloud adoption through “Shadow IT,” where employees take it upon themselves to use their own mobile devices, and even cloud applications, to perform their jobs. For example, an employee could take their own initiative to download a group chat or email app and set up their mobile device with their corporate email account. These actions by employees could lead to businesses offering workers the opportunity to download corporate-authorized mobile apps, such as for their learning management system (LMS) or time tracking system. As this crucial phase progresses, smartphones, tablets and Android apps become core on-the-go productivity tools for you and your employees.
Migrating to Cloud-based Productivity Apps
According to a recent Spiceworks survey of 257 IT decision-makers, enterprise use of cloud productivity apps is expected to increase, with 70 percent of organizations at least beginning to use cloud-based apps such as Office 365 or G-Suite from Google Cloud over the next 24 months. Migrating your employees to cloud-based apps allows users to collaborate and communicate across their devices, including smartphones, tablets and PCs. G Suite includes the necessary productivity applications and even lightweight mobile device management (MDM) platforms, enabling you to add another security layer to the mobile devices accessing your corporate apps and data. G Suite can also serve as single sign-on (SSO) security for some non-Google cloud applications.
Once your business is live on G Suite, you can access the G Suite Marketplace (formerly called the Google Apps Marketplace), which showcases enterprise cloud applications you can integrate directly with G Suite.
Going All in With Chrome
If your business is regularly using cloud-based apps, you’re already well on your way to advancing in the adoption curve. According to data from the Spiceworks survey, the next step for cloud-based productivity for business may be cloud-centric devices such as Chromebooks. Approximately half of the organizations surveyed reported that they could use a hydrid device that supports Android apps on Chrome for at least some of their end-users. If your core applications, including productivity, project management, collaboration and even some or all your financial systems, are in the cloud, Android and Chrome can provide all the tools necessary for you to gain access to your applications.
In this stage of the adoption curve, users move beyond productivity apps and find customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning and other cloud-based applications that integrate with G Suite seamlessly. The Google Play Store includes client apps for many popular enterprise cloud applications. Google makes it easy to populate an enterprise app store with these essential apps as well. For productivity and enterprise applications that haven’t made it into the G Suite Marketplace, the Chrome Web Store includes free Chrome extensions for a range of business and productivity applications.
Entering the final phase of the cloud-based adoption curve means that you can now issue Chromebooks to your employees. The new Samsung Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro are ideal, as they’re optimized for Android apps, including some productivity apps your employees are probably already using. More interestingly, the devices are 3-in-1 with a 360-degree hinge that lets you go from tablet to laptop, and also possess a built-in pen stylus. Security features include:
- Hardware-based verified access to the device
- Data encryption for securing your corporate information
- Automatic updates for the OS, browser and apps
Following the cloud-based application adoption curve sets your team up for success by helping you create a flexible working environment that provides your employees with access to cloud-based applications any time, any place — and all on the device of their choosing.
More businesses are turning to Chromebooks to stay ahead of the trends and increase productivity.
Once you have regular security problems on your Windows 10 PC like me, and you are essentially already close to 100% using web applications only like me, than it is time to move over to the Chrome OS platform. And this could be done now with a rock bottom cost. This is what I’ve found by examining the latest Chrome OS platform information as well as the entry level hardware represented by devices built on Rockchip RK3288-C SoC (a low-end quadcore 64-bit ARM SoC with lowest cost IP inside, so the SoC is the lowest cost too).
There is a “hidden” advantage as well. The “Android apps on Chrome OS” is in Beta now, but when the current Android Framework in Chrome OS will move from support of Android Marshmallow [6.0] to Android Nougat [7.0] Coming to Chrome OS 58 or 59 all Google Play store apps will be available properly on Chrome devices as well. In a companion post I’ve examined the current state-of-the-art of Android security as well, and that is looking much better than that of current Windows 10. So as far as all this information is concerned such a platform change looks like the final solution for my current security issues on Win10.
There is a further impetus from yesterday’s news on Microsoft Edge comes last in browser security battle By 18 hours ago from techradar:
Chrome remains the undisputed champion at Pwn2Own
So let’s examine first the state-of-the-art of Chrome OS security:
1:57-2:00: “What we know is that every Chrome device on the market today has a TPM.”
Streamed live on Feb 1, 2017, G Suite: Chrome OS Security Guide, an in-depth discussion by David Karam, Chrome OS Product Manager. An overview of Chrome OS security across the entire stack.
Next let’s see the latest information about the strategic value proposition of the Chrome OS:
March 9, 2017, Google Cloud: Simple, flexible, and secure Chrome OS solutions built for the future (Google Cloud Next ’17) by Rajen Sheth Director of Product Management, Android and Chrome for Business and Education, Google. As businesses evolve, they need technology solutions that are simple, flexible and cost-effective to help them succeed today and build for tomorrow. Chrome provides solutions fit for the workplace of the future – providing a secure, consistent user experience across a range of devices that can be used anywhere. Learn how your business can leverage ChromeOS in multiple ways.
March 15, 2017, G Suite: Optimizing your Retail Business with Google Chrome (17- min) by Chris McLaughlin (Strategy and Solutions Manager, Android and Chrome at Google)
– Retail is being disrupted by digital. With a need to improve the in-store experience, retailers want technology to optimize employee effectiveness and customer experience.
Chrome devices empower retail store employees and delight customers while improving IT efficiency.
March 8, 2017, The Keyword from Google: How businesses are smartly transforming with Google Cloud, Android, and Chrome by Rajen Sheth Director of Product Management, Android and Chrome for Business and Education, Google.
While businesses with a mobile strategy are commonplace today, that doesn’t mean the mobile transformation is over. Today, we’re highlighting how companies are using Google Cloud, Chrome, and Android to reimagine the way they engage customers in public spaces and also equip employees to work more productively in the office and in the field.
Smart signs cut costs and provide customer insights
We recently collaborated with Coca-Cola on Chrome-based digital signs for supermarkets that pull in localized ads from DoubleClick and are equipped with beacon technology for pushing personalized messages to mobile users.
The company has worked closely with Google Cloud to build a new signage solution that includes affordable digital sign and menu boards for Coca-Cola sellers.
“Our mission at Coca-Cola is to elevate the consumer experience to a place of pure excellence and the ability to send the right message to the right person at the right time is key to driving that world class experience in the connected retail world,” said Greg Chambers, Global Group Director of Digital Innovation at Coca-Cola.
The displays are powered by inexpensive Chromebit devices connected to a content management system (CMS) on Google Cloud Platform. The Chromebits also provide simple, centralized management of the signs. Combined with sensors, they can offer the company detailed, actionable information through Google Analytics as well as highly contextual advertising to other screens like nearby customer smartphones.
Android plus cloud intelligence enables field workers
UK pest control company Rentokil Initial is piloting a fleet of Android devices that utilize Google Cloud machine learning, including our Vision API image classification technology, to help field workers better identify pests and get treatment suggestions. Employees use an Android app to capture images that are identified using a machine learning model that’s been trained on Rentokil’s pest imagery database. The app then provides solutions to eradicate the pests. The PestID app, jointly developed by Accenture Mobility, is among the first wave of solutions Google is helping build as part of an alliance announced last year with Accenture.
Connecting manufacturing to the back office
42Q, a product division of manufacturing services provider Sanmina, developed a Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) solution that runs on Google Cloud Platform.
It enables Sanmina employees and 42Q’s customers to bring real-time transparency to their factory operations using Android and Chrome devices. Using 42Q with Chrome, “deskless” back office workers can access work instructions, data requirements, and quality plans without deploying heavy client applications and expensive equipment.
Factory operators can also use the 42Q Android app for a “tailored” mobile interface, ensuring they only see critical information on demand.
When combined with G Suite, everyone from front office planners to back office operators can collaborate on current production line states, critical orders and real time reporting on factory operations.
Tomorrow’s businesses: empowered with advanced devices, collaboration and context
With a Google Cloud devices and mobility strategy, businesses are able to gather contextual data through devices and apply machine learning analytics to quickly take smart, well-informed actions. And the more employees who use managed Chromebooks and Android devices to collaborate and securely access documents in G Suite, the more efficient your whole team becomes.
Several new devices support this secure data-driven strategy. The Asus Chromebook Flip and recently-announced Samsung Chromebook Pro and Plus function as both a Chromebook and an Android tablet with Google Play support. Last month, AOPEN launched the Chromebox mini and Chromebase mini, which also support Android apps and can use our new Kiosk APIs for improved app management and a robust customer experience.
To learn more about the Google Cloud devices and mobility solutions that enable a connected workspace, visit our booth at Next 2017 between March 8 and 10. There we’ll be demonstrating how a business becomes smarter when you pair Chrome and Android devices, cloud services and sensors with employees, customers and spaces. Or sign up here for additional information as we continue to evolve our range of data-driven tools to make every workspace connected no matter where it is.
Feb 22, 2017, AOAMarketing: AOPEN Chrome Webinar Series Part 1: Developing Next Gen Solutions AOPEN’s Jim Hoey along with Google’s Chris McLaughlin (Strategy and Solutions Manager, Android and Chrome at Google) go over Chrome OS, developing on Chrome, and an example of a fully integrated Chrome solution.
Feb 22, 2017, AOAMarketing: AOPEN Chrome Webinar Series Part 2: Chrome Device Management AOPEN’s Jim Hoey and Miles Schofield discuss the benefits of Chrome Device Management (CDM) and how businesses can utilize it for rapid deployments, reducing and controlling costs, and much more.
Feb 22, 2017, AOAMarketing: AOPEN Chrome Webinar Series Part 3: AOPEN Chrome Mini Devices AOPEN’s Jim Hoey and Miles Schofield introduces two new AOPEN Chrome Devices: Chromebox Mini and Chromebase Mini
Re: “TPM chip” mentioned in the early part of the 1st video above:
from Trusted Platform Module article in Wikipedia
Trusted Platform Module offers facilities for the secure generation of cryptographic keys, and limitation of their use, in addition to a random number generator. It also includes capabilities such as remote attestation and sealed storage, as follows:
- Remote attestation – creates a nearly unforgeable hash key summary of the hardware and software configuration. The program hashing the configuration data determines the extent of the summary of the software. This allows a third party to verify that the software has not been changed.
