Microsoft Windows on a Google Chromebook Hosted at Amazon

Chromebooks as a viable end point device? Why not?

One of the very interesting developments that I’m closely tracking is the use of Google Chromebooks in the enterprise. Google has nice traction and use cases in the education market, but it’s the potential growth in the enterprise that intrigues me, since the Chromebook could stand to be very disruptive alongside other laptop OEMs and could be the exact onramp that Google needs into the business environment.

chromebook workspaceSo, here’s the $64 million dollar question: how can business use a Chromebook while still maintaining access to Windows based applications?

To quench my curiosity, I went ahead and performed a little experiment. The first step — spin up a Windows workspace on Amazon. This process is extremely simple using the Amazon Workspaces service and