- Binding – encrypts data using TPM bind key, a unique RSA key descended from a storage key.
- Sealing – encrypts data in a similar manner to binding, but in addition specifies a state in which TPM must be in order for the data to be decrypted (unsealed).
Software can use a Trusted Platform Module to authenticate hardware devices. Since each TPM chip has a unique and secret RSA key burned in as it is produced, it is capable of performing platform authentication.
Generally, pushing the security down to the hardware level in conjunction with software provides more protection than a software-only solution. However even where a TPM is used, a key would still be vulnerable while a software application that has obtained it from TPM is using it to perform encryption/decryption operations, as has been illustrated in the case of a cold boot attack. This problem is eliminated if key(s) used in TPM are not accessible on a bus or to external programs and all encryption/decryption is done in TPM.
Starting in 2006, many new laptop computers have been sold with a built-in Trusted Platform Module chip. In the future, this concept could be co-located on an existing motherboard chip in computers, or any other device where the TPM facilities could be employed, such as a cell phone. On a PC, either the LPC bus or the SPI bus is used to connect to the TPM.
Many manufacturers make TPMs. The Trusted Computing Group has certified TPMs manufactured by Infineon Technologies, Nuvoton, and STMicroelectronics. The Trusted Computing Group has assigned TPM vendor IDs to Advanced Micro Devices, Atmel, Broadcom, IBM, Infineon, Intel, Lenovo, National Semiconductor, Nationz Technologies, Nuvoton, Qualcomm, Rockchip, Standard Microsystems Corporation, STMicroelectronics, Samsung, Sinosun, Texas Instruments, and Winbond.
- Discrete TPMs are chips that implement TPM functionality and nothing else, and are in their own semiconductor package. These implement their functions in hardware to resist software bugs and implement tamper resistance. They are therefore the most secure type of TPM.
- Integrated TPMs are part of another chip that implements other functionalities. While they use hardware that resists software bugs, they are not required to implement tamper resistance. Intel has integrated TPMs in some of its chipsets.
How does the Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) compare to Trusted Platform Mobile (TPM)?
There are two main components of platform security:
- Trusted Execution Environment
- Trusted Platform Module
They work in tandem; one is not designed as a replacement of the other. As an analogy, TEE is the bulletproof safe, while TPM is the 128-digit combination lock for the safe. Both are needed to ensure the safe is protected.
TEE encompasses the following elements:
- A protected or secure execution of critical applications in a virtualized environment
- Safe and secure boot ensures all system software components are in a known and “trusted” state before launching.
TPM provides the following services:
- Remote attestation: External services can verify that the system has not been altered or tampered with by using a hash of both system state. The verification is performed on both hardware and software. It is necessary to check that the system is not compromised before executing sensitive processes.
- Binding: Encryption of data using a unique RSA key that is burned into the chip when the chip is manufactured.
- Sealing: A feature that ensures that data isn’t accessed or decrypted when the system is in normal operation. It ensures that applications cannot access protected data when the system is in a sealed mode. But it can also allow legitimate applications to access protected data.
Arguments were made that TPM is not necessary if the TEE is robust. Some vendors have chosen not to use external TPM and store the keys and protected data in a TEE-only addressable area. TEE can help with Binding and Sealing. ISO standards suggest using a full-fledged TPM. External TPM could be very useful in coordinating between several masters and other complex systems. On the other hand, solutions that only rely on TPM are very vulnerable for execution and boot attacks. It is easy to override the application run states and circumvent TPM.
Do Intel or AMD offer Trusted Execution Environments?
Yes, other processor architectures support TEE. Popular CPU Architectures and their TEE implementations:
- ARM TrustZone
- Intel TXT
- AMD Secure Execution Environment
All three of these TEE implementations provide a virtualized Execution Environment for the secure OS and applications. To switch between the secure world and the normal world, Intel provides SMX Instructions, while ARM uses SMC. Programmatically, they all achieve very similar results.
Popular TPM Implementations:
- ARM SecureCore
- TPMs from Broadcom and other vendors who meet ISO standards
ARM: SecurCore Processors
Tamper resistant – optimized for security applications
The ARM® SecurCore™ processor family provides powerful 32-bit secure solutions based upon industry leading ARM architecture. By enhancing highly successful ARM processors with security features, SecurCore provides smart card and secure IC developers easy access to the benefits of ARM 32-bit technology such as small die size, energy efficiency, low cost, excellent code density and outstanding performance. SecurCore processors, used in a wide range of security applications, outperform legacy 8-bit or 16-bit secure processors.
High performance smartcard and embedded security applications
Highest volume smartcard and embedded security applications.
ARM SecurCore processors are designed primarily for tamper-resistant smart cards and incorporate several security features that make SecurCore an ideal choice for such applications. Further details on the SecurCore security features are available under an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) from ARM.
ARM SecurCore are built upon the ARM Cortex-M series. They benefit from wide tools support, including full support from RealView® Microcontroller Development Kit (the Keil uVision environment), the most popular smart card development tool chain in the industry.
SecurCore is shaping the future of smart cards and it is successfully adopted in many applications:
SecurCore is the industry standard architecture of choice for smart cards.
We have been rolling out the Google Play Store on select Chromebooks on the Stable channel and the Play store will now be available on more Chromebooks in the coming months.
You can find the full list of Chromebooks here but please note also that all the Chromebooks we launch in 2017 will support Android apps.
This post aims to answer the most frequently asked questions about Android apps on Chrome OS and provide more clarity on which what Chromebooks run Android Apps:
Android apps are now available on Stable Channel in the following devices
- ASUS Chromebook Flip C100PA
- Acer Chromebook R11 / C738T / CB5-132T
- Google Chromebook Pixel (2015)
- Samsung Chromebook Plus
- ASUS Chromebook Flip C302
- Acer Chromebook R13 (CB5-312T)
- ThinkPad 11e Chromebook 3rd Gen (Yoga/Clamshell)
- Dell Chromebook 13 7310
- ASUS Chromebook C202SA/C300SA/C301SA
- HP Chromebook 13 G1
- Samsung Chromebook 3
- HP Chromebook 11 G5 / HP Chromebook 11-vxxx
FREQUENT ASKED QUESTIONS
WHY ANDROID APPS AND HOW WE BUILT
What does it mean that “Android apps are coming to Chromebooks”?
“Android apps are coming to Chromebooks” means that we are bringing the Google Play Store and all Android apps to compatible Chromebooks.
Why are we building it?
Chrome OS has brought the web as a first class citizen to our users. With that, we made great productivity and knowledge devices. We want to give the Google Play Store Google’s app ecosystem, the same treatment and treat both the web and Android apps as first class citizens to our users and provide them with a platform for productivity, consumption, gaming and more.
How did we build this?
Android will run in a container side-by-side with Chrome OS. The apps will then be composited into Chrome OS inside of windows. Input into those windows (touch, mouse, keyboard) will be sent to the Android container and processed by the app. All concepts expected by Android apps (intents, notifications, toasts, you name it) will be fully supported by Chrome OS.
Why is Play Store not available for download on my Chromebook?
The Play Store is available for certain Chromebooks. To see the list of Chromebooks that will eventually be able to run the Play Store, check here.
I did not opt into to download Play Store support – how do I enable it?
You can enable Android apps by going into Settings and checking – Enable Google Play Store on your Chromebook. You can check steps in our Help Center.
I’m using Chromebook in my workplace or school, and heard that Play Store should be available for download – how come it’s not showing up?
Please ask your IT administrator so that you can enjoy using Play Store applications as soon as possible.
APPS & GOOGLE PLAY RELATED QUESTIONS
While the ability to run Android apps on Chrome OS continues to roll out, the question for many is when or if it will be updated. The answer is yes and pretty soon. This week while attending Google Cloud Next in San Francisco, I posed the question to Chrome OS product management in a breakout session and it was confirmed that Android Nougat will be coming to the platform build 58 or 59. Given that it is already in the beta channel, I suspect that it is likely 58.
As readers may know, Android Framework in Chrome OS currently is based on Android Marshmallow [6.0]. So, in theory, if an app will run in Marshmallow, it will run on Chrome. The tricky bit has been that some apps can’t go full screen in 6.0 and features like multi-window support for apps is not something that is supported at all in Marshmallow. All of that changes under 7.0 obviously as the framework allows for it.
The other big challenge with Marshmallow is that you can only run one app at a time, somewhat related to the multi-window aspect. In other words, if you are running an Android app on your Chromebook and switch focus to another app, the first app quits running on the backend. So things like sync don’t work. That would change in a Nougat framework.
When I asked Google about this, they confirmed that Nougat is coming to Chrome OS in the 58 or 59 train. That’s good because 58 is in the Beta Channel and 59 is in the Developer channel. So, at best, we are likely 6 weeks away and at worst, 12 weeks.
Perhaps the better news in all of this, the Chrome team also confirmed that they want to accelerate support in the future of Android so when Android O [8.0] is released later this year, we could see widespread support of it much faster than we have Nougat.
New York, 17 January 2017 – Two new powerful and innovative AOPEN Chrome devices, from one of the leading commercial* Chrome device manufacturers, are set to drive customer experience in 2017.
The AOPEN Chromebase Mini and Chromebox Mini devices are part of a new enterprise range aimed at bringing enterprise reliability and features at an affordable price.
The Chromebase Mini is an enterprise-ready interactive 10.1-inch all-in-one touchscreen solution. It’s designed to be managed with ease, reliability, and security – making it ideal for high-traffic enterprise environments including digital signage, POS, self-service kiosks, digital corporate communication, and AV room control.
The second device, the Chromebox Mini, is the smallest Chromebox on the market today and also runs on the Chrome OS platform. It is solid state and can be used as an SME or enterprise desktop replacement hosting IOT applications, digital signage and kiosks and affording greater control of in-store engagement.
Stephen Borg, Global Chief Digital Officer AOPEN Group, says the devices represent a major leap forward in design – allowing a ubiquitous approach to multiple use cases, rapid application development, and ease of use for the signage, kiosk, POS, and other enterprise markets.
“AOPEN designed its new Chrome OS device line to empower the customer by servicing a wide range of verticals and needs,” says Borg. “They are fully enterprise-ready in terms of product longevity and reliability, ease of large deployment, remote access, and service.”
The Chromebase Mini, an all-in-one 10.1-inch solution, does not require a kiosk protective case, is waterproof and tamper proof unlike like a consumer touch device.
The enterprise ready all-in-one touch device supports audio-video conference platforms, such as Google Hangouts. It offers mounting options for A/V or desktop use (including a built-in Vesa Mount stand), high-quality camera and audio, and a dual microphone. The chromebase mini is also accompanied by optional accessories such as recess wall mounts, POE adapters, and adapters to mount various payment solutions.
By leveraging AOPEN software layer meldCX, the Chromebase Mini is compatible with end-user legacy POS systems – featuring local app instances for offline use and device integration, while maintaining a competitive price point.
“The Chromebase Mini achieves both customer and operational benefits. Its aesthetic and interactive design makes it ideal for high-traffic enterprise environments and provides a compelling way for customers to transact. Retailers or Integrators can also use Chrome Device Management to control and manage their device fleets. It means that content updates and management of the devices can be done remotely via the cloud, and its ease of rollout gives retailers an amazing experience,” says Borg.
“The Chromebase Mini is also ideal for enterprise business solutions. It positions Chrome squarely in the cloud, offering secure flexibility of business cloud solutions and enabling both Google Hangouts and other video conferencing solutions.”
The Chromebox Mini is a solid-state, ultra-small form factor device. It is the smallest enterprise-ready Chromebox currently available.
It supports Chrome Device Management, and can be used as an enterprise desktop replacement. Its features include fanless design, Bluetooth, wide-reaching dual-band antenna, and power button extension ports for ease of mounting behind device or having other AV equipment control on/off state .
Both the Chromebase and Chromebox Mini are enterprise-grade solutions, at a price point suitable for home use for those wanting a more reliable silent solution. Both feature fanless/non-venting hole designs, can operate in a wide range of temperatures, and meet Google’s security requirements.
“Rather than re-purposing consumer-grade products and support for commercial environments, AOPEN has introduced a design for the Chrome Mini Range that is robust and reliable enough for enterprise deployments across key verticals – including retail, hospitality, and QSR,” says Borg.
Chromebase Mini – key features:
- Panel: 10.1” 1280 x 800 250nits AHVA
- Touch: 10 point multi-touch; pinch to zoom
- CPU: Quad-Core Cortex-A17, up to 1.8GHz
- DRAM: LPDDR3 Dual Channel 4GB
- Storage: EMMC 5.0 16GB
- FHD Webcam (2M)
- Built-in Dual Digital MIC and Stereo Speaker
- WIFI+ BT4.0: 802.11 b/g/n/ac + BT4.0 x 1
Chromebox Mini Fievel – key features:
- Fanless/non venting hole design
- CPU:Quad-Core Cortex-A17, up to 1.8GHz
- DRAM: LPDDR3 Dual Channel 4GB
- Storage: EMMC 5.0 16GB
- WIFI+ BT4.0: 802.11 b/g/n/ac + BT4.0 x 1
*AOPEN commercial grade products are engineered for 24/7, 365 use in a commercial environment. Products are all solid state. In addition, the Chromebase Mini has tamper proof and water resistant features.
Founded in 1996, AOPEN is today a major global electronics manufacturer and a thought leader in digital signage.
AOPEN is an official partner for Google Chrome devices, including the following tiers:
- Google Cloud Sales Premier Partner (Chrome)
- Google for Education Sales Premier Partner
- Google Cloud Services Partner (Chrome)
- Google for Work Education Services Partner
Specialising in multi-platform, ultra-small form factor computing for both home and business, AOPEN works with a wide range of partners – from hardware to software and services. Through these partnerships, AOPEN creates advanced digital display solutions for many of the world’s top brands.
Part of the Wistron group, AOPEN has a presence in over 100 countries. AOPEN customers and partners range from governments and financial institutions to retailers, retail design firms, strategic consultants, and branding agencies.
● Fanless/non venting hole design
● CPU:Quad-Core Cortex-A17, up to 1.8GHz
● DRAM: LPDDR3 Dual Channel 4GB
● Storage: EMMC 5.0 16GB
● WIFI+ BT4.0: 802.11 b/g/n/ac + BT4.0 x 1
● Dimensions: 5.75 x 3.8 x 0.94 in
For additional details, download the Chromebox Mini spec sheet below. DOWNLOAD SPECSHEET
● Panel: 10.1” 1280 x 800 250nits AHVA
● Touch: 10 point multi-touch; pinch to zoom
● CPU: Quad-Core Cortex-A17, up to 1.8GHz
● DRAM: LPDDR3 Dual Channel 4GB
● Storage: EMMC 5.0 16GB
● FHD Webcam (2MP)
● Built-in Dual Digital MIC and Stereo Speaker
● WIFI+ BT4.0: 802.11 b/g/n/ac + BT4.0 x 1
For additional details, download the Chromebase Mini spec sheet below. DOWNLOAD SPECSHEET
2016–05-09, Rockchip: RK3288-C based CTL J4+ Chromebook, priced at under $200!
The humble Chromebook has gone through many revisions since its inception nearly five years ago. Originally designed as a low-cost notebook running the Google Chrome OS and connected to the cloud for everyday work, there are now ultra-premium models such as the Pixel, a wider range of touchscreen-enabled designs primarily from Asus, as well a bevy of entry-level offerings that target value above all else.
This budget end of the market is dominated by Chromebooks powered by the ARM architecture. Chief amongst the proponents of this Internet-connected device is Chinese chipmaker Rockchip, whose RK3288 system-on-chip processor powers a number of Chromebooks for the consumer and education markets.
Found in Chromebooks from Asus, Haier and HiSense, as well as the novel Chromebit, the RK3288(C) SoC is also present in education-focussed notebooks made popular by CTL. Priced at under $200 for the best-in-breed J4+, we have one in for evaluation today.
Under the hood: RK3288C
But before we get to the Chromebook it is instructive to take a peek at what makes the RK3288 SoC an ideal fit for these devices. The RK3288 uses two of ARM’s best-known technologies – Cortex A-class processor and Mali graphics – and then wraps them inside a fully-baked SoC with display, memory, camera and connectivity support.
The Cortex-A17, which is ostensibly a speed-bumped version of the Cortex-A12, is arranged in a quad-core configuration and scales up to 1.8GHz. Though now superseded by the Cortex-A57 and Cortex-A72, the 32-bit-only processor remains a potent choice for an entry-level Chromebook. Graphics oomph is provided by the Mali-T760 GPU also in a quad-core configuration, and its performance in a range of last year’s premium handsets bodes well for the kind of work that Chromebook users will engage in on a daily basis.
The rest of the SoC treads familiar ground. There’s a dual-channel 64-bit memory controller supporting DDR3/L memory, 4K-capable HDMI-out, an H.264 video encoder/decoder, and 13MP ISP for snapping duties.
The point to appreciate is that a budget SoC provides enough general chutzpah for a fluid experience on a Chromebook. We’ve seen this proved empirically with the evaluation of the similar, yet more expensive, Chromebook Flip from Asus.
The CTL J4+
Designed primarily for the classroom but available to purchase from a selected number of retailers for regular customers, the CTL J4+ is solid enough to withstand the usual knocks that might be expected in an education environment. The carbon-like pattern is, as you would expect, made of plastic, but it’s of a high quality throughout. Grabbing the sides of the Chromebook in both hands results in very little flex. Indeed, we’ve seen full-on notebooks costing multiple times more having inferior build quality.
That said, the lid, although a dark grey, is a magnet for fingerprints. The slightest bit of grease or moisture shows up, so you’ll be rubbing it away constantly to ensure it’s kept nice and clean. Portability is a key concern for the education market, too; the J4+’s 1,124g weight is very competitive against other Chromebooks of a similar bearing, while the total travel weight, including small power charger, is less than 1,500g. My 11-year-old niece felt it was portable enough to be carried in a rucksack during the daily 15-minute walk to school.
There are inevitable compromises when retailing a sub-$200 Chromebook. One area where the J4+ falls slightly short is shown by a lack of USB 3.0. An older, slower port lines either side, with HDMI-out and a micro-SD card-reader also available. Though it would be nicer to have USB 3.0, the question we ask ourselves is whether it makes much of a real-world difference on a machine that’s purposely designed to be used almost exclusively with the Internet?
Other than the previously mentioned quad-core Rockchip SoC operating at up to 1.8GHz, this Chromebook is supported by 16GB of eMMC storage, 4GB of DDR3L memory, 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and an integrated, 3,400mAh battery promising up to nine hours of regular usage from a single charge. A couple of 1.5W speakers offer rudimentary sound capabilities.
The smooth hinge goes back about 120° revealing an 11.6in display with large bezels on all sides. Premium Chromebooks look more like expensive laptops, but at the cheaper end of the market the design has barely changed over the past decade. But hey, it works well enough for its intended market.
The + suffix is the differentiator between this and an otherwise similar Chromebook from the CTL stable. The regular machine also has an 11.6in screen with a native 1,366×768 resolution but it uses a TN display instead. The + model improves this to an IPS screen with wider viewing angles and, in our opinion, considerably better colour reproduction.
It’s bright, sharp enough for the modest resolution and a good fit for a budget Chromebook. In a world where children often have higher-resolution tablets as the norm rather than exception, my niece noted that the fidelity wasn’t as impressive as her retina-equipped iPad. Yet good enough for basic spreadsheets and some simple word processing? Sure.
The keys offer shallow travel that take a little getting used to if coming from a full-size, discrete keyboard. Optimised for Chrome it misses out the regular Caps Lock key which gives way to Search while the usual function keys are routed instead to common Chrome tasks.
In a similar vein to the Chromebook Flip, the trackpad is solid. It also supports Chrome gestures and has a satisfying click each time it’s depressed. We’d describe the inputs as generic for an entry-level Chromebook, but do understand that isn’t meant in a pejorative sense; the duo work well.
The power-sipping nature of the SoC is a boon for those searching for quietness. A lack of vents hints to silent computing, and it is, with the Rockchip SoC cooled passively. Students coming from a tablet world will appreciate that, in terms of noise, it’s no different to what they’re accustomed to.
General performance is dictated by the SoC and supporting memory contained within the Chromebook. In concert with the majority of others plying this end of the market, one where Rockchip has a leadership position, applications open quickly and the user experience is smooth and predictable. This isn’t a machine for doing anything taxing, mind – the Chrome OS is built for Internet-centric usage – yet playing videos, opening up multiple tabs in simple programs, and calling on Skype does little to push the capabilities of the RK3288C SoC.
For those that haven’t used a Chromebook of late, think of the performance as analogous to a mid-range smartphone of this year. It’s never electric, as on the latest PCs or high-end phones, but neither is it slow at any task you would commonly undertake.
More pertinently, it’s quick enough for the education market for which this model is primed. Rather than conduct looping battery tests, we used the J4+ over the course of a weekend, doing the usual browsing and video playback, and noted that it kept going for approximately 10 hours before running out of juice.
A simple machine with a simple premise of appealing to a broad educational market, the CTL J4+ is a solid Chromebook arriving with an attractive bulk price of under $200. It strikes all the right notes for an entry-level Chromebook powered by the ever-popular Rockchip RK3288C SoC. Pricing, though, remains absolutely key, as more feature-filled models are available for a little more, while the absolute budget end, based on the same chassis, starts at just $150. Tablets, too, offer a similar level of performance, albeit without physical keyboard, for less money.
The evolution of mobile SoCs has meant that adequate performance can be gained by spending a very reasonable amount of money. A case in point is the Rockchip RK3288C, widely seen in these devices, and with enough grunt and longevity to run everyday tasks for well, all day. CTL naturally takes this on with the J4+ education-focussed Chromebook equipped with a solid IPS display and surprisingly decent build quality.
Available to purchase to regular consumers for $189 at present, it represents good value in a congested marketplace. If your heart is set on a Chromebook and require a solid machine that covers all the basics, the CTL J4+ is a good starting point.
- Quad-core Cortex-A17 up to 1.8GHz
- Mali-T764 GPU
- Dual-channel DDR3/DDR3L/LPDDR2/LPDDR3
- 4K UHD H265/H264
- H264 encoder
- TS in/CSA 2.0
- USB 2.0
Process • 28nm CPU • Quad-Core Cortex-A17, up to 1.8GHz GPU • Mali-T764 GPU, Supports AFBC (ARM Frame Buffer Compression) • support OpenGL ES 1.1/2.0/3.1, OpenCL, DirectX9.3 • High performance dedicated 2D processor Multi-Media • 4K 10bits VP9/H265/H264 video decoders, up to 60fps • 1080P other video decoders (VC-1, MPEG-1/2/4, VP8) • 1080P video encoder for H.264 and VP8 • Video post processor: de-interlace, de-noise, enhancement for edge/detail/color Display • Support RGB/Dual LVDS/Dual MIPI-DSI/eDP interface, up to 3840*2160 resolution • HDMI 2.0 for 4K@60Hz with HDCP 1.4/2.2 Security • ARM TrustZone (TEE), Secure Video Path, Cipher Engine, Secure boot Memory • Dual-channel 64bit DDR3-1333/DDR3L-1333/LPDDR2-1066 • Support MLC NAND, eMMC 4.51 Connectivity • Embedded 13M ISP, MIPI CSI-2 and DVP interface • Dual SDIO 3.0 interface • TS in/CSA2.0, support DTV function • Embed HDMI, Ethernet MAC, S/PDIF, USB, I2C, I2S, UART, SPI, PS2 Package • BGA636 19X19, 0.65mm pitch State • MP Now
February 14, 2017, RSA Conference: Delivering Secure, Client-Side Technology to Billions of Users Adrian Ludwig, Director of Android Security, Google.
Google aims to make the web safe for all. Director of Android Security Adrian Ludwig will discuss the progress they’ve made, the gaps that remain and how client-side security can make the web more secure.
30 Aug 2016, WIRED UK: How Google is putting security at the heart of Android By ADRIAN LUDWIG. Google’s director of Android Security explains the operating system’s built-in security features
Android has been the fastest growing operating system of all time.
The total ecosystem is huge: 400 companies partner with 500 carriers to produce over 4,000 distinct phones, tablets, and TVs running Android.
When we founded Android, the idea was somewhat crazy — build an open standard for hardware makers. Android is open-sourced and provided for free on all hardware.
This makes it possible for hardware makers to build a wide variety of different devices (phones, tablets, and even watches) while simultaneously making it easier for developers to build one app that works across any of these different devices.
Having an open ecosystem and over a billion users means that we take security very seriously. From the very beginning, security has been baked into the heart of Android. For example:
All Android applications run in what we call an “Application Sandbox.” Just like the walls of a sandbox keep the sand from getting out, each application is housed within a virtual ‘sandbox’ to keep it from accessing anything outside itself. This means that even if a user were to accidentally install a piece of malware, it’s forbidden from accessing any other app on the device.
The latest security technology
Android devices use leading hardware and software security technologies such as encryption, application signing, system integrity checks, SELinux, ASLR, and TrustZone to protect user data and the device.
More control in Android M
Users are even more safe with the new permissions model in Android M by giving them more control over what apps are allowed to access. Apps trigger requests for permissions at the time they need to do something.
For example, if your photo posting app wants to access your photo roll, it has to ask you first. So if a flashlight app starts asking for access to your phone book, you can just say no.
Google Play — our official marketplace for Android apps and games — is also an important part of Android security. Before applications become available in Google Play, they undergo an application security review process to confirm that they comply with Google Play policies, prohibiting potentially harmful applications. We suspend developer accounts and apps that violate our policies.
Third Party Verify Apps Feature
Since Android allows alternative app stores other than Google Play, our users often download apps from third-party app stores. In order to help make this third-party experience secure, we also have a feature called Verify Apps that warns the user or blocks potentially harmful apps, even if the app wasn’t from the Play Store.
It will check apps when you install them and periodically scans for potentially harmful apps to keep users safe. Over 1 billion devices are protected with Google Play which conducts 200 million security scans of devices per day.
The results of these efforts have made malware relatively rare on Android. Based on our research, fewer than one per cent of Android devices had a Potentially Harmful App (PHA) installed in 2014, and fewer than 0.15 per cent of devices that only install from Google Play had a PHA installed.
In future installments, we’ll talk more about how we work with the broader security community to protect Android users, and offer a few tips for you to protect your phone as well.
THE CONTRIBUTION FROM THE PARTNERS COMMUNITY
31 Aug 2016, WIRED UK: How Google’s bug bounties reward you for hunting out flaws in its Android software By ADRIAN LUDWIG. Google’s head of Android Security explains how bug bounties keep the OS secure.
Our last post looked at the ways in which we protect users against harmful software inside of Android and through our app store Google Play.
Android, however, is an open ecosystem used by more than 1.4 billion people around the world, so it makes sense to tap into all of those Android partners, developers, users, and researchers to help locate vulnerabilities and problems. This is the advantage of an open ecosystem: we can work with the broader security community who help us improve security and make Android stronger.
The priority for this approach is that we must be transparent about how exactly Android works. Android is open source, and this means we publish the latest programming source code for Android here.
Anyone can review the code to identify potential security risks. Anyone can build a device using this open source code (as well as add their own customisations). And anyone can suggest modifications or improvements to the core open source project.
Secondly, we work hard to encourage research on Android. We have come up with many ways to incentivise people to poke around in our code and find problems.
In 2010, Google started what we call security reward programs to pay security researchers who find major flaws. In 2014 alone we paid more than $1.5 million to security researchers who found vulnerabilities in Chrome and other Google products.
The success of this program led us to extend it directly to Android. In 2014, we started Google Patch Rewards — an experimental program to reward proactive security improvements for a few of our open-source projects. Rewards for qualifying submissions range from $500 for one-line improvements, up to $10,000 for complicated, high-impact improvements that almost certainly prevent major vulnerabilities in the affected code.
Then in 2015, we started the Android Security Rewards Program to help reward the contributions of security researchers who invest their time and effort in helping us make Android more secure. Through this program we provide monetary rewards and public recognition for vulnerabilities disclosed to the Android Security Team.
The reward level is based on the bug severity, increasing for higher quality reports that include reproduction code, test cases, and patches. In the last six months of 2015, we paid more than $200,000 to researchers for their work, including our largest single payment of $37,500 to an Android security researcher. This was part of the total $2 million paid out to researchers across all the programs.
On top of our own programs, we also sponsor third-party competitions such as Mobile pwn2own, ZDI’s annual contest that rewards security researchers for highlighting security vulnerabilities on mobile platforms.
Finally, we work closely with our hardware partners so devices can be updated with the latest patches. For more than three years, we have been working with Android manufacturers every month through bulletins of security issues with which they can keep their users secure.
Nexus devices have always been among the first Android devices to receive platform and security updates. Since last year, Nexus devices have been regularly receiving security-focused, over-the-air (OTA) updates each month in addition to the usual platform updates. These fixes are also released to the public via the Android Open Source Project.
For Android, security has always been a priority. We are extremely grateful to the wider research community for helping us find security flaws. It’s great to us — but more importantly, to 1.4 billion people around the world — to see so many people pitching in to make Android safer.
FROM THE USERS THEMSELVES
2 Sept 2016, WIRED UK: How to keep your Android phone safe from prying eyes By ADRIAN LUDWIG. Google’s director of Android Security reveals practical ways to keep your data safe.
Over the course of this dedicated security series we have focused on how security is baked into the very heart of Android.
But the Android operating system also empowers you to take safety into your own hands.
This final piece in our series focuses on how each and every Android phone user can play an active role when it comes to safety on the internet. Today, smartphones have become nearly indispensable. So it’s important to keep your phone, but also its contents, secure.
We’re going to walk you through some top ways to keep your mobile security skills as sharp as possible. These are simple but highly effective ways to keep you safe, such as finding your phone if it’s lost, keeping your personal information secured, and making sure the apps and games you download are safe.
One of the most basic threats to mobile security is pretty simple and is probably something that has happened to all of us: losing your own phone. We entrust our phones with some of our most personal data – texts from loved ones, family photos, work emails, bank account information, and more. In the wrong hands, that data could cause trouble but when your phone goes missing, it’s not always easy to figure out where to start, who to call, or how to keep your information safe.
Find Your Phone is a new Android feature that will help you if your phone is ever lost or stolen. In a few simple steps, you can not only locate your phone, but also lock and call it, secure your account, leave a callback number on the screen, and more. The feature can be used to find lost Android and iOS devices, and soon, you’ll also be able to access it by searching Google for “I lost my phone.”
You can use Find Your Phone in My Account, or just by searching ‘find my phone’ on any Google browser. Plus, it works for both Android and iOS devices.
A second easy thing you can do if you don’t want anyone who picks up your phone or tablet to have access to your stuff is to switch on your mobile device lock. On an Android phone or tablet, you can pick a PIN, a password, or a pattern.
For added security, you should also set your device to automatically lock when it goes to sleep. You can take this even one step further and customise your settings so that your patterns and passwords are not visible when you’re entering them.
Download apps from trusted stores and marketplaces and help ensure your phone is safe when it’s in your own hands. Some apps can affect your device’s security, so only download them from places you trust. We work to make sure that all apps available on Google Play pass stringent policy checks, including checks for potentially harmful behaviour.
If you have Google Play installed, you’re automatically protected from potentially harmful apps with the Verify Apps feature. It’s turned on by default and warns you before you install an application we believe is potentially harmful. It’ll also check your device once a week for potentially harmful apps. If you see a warning from Verify Apps, we recommend not installing that app.
In the last year, we’ve significantly improved our machine learning and event correlation to detect potentially harmful behaviour. We protect users from malware and other Potentially Harmful Apps (PHAs), by checking more than 6 billion installed applications per day. We protect users from network-based and on-device threats by scanning 400 million devices per day. And we protect hundreds of millions of Chrome users on Android from unsafe websites with Safe Browsing.
We have also continued to make it even more difficult to get PHAs into Google Play. Last year’s enhancements reduced the probability of installing a PHA from Google Play by over 40 per cent compared to 2014. Within Google Play, install attempts of most categories of PHAs declined. Data Collection decreased over 40 per cent to 0.08 per cent of installs, spyware dropped 60 per cent to 0.02 per cent of installs and hostile downloaders also decreased 50 per cent to 0.01 per cent of installs.
Overall, PHAs were installed on fewer than 0.15 per cent of devices that only get apps from Google Play. About 0.5 per cent of devices that install apps from both Play and other sources had a PHA installed during 2015, similar to the data in last year’s report.
It’s critical that we also protect users who install apps from sources other than Google Play. Our Verify Apps service protects these users and we improved the effectiveness of the PHA warnings provided by Verify Apps by over 50 per cent. In 2015, we saw an increase in the number of PHA install attempts outside of Google Play, and we disrupted several coordinated efforts to install PHAs onto user devices from outside of Google Play.
For information on OpenStack provided earlier on this blog see:
– Disaggregation in the next-generation datacenter and HP’s Moonshot approach for the upcoming HP CloudSystem “private cloud in-a-box” with the promised HP Cloud OS based on the 4 years old OpenStack effort with others, ‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Dec 10, 2013
– Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform 4 delivery and Dell as the first company to OEM it co-engineered on Dell infrastructure with Red Hat, ‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Feb 19, 2014
To understand the OpenStack V4 level state-of-technology-development as of June 25, 2015:
– go to my homepage: https://lazure2.wordpress.com/
– or to the OpenStack related part of Microsoft Cloud state-of-the-art: Hyper-scale Azure with host SDN — IaaS 2.0 — Hybrid flexibility and freedom, ‘Experiencing the Cloud’, July 11, 2015
May 19, 2016:
With OpenStack in tow you’ll go far — be it your house, your bank, your city or your car.
Just look at all of the exciting places we’re going:
From the phone in your pocket
The telecom industry is undergoing a massive shift, away from hundreds of proprietary devices in thousands of central offices accumulated over decades, to a much more efficient and flexible software plus commodity hardware approach. While some carriers like AT&T have already begun routing traffic from the 4G networks over OpenStack powered clouds to millions of cellphone users, the major wave of adoption is coming with the move to 5G, including plans from AT&T, Telefonica, SK Telekom, and Verizon.
We are on the cusp of a revolution that will completely re-imagine what it means to provide services in the trillion dollar telecom industry, with billions of connected devices riding on OpenStack-powered infrastructure in just a few years.
To the living room socket
The titans of TV like Comcast, DirecTV, and Time Warner Cable all rely on OpenStack to bring the latest entertainment to our homes efficiently, and innovators like DigitalFilm Tree are producing that content faster than ever thanks to cloud-based production workflows.
Your car, too, will get smart
Speaking of going places, back here on earth many of the world’s top automakers, such as BMW and the Volkswagen group, which includes Audi, Lamborghini, and even Bentley, are designing the future of transportation using OpenStack and big data. The hottest trends to watch in the auto world are electric zero emissions cars and self-driving cars. Like the “smart city” mentioned above, a proliferation of sensors plus connectivity call for distributed systems to bring it all together, creating a huge opportunity for OpenStack.
And your bank will take part
Money moves faster than ever, with digital payments from startups and established players alike competing for consumer attention. Against this backdrop of enormous market change, banks must meet an increasingly rigid set of regulatory rules, not to mention growing security threats. To empower their developers to innovate while staying diligent on regs and security, financial leaders like PayPal, FICO, TD Bank, American Express, and Visa are adopting OpenStack.
Your city must keep the pace
Powering the world’s cities is a complex task and here OpenStack is again driving automation, this time in the energy sector. State Grid Corporation, the world’s largest electric utility, serves over 120 million customers in China while relying on OpenStack in production.
Looking to the future, cities will be transformed by the proliferation of fast networks combined with cheap sensors. Unlocking the power of this mix are distributed systems, including OpenStack, to process, store, and move data. Case in point: tcpcloud in Prague is helping introduce “smart city” technology by utilizing inexpensive Raspberry Pis embedded in street poles, backed by a distributed system based on Kubernetes and OpenStack. These systems give city planners insight into traffic flows of both pedestrians and cars, and even measure weather quality. By routing not just packets but people, cities are literally load balancing their way to lower congestion and pollution.
From inner to outer space
The greatest medical breakthroughs of the next decade will come from analyzing massive data sets, thanks to the proliferation of distributed systems that put supercomputer power into the hands of every scientist. And OpenStack has a huge role to play empowering researchers all over the globe: from Melbourne to Madrid, Chicago to Chennai, or Berkeley to Beijing, everywhere you look you’ll find OpenStack.
To explore this world, I recently visited the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at the University of Texas at Austin where I toured a facility that houses one of the top 10 supercomputers in the world, code named “Stampede
But what really got me excited about the future was the sight of two large OpenStack clusters: one called Chameleon, and the newest addition, Jetstream, which put the power of more than 1,000 nodes and more than 15,000 cores into the hands of scientists at 350 universities. In fact, the Chameleon cloud was recently used in a class at the University of Arizona by students looking to discover exoplanets. Perhaps the next Neil deGrasse Tyson is out there using OpenStack to find a planet to explore for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories.
Where should we go next?
Mark Collier is OpenStack co-founder, and currently the OpenStack Foundation COO. This article was first published in Superuser Magazine, distributed at the Austin Summit.
May 9, 2016:
From OpenStack Summit Austin, Part 1: Vendors digging in for long haul by Al Sadowski, 451 Research, LLC: This report provides highlights from the most recent OpenStack Summit
THE 451 TAKE OpenStack mindshare continues to grow for enterprises interested in deploying cloud-native applications in greenfield private cloud environments. However, its appeal is limited for legacy applications and enterprises sold on hyperscale multi-tenant cloud providers like AWS and Azure. There are several marquee enterprises with OpenStack as the central component of cloud transformations, but many are still leery of the perceived complexity of configuring, deploying and maintaining OpenStack-based architectures. Over the last few releases, processes for installation and upgrades, tooling, and API standardization across projects have improved as operators have become more vocal during the requirements phase. Community membership continues to grow on a global basis, and the supporting organization also depicts a similar geographic trend.
… Horizontal scaling of Nova is much improved, based on input from CERN and Rackspace. CERN, an early OpenStack adopter, demonstrated the ability for the open source platform to scale – it now has 165,000 cores running OpenStack. However, Walmart, PayPal and eBay are operating larger OpenStack environments.
May 18, 2015:
Walmart‘s Cloud Journey by Amandeep Singh Juneja
May 19, 2015:
OpenStack Update from eBay and PayPal by Subbu Allamaraju
May 18, 2015:
Architecting Organizational Change at TD Bank by Graeme Peacock, VP Engineering, TD Bank Group
TD Bank uses cloud as catalyst for cultural change in IT
May 9, 2016: From OpenStack Summit Austin, Part 1: Vendors digging in for long haul continued:
While OpenStack may have been conceived as an open source multi-tenant IaaS, its future success will mainly come from hosted and on-premises private cloud deployments. Yes, there are many pockets of success with regional or vertical-focused public clouds based on OpenStack, but none with the scale of AWS or the growth of Microsoft Azure. Hewlett Packard Enterprise shuttered its OpenStack Helion-based public cloud, and Rackspace shifted engineering resources away from its own public cloud. Rackspace, the service provider with the largest share of OpenStack-related revenue, says its private cloud is growing in the ‘high double digits.’ Currently, 56% of OpenStack’s service-provider revenue total is public cloud-based, but we expect private cloud will account for a larger portion over the next few years.
October 21, 2015:
A new model to deliver public cloud by Bill Hill, SVP and GM, HP Cloud
December 1, 2015:
May 9, 2016: From OpenStack Summit Austin, Part 1: Vendors digging in for long haul continued:
As of the Mitaka release, two new gold members were added: UnitedStack and EasyStack, both from China. Other service providers and vendors shared their customer momentum and product updates with 451 Research during the summit. Among the highlights are:
- AT&T has cobbled together a DevOps team from 67 different organizations, in order to transform into a software company.
- All of GoDaddy’s new servers are going into its OpenStack environment. It is also using the Ironic (bare metal) project and exploring containers on OpenStack.
- SwiftStack built a commercial product with an AWS-like consumption model using the Swift (object storage) project. It now has over 60 customers, including eBay, PayPal, Burton Snowboards and Ancestry.com.
- OVH is based in France and operates a predominately pan-Europe public cloud. It added Nova compute in 2014, and currently has 75PB on Swift storage.
- Unitas Global says OpenStack-related enterprise engagements are a large part of its 100% Y/Y growth. While it does not contribute code, it is helping to develop operational efficiencies and working with Canonical to deploy ‘vanilla’ OpenStack using Juju charms. Tableau Software is a client.
- DreamHost is operating an OpenStack public cloud, DreamCompute, and is a supporter of the Astara (network orchestration) project. It claims 2,000 customers for DreamCompute and 10,000 customers for its object storage product.
- Platform9 is a unique OpenStack in SaaS startup with 20 paying customers. Clients bring their own hardware, and the software provides the management functions and takes care of patching and upgrades.
- AppFormix is a software startup focused on cloud operators and application developers that has formed a licensing agreement with Rackspace. Its analytics and capacity-planning dashboard software will now be deployed on Rackspace’s OpenStack private cloud. The software also works with Azure and AWS.
- Tesora is leveraging the Trove project to offer DBaaS. The vendor built a plug-in for Mirantis’ Fuel installer. The collaboration claims to make commercial, open source relational and NoSQL databases easier for administrators to deploy.
April 25, 2016:
AT&T’s Cloud Journey with OpenStack by Sorabh Saxena SVP, Software Development & Engineering, AT&T
OpenStack + AT&T Innovation = AT&T Integrated Cloud.
AT&T’s network has experienced enormous growth in traffic in the last several years and the trend continues unabated. Our software defined network initiative addresses the escalating traffic demands and brings greater agility and velocity to delivering features to end customers. The underlying fabric of this software defined network is AT&T Integrated Cloud (AIC).
Sorabh Saxena, AT&T’s SVP of Software Development & Engineering, will share several use cases that will highlight a multi-dimensional strategy for delivering an enterprise & service provider scale cloud. The use cases will illustrate OpenStack as the foundational element of AIC, AT&T solutions that complement it, and how it’s integrated with the larger AT&T ecosystem.
As the Senior Vice President of Software Development and Engineering at AT&T, Sorabh Saxena is leading AT&T’s transformation to a software-based company. Towards that goal, he is leading the development of platforms that include AT&T’s Integrated Cloud (AIC), API, Data, and Business Functions. Additionally, he manages delivery and production support of AT&T’s software defined network.
Sorabh and his organization are also responsible for technology solutions and architecture for all IT projects, AT&T Operation Support Systems and software driven business transformation programs that are positioning AT&T to be a digital first, integrated communications company with a best in class cost structure. Sorabh is also championing a cultural shift with a focus on workforce development and software & technology skills development.
Through Sorabh and his team’s efforts associated with AIC, AT&T is implementing an industry leading, highly complex and massively scaled OpenStack cloud. He is an advocate of OpenStack and his organization contributes content to the community that represents the needs of large enterprises and communication services providers.
April 25, 2016: And the Superuser Award goes to… AT&T takes the fourth annual Superuser Award.
AUSTIN, Texas — The OpenStack Austin Summit kicked off day one by awarding the Superuser Award to AT&T.
NTT, winners of the Tokyo edition, passed the baton onstage to the crew from AT&T.
AT&T is a legacy telco which is transforming itself by adopting virtual infrastructure and a software defined networking focus in order to compete in the market and create value for customers in the next five years and beyond. They have almost too many OpenStack accomplishments to list–read their full application here.The OpenStack Foundation launched the Superuser Awards to recognize, support and celebrate teams of end-users and operators that use OpenStack to meaningfully improve their businesses while contributing back to the community.
April 1, 2016: Austin Superuser Awards Finalist: AT&T
The legacy telecom is in the top 20 percent for upstream contributions with plans to increase this significantly in 2016.
It’s time for the community to determine the winner of the Superuser Award to be presented at the OpenStack Austin Summit. Based on the nominations received, the Superuser Editorial Advisory Board conducted the first round of judging and narrowed the pool to four finalists.
Now, it’s your turn.
The team from AT&T is one of the four finalists. Review the nomination criteria below, check out the other nominees and cast your vote before the deadline, Friday, April 8 at 11:59 p.m.Pacific Daylight Time. Voting is limited to one ballot per person.
How has OpenStack transformed your business?
AT&T is a legacy telco which is transforming itself by adopting virtual infrastructure and a software defined networking focus in order to compete in the market and create value for customers in the next five years and beyond.
- Virtualization and virtual network functions (VNFs) are of critical importance to the Telecom industry to address growth and agility. AT&T’s Domain 2.0 Industry Whitepaper released in 2013 outlines the need as well as direction.
- AT&T chose OpenStack as the core foundation of their cloud and virtualization strategy
- OpenStack has reinforced AT&T’s open source strategy and strengthened our dedication to the community as we actively promote and invest resources in OpenStack
- AT&T is committing staff and resources to drive the vision and innovation in the OpenStack and OPNFV communities to help drive OpenStack as the default cloud orchestrator for the Telecom industry
- AT&T as a founding member of the ETSI ISG network functions virtualization (NFV) helped drive OpenStack as the cloud orchestrator in the NFV platform framework. OpenStack was positioned as the VIM – Virtual Infrastructure Manager. This accelerated the convergence of the Telco industry onto OpenStack.
OpenStack serves as a critical foundation for AT&T’s software-defined networking (SDN) and NFV future and we take pride in the following:
- AT&T has deployed 70+ OpenStack (Juno & Kilo based) clouds globally, which are currently operational. Of the 70+ clouds 57 are production application and network clouds.
- AT&T plans 90% growth, going to 100+ production application and network clouds by the end of 2016.
- AT&T connects more than 14 million wireless customers via virtualized networks, with significant subscriber cut-over planned again in 2016
- AT&T controls 5.7% of our network resources (29 Telco production grade VNFs) with OpenStack, with plans to reach 30% by the end of 2016 and 75% by 2020.
- AT&T trained more than 100 staff in OpenStack in 2015
AT&T plans to expand to expand its community team of 50+ employees in 2016 As the chosen cloud platform OpenStack enabled AT&T in the following SDN and NFV related initiatives:
- Our recently announced 5G field trials in Austin
- Re-launch of unlimited data to mobility customers
- Launch of AT&T Collaborate a next generation communication tool for enterprise
- Provisioning of a Network on Demand platform to more than 500 enterprise customers
- Connected Car and MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator)
- Mobile Call Recording
- Internally we are virtualizing our control services like DNS, NAT, NTP, DHCP, radius, firewalls, load balancers and probes for fault and performance management.
Since 2012, AT&T has developed all of our significant new applications in a cloud native fashion hosted on OpenStack. We also architected OpenStack to support legacy apps.
- AT&T’s SilverLining Cloud (predecessor to AIC) leveraged the OpenStack Diablo release, dating as far back as 2011
- OpenStack currently resides on over 15,000 VMs worldwide, with the expectation of further, significant growth coming in 2016-17
- AT&T’s OpenStack integrated Orchestration framework has resulted in a 75% reduction in turnaround time for requests for virtual resources
- AT&T Plans to move 80% of our Legacy IT into the OpenStack based virtualized cloud environment within coming years
- Uniform set of APIs exposed by OpenStack allows AT&T business units to leverage a “develop-once-run-everywhere” set of tools OpenStack helps AT&T’s strategy to begin to adopt best of the breed solutions at five 9’s of reliability for:
- Internet-scale storage service
- Putting all AT&T’s workloads on one common platform Deployment Automation: OpenStack modules have enabled AT&T to cost-effectively manage the OpenStack configuration in an automated, holistic fashion.
- Using OpenStack Heat, AT&T pushed rolling updates and incremental changes across 70+ OpenStack clouds. Doing it manually would be take many more people and a much longer schedule.
- Using OpenStack Fuel as a pivotal component in its cloud deployments AT&T accelerates the otherwise consuming, complex, and error-prone process of deploying, testing, and maintaining various configuration flavors of OpenStack at scale. AT&T was a major contributor towards Fuel 7.0 and Fuel 8.0 requirements. OpenStack has been a pivotal driver of AT&T’s overall culture shift. AT&T as an organization is in the midst of a massive culture shift from a Legacy Telco to a company where new skills, techniques and solutions are embraced.
OpenStack has been a key driver of this transformation in the following ways:
- AT&T is now building 50 percent of all software on open source technologies
- Allowing for the adoption of a dev ops model that creates a more unified team working towards a better end product
- Development transitioned from a waterfall to cloud-native CICD methodologies
- Developers continue to support OpenStack and make their applications cloud-native whenever possible.
How has the organization participated in or contributed to the OpenStack community?
AT&T was the first U.S. telecom service provider to sign up for and adopt the then early stage NASA-spawned OpenStack cloud initiative, back in 2011.
- AT&T has been an active OpenStack contributor since the Bexar release.
- AT&T has been a Platinum Member of the OpenStack Foundation since its origins in 2012 after helping to create its bylaws.
- Toby Ford, AVP AT&T Cloud Technology has provided vision, technology leadership, and innovation to OpenStack ecosystem as an OpenStack Foundation board member since late 2012.
- AT&T is founding member of ETSI, and OPNFV.
- AT&T has invested in building an OpenStack upstream contribution team with 25 current employees and a target for 50+ employees by the end of 2016.
- During the early years of OpenStack, AT&T brought many important use-cases to the community. AT&T worked towards solving those use-cases by leveraging various OpenStack modules, in turn encouraging other enterprises to have confidence in the young ecosystem.
- AT&T drove these following Telco-grade blueprint contributions to past releases of OpenStack:
- VLAN aware VMs (i.e. Trunked vNICs) – Support for BGP VPN, and shared volumes between guest VMs
- Complex query support for statistics in Ceilometer
- Spell checker gate job
- Metering support for PCI/PCIe per VM tenant
- PCI passthrough measurement in Ceilometer – Coverage measurement gate job
- Nova using ephemeral storage with cinder
- Climate subscription mechanism
- Access switch port discovery for bare metal nodes
- SLA enforcement per vNIC – MPLS VPNaaS
- NIC-state aware scheduling
- Toby Ford has regularly been invited to present keynotes, sessions, and panel talks at a number of OpenStack summits. For instance: Role of OpenStack in a Telco: User case study – at Atlanta Summit May 2014 – Leveraging OpenStack to Solve Telco needs: Intro to SDN/NFV – Atlanta Summit May 2014 – Telco OpenStack Roadmap Panel Talk – Tokyo Summit October 2015 – OpenStack Roadmap Software Trajectory – Atlanta Summit May 2014 – Cloud Control to Major Telco – Paris Summit November 2014.
- Greg Stiegler, assistant vice president – AT&T cloud tools & development organization represented the AT&T technology development organization at the Tokyo Summit.
- AT&T Cloud and D2 Architecture team members were invited to present various keynote sessions, summit sessions and panel talks including: – Participation at the Women of OpenStack Event – Tokyo Summit 2015 – Empower Your Cloud Through Neutron Service Function Chaining – Tokyo Summit Oct 2015 – OPNFV Panel – Vancouver Summit May 2015 – OpenStack as a Platform for Innovation – Keynote at OpenStack Silicon Valley – Aug 2015 – Taking OpenStack From Zero to Production in a Fortune-500 – Tokyo Summit October 2015 – Operating at Web-scale: Containers and OpenStack Panel Talk – Tokyo Summit October 2015 * AT&T strives to collaborate with other leading industry partners in the OpenStack ecosystem. This has led to the entire community benefiting from AT&T’s innovation.
- Margaret Chiosi gives talks worldwide on AT&T’s D2.0 vision at many Telco conferences ranging from Optics (OFC) to SDN/NFV conferences advocating OpenStack as the de-facto cloud orchestrator.
- AT&T Entertainment Group (DirecTV) architected multi-hypervisor hybrid OpenStack cloud by designing Neutron ML2 plugin. This innovation helped achieve integration between legacy virtualization and OpenStack.
- AT&T is proud to drive OpenStack adoption by sharing knowledge back to the OpenStack community in the form of these summit sessions at the upcoming Austin summit:
- Telco Cloud Requirements: What VNFs Are Asking For
- Using a Service VM as an IPv6 vRouter
- Service Function Chaining
- Technology Analysis Perspective
- Deploying Lots of Teeny Tiny Telco Clouds
- Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about OpenStack At Scale
- Valet: Holistic Data Center Optimization for OpenStack
- Gluon: An Enabler for NFV
- Among the Cloud: Open Source NFV + SDN Deployment
- AT&T: Driving Enterprise Workloads on KVM and vCenter using OpenStack as the Unified Control Plane
- Striving for High-Performance NFV Grid on OpenStack. Why you, and every OpenStack community member should be excited about it
- OpenStack at Carrier Scale
- AT&T is the “first to market” with deployment of OpenStack supported carrier-grade Virtual Network Functions. We provide the community with integral data, information, and first-hand knowledge on the trials and tribulations experienced deploying NFV technology.
- AT&T ranks in the top 20 percent of all companies in terms of upstream contribution (code, documentation, blueprints), with plans to increase this significantly in 2016.
- Commits: 1200+
- Lines of Code: 116,566
- Change Requests: 618
- Patch Sets: 1490
- Draft Blueprints: 76
- Completed Blueprints: 30
- Filed Bugs: 350
- Resolved Bugs: 250
What is the scale of the OpenStack deployment?
- AT&T’s OpenStack based AIC is deployed at 70+ sites across the world. Of the 70+ 57 are production app and network clouds.
- AT&T plans 90% growth, going to 100+ production app and network clouds by end of 2016.
- AT&T connects more than 14 million of the 134.5 million wireless customers via virtualized networks with significant subscriber cutover planned again in 2016
- AT&T controls 5.7% of our network resources (29 Telco production grade VNF) with a goal of high 80s by end of 2016) on OpenStack.
- Production workloads also include AT&T’s Connected Car, Network on Demand, and AT&T Collaborate among many more.
How is this team innovating with OpenStack?
- AT&T and AT&T Labs are leveraging OpenStack to innovate with Containers and NFV technology.
- Containers are a key part of AT&Ts Cloud Native Architecture. AT&T chairs the Open Container Initiative (OCI) to drive the standardization around container formats.
- AT&T is leading the effort to improve Nova and Neutron’s interface to SDN controllers.
- Margaret Chiosi, an early design collaborator to Neutron, ETSI NFV, now serves as President of OPNFV. AT&T is utilizing its position with OPNFV to help shape the future of OpenStack / NFV. OpenStack has enabled AT&T to innovate extensively.
The following recent unique workloads would not be possible without the SDN and NFV capabilities which OpenStack enables: * Our recent announcements of 5G field trials in Austin * Re-launch of unlimited data to mobility customers * Launch of AT&T Collaborate * Network on Demand platform to more than 500 enterprise customers * Connected Car and MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) * Mobile Call Recording New services by AT&T Entertainment Group (DirecTV) that would use OpenStack based cloud infrastructure in coming years: * NFL Sunday Ticket with up to 8 simultaneous games * DirecTV Streaming Service Without Need For satellite dish
In summary – the innovation with OpenStack is not just our unique workloads, but also to support them together under the same framework, management systems, development/test, CI/CD pipelines, and deployment automation toolset(s).
Who are the team members?
- AT&T Cloud and D2 architecture team
- AT&T Integrated Cloud (AIC) Members: Margaret Chiosi, distinguished member of technical staff, president of OPNFV; Toby Ford, AVP – AT&T cloud technology & D2 architecture – strategy, architecture & pPlanning, and OpenStack Foundation Board Member; Sunil Jethwani – director, cloud & SDN architecture, AT&T Entertainment Group; Andrew Leasck – director – AT&T Integrated cloud development; Janet Morris – director – AT&T integrated cloud development; Sorabh Saxena, senior vice president – AT&T software development & engineering organization; Praful Shanghavi – director – AT&T integrated cloud development; Bryan Sullivan – director member of technical staff; Ryan Van Wyk – executive director – AT&T integrated cloud development.
- AT&T’s project teams top contributors: Paul Carver, Steve Wilkerson, John Tran, Joe D’andrea, Darren Shaw.
April 30, 2016: Swisscom in Production with OpenStack and Cloud Foundry
Swisscom has one of the largest in-production industry standard Platform as a Service built on OpenStack. Their offering is focused on providing an enterprise-grade PaaS environment to customers worldwide and with various delivery models based on Cloud Foundry and OpenStack. Swisscom embarked early on the OpenStack journey to deploy their app cloud partnering with Red Hat, Cloud Foundry, and PLUMgrid. With services such as MongoDB, MariaDB, RabbitMQ, ELK, and an object storage, the PaaS cloud offers what developers need to get started right away. Join this panel for take-away lessons on Swisscom’s journey, the technologies, partnerships, and developers who are building apps everyday on Swisscom’s OpenStack cloud.
May 23, 2016: How OpenStack public cloud + Cloud Foundry = a winning platform for telecoms interview on ‘OpenStack Superuser’ with Marcel Härry, chief architect, PaaS at Swisscom
Swisscom has one of the largest in-production industry standard platform-as-a-service built on OpenStack.
Their offering focuses on providing an enterprise-grade PaaS environment to customers worldwide and with various delivery models based on Cloud Foundry and OpenStack. Swisscom, Switzerland’s leading telecom provider, embarked early on the OpenStack journey to deploy their app cloud partnering with Red Hat, Cloud Foundry and PLUMgrid.
Superuser interviewed Marcel Härry, chief architect, PaaS at Swisscom and member of theTechnical Advisory Board of the Cloud Foundry Foundation to find out more.
How are you using OpenStack?
OpenStack has allowed us to rapidly develop and deploy our Cloud Foundry-based PaaS offering, as well as to rapidly develop new features within SDN and containers. OpenStack is the true enabler for rapid development and delivery.
An example: after half a year from the initial design and setup, we already delivered two production instances of our PaaS offering built on multiple OpenStack installations on different sites. Today we are already running multiple production deployments for high-profile customers, who further develop their SaaS offerings using our platform. Additionally, we are providing the infrastructure for numerous lab and development instances. These environments allow us to harden and stabilize new features while maintaining a rapid pace of innovation, while still ensuring a solid environment.
We are running numerous OpenStack stacks, all limited – by design – to a single region, and single availability zone. Their size ranges from a handful of compute nodes, to multiple dozens of compute nodes, scaled based on the needs of the specific workloads. Our intention is not to build overly large deployments, but rather to build multiple smaller stacks, hosting workloads that can be migrated between environments. These stacks are hosting thousands of VMs, which in turn are hosting tens of thousands of containers to run production applications or service instances for our customers.
What kinds of applications or workloads are you currently running on OpenStack?
We’ve been using OpenStack for almost three years now as our infrastructure orchestrator. Swisscom built its Elastic Cloud on top of OpenStack. On top of this we run Swisscom’s Application Cloud, or PaaS, built on Cloud Foundry with PLUMgrid as the SDN layer. Together, the company’s clouds deliver IaaS to IT architects, SaaS to end users and PaaS to app developers among other services and applications. We mainly run our PaaS/Cloud Foundry environment on OpenStack as well as the correlated managed services (i.e. a kind of DBaaS, Message Service aaS etc.) which are running themselves in Docker containers.
What challenges have you faced in your organization regarding OpenStack, and how did you overcome them?
The learning curve for OpenStack is pretty steep. When we started three years ago almost no reference architectures were available, especially none with enterprise-grade requirements such as dual-site, high availability (HA) capabilities on various levels and so forth. In addition, we went directly into the SDN, SDS levels of implementation which was a big, but very successful step at the end of the day.
What were your major milestones?
Swisscom’s go-live for its first beta environment was in spring of 2014, go live for an internal development (at Swisscom) was spring of 2015, and the go-live for its public Cloud Foundry environment fully hosted on OpenStack was in the fall of 2015. The go-live date for enterprise-grade and business-critical workloads on top of our stack from various multinational companies in verticals like finance or industry is spring, 2016, and Swisscom recently announced Swiss Re as one of its first large enterprise cloud customers.
What have been the biggest benefits to your organization as a result of using OpenStack?
Pluggability and multi-vendor interoperability (for instance with SDN like PLUMgrid or SDS like ScaleIO) to avoid vendor lock in and create a seamless system. OpenStack enabled Swisscom to experiment with deployments utilizing a DevOps model and environment to deploy and develop applications faster. It simplified the move from PoC to production environments and enabled us to easily scale out services utilizing a distributed cluster-based architecture.
What advice do you have for companies considering a move to OpenStack?
It’s hard in the beginning but it’s really worth it. Be wise when you select your partners and vendors, this will help you to be online in a very short amount of time. Think about driving your internal organization towards a dev-ops model to be ready for the first deployments, as well as enabling your firm to change deployment models (e.g. going cloud-native) for your workloads when needed.
How do you participate in the community?
This year’s Austin event was our second OpenStack Summit where we provided insights into our deployment and architecture, contributing back to the community in terms of best practices, as well as providing real-world production use-cases. Furthermore, we directly contribute patches and improvements to various OpenStack projects. Some of these patches have already been accepted, while a few are in the pipeline to be further polished for publishing. Additionally, we are working very closely together with our vendors – RedHat, EMC, ClusterHQ/Flocker, PLUMgrid as well as the Cloud Foundry Foundation – and work together to further improve their integration and stability within the OpenStack project. For example, we worked closely together with Flocker for their cinder-based driver to orchestrate persistency among containers. Furthermore, we have provided many bug reports through our vendors and have worked together with them on fixes which then have made their way back into the OpenStack community.
We have a perfect solution for non-persistent container workloads for our customers. We are constantly evolving this product and are working especially hard to meet the enterprise- and finance-verticals requirements when it comes to the infrastructure orchestration of OpenStack.
Härry spoke about OpenStack in production at the recent Austin Summit, along with Pere Monclus of PLUMgrid, Chip Childers of the Cloud Foundry Foundation, Chris Wright of Red Hat and analyst Rosalyn Roseboro.
May 10, 2016: Lenovo‘s Highly-Available OpenStack Enterprise Cloud Platform Practice with EasyStack press release by EasyStack
Microsoft chairman: The transition to a subscription-based cloud business isn’t fast enough. Revamp the sales force for cloud-based selling.
See also my earlier posts:
– John W. Thompson, Chairman of the Board of Microsoft: the least recognized person in the radical two-men shakeup of the uppermost leadership, ‘Experiencing the Cloud’, February 6, 2014
– Satya Nadella on “Digital Work and Life Experiences” supported by “Cloud OS” and “Device OS and Hardware” platforms–all from Microsoft, ‘Experiencing the Cloud’, July 23, 2014
May 17, 2016: John Thompson: Microsoft Should Move Faster on Cloud Plan in an interview with Bloomberg’s Emily Chang on “Bloomberg West”
The focus is very-very good right now. We’re focused on cloud, on the hydrid model of the cloud. We’re focused on the application services we can deliver not just in the cloud but on multiple devices. If ever I would like to see something change, it’s more about pace. From my days at IBM [Thompson spent 28 years at IBM before becoming chief executive at Symantec] I can remember we never seemed to be running or moving fast enough. That is always the case in the established enterprise. While you believe that you’re moving fast in fact you’re not moving as fast as a startup.
June 2, 2016: Microsoft Ramps Up Its Cloud Efforts Bloomberg Intelligence’s Mandeep Singh reports on “Bloomberg Markets”
If you look at their segment revenue 43% from Windows and hardware devices. That part is the one where it is hard to come up with a cloud strategy to really kind of migrate that segment to the cloud very quickly. The infrastructure side is 30%, that is taken care of, and the Office is the other 30% that they have a good mix. That is really the other 43% revenue they have to figure out how to accelerate that transition to the cloud.
Then Bloomberg’s June 2, 2016 article (written by Dina Bass) came out with the following verdict:
Board members at Microsoft Corp. are grappling with a growing concern: that the company’s traditional software business, which makes up the majority of its sales, could evaporate in a matter of years — and Chairman John Thompson is pushing for a more aggressive shift into newer cloud-based products.
Thompson said he and the board are pleased with a push by Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella to make more money from software and services delivered over the internet, but want it to move much faster. They’re considering ideas like increasing spending, overhauling the sales force and managing partnerships differently to step up the pace.
The cloud growth isn’t merely nice to have — it’s critical against the backdrop of declining demand for what’s known as on-premise software programs, the more traditional approach that involves installing software on a company’s own computers and networks. No one knows exactly how quickly sales of those legacy offerings will drop off, Thompson said, but it’s “inevitable that part of our business will be under continued pressure.”
The board members’ concern was born from experience. Thompson recounts how fellow director Chuck Noski, a former chief financial officer of AT&T, watched the telecom carrier’s traditional wireline business evaporate in just three years as the world shifted to mobile. Now, Noski and Thompson are asking whether something similar could happen to Microsoft.
“What’s the likelihood that could happen with on-prem versus cloud? That in three years, we look up and it’s gone?” Thompson said in an interview, snapping his fingers to make the point.
Small, but Growing
Nadella has said the company is on track to make its forecast for $20 billion in annualized sales from commercial cloud products in fiscal 2018. Still, Thompson said, the cloud business could be even further along, and the software maker should have started its push much earlier. Commercial cloud services revenue has posted impressive growth rates — with Azure product sales rising more than 100 percent quarterly — but the total business contributed just $5.8 billion of Microsoft’s $93.6 billion in sales in the latest fiscal year.
Thompson praised the technology behind smaller cloud products, such as Power BI tools for business analysis and data visualization and the enterprise mobile management service, which delivers apps and data to various corporate devices. But the latter, for example, brings in $300 million a year — just a sliver of overall annual revenue, which will soon top $100 billion, Thompson said.
The board is examining whether Microsoft has invested enough in its complete cloud lineup, Thompson said. It’s not just about developing better cloud technology — it’s a question of how the company sells those products and its strategy for recruiting partners to resell Microsoft’s services and build their own offerings on top of them. Persuading partners to develop compatible applications is a strong point for cloud market leader Amazon.com Inc., he said.
Thompson declined to be specific about what the company might change in sales and partnerships, but he said the company may need to “re-imagine” those organizations. “The question is, should it be more?” he said. “If you believe we need to run harder, run faster, be less risk-averse as a mantra, the question is how much more do you do.”
Analysts say Microsoft should seek to develop a deeper bench of partners making software for Azure and consultants to install and manage those services for customers who need the help. Microsoft is working on this, but is behind Amazon Web Services, said Lydia Leong, an analyst at Gartner Inc.
“They are nowhere near at the same level of sophistication, and the Microsoft partners are mostly new to the Azure ecosystem, so they don’t know it as well,” she said. “If you’re a customer and you want to migrate to AWS, you have this massive army that can help you.”
In the sales force, Microsoft’s representatives need more experience in cloud deals — which are generally subscription-based rather than one-time purchases — and how they differ from traditional software contracts, said Matt McIlwain, managing director at Seattle’s Madrona Venture Partners. “They haven’t made enough of a transition to a cloud-based selling motion,” he said. “It’s still a work in progress.”
Microsoft declined to comment on the company’s cloud strategy or any changes to sales and partnerships for this story, and director Noski couldn’t be reached for comment.
The company’s dependence on demand for traditional software was painfully apparent in its most recent quarterly report, when revenue was weighed down by weakness in its transactional business, or one-time purchases of software that customers store and run on their own PCs and networks. Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood in April said that lackluster transactional sales were likely to continue.
Microsoft’s two biggest cloud businesses are the Azure web-based service, which trails top provider Amazon but leads Google and International Business Machines Corp., and the Office 365 cloud versions of e-mail, collaboration software, word-processing and spreadsheet software. Microsoft’s key on-premise products include Windows Server and traditional versions of Office and the SQL database server.
Slumps like last quarter’s hurt even more amid the company’s shift to the cloud, which has brought a lot of changes to its financial reporting. For cloud deals, revenue is recognized over the term of the deal rather than providing an up-front boost. They’re also lower-margin businesses, squeezed by the cost of building and maintaining data centers to deliver the services. Microsoft’s gross margin dropped from 80 percent in fiscal 2010 to 65 percent in the year that ended June 30, 2015.
“This business growing incredibly well, but the gross margin of that is substantially lower than their core products of the olden days,” said Anurag Rana, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “How low do they go?”
‘Different Model’ [of doing business for subscription-based software]
It’s jarring for some investors, but the other option is worse, said Thompson.
“That’s a very different model for Microsoft and one our investors are going to have to suck it up and embrace, because the alternative is don’t embrace the cloud and you wake up one day and you look just like — guess who?” Thompson doesn’t finish the sentence, but makes it clear he’s referring to IBM, the company where he spent more than 27 years, which he says is “not relevant anymore.” IBM declined to comment.
The pressure is good for Microsoft, Thompson said — pressure tends to result in change.
“You can re-imagine things when you’re stressed. It’s a lot easier to do it when you’re stressed because you feel compelled to do something,” Thompson said. “I see a lot of stress at Microsoft.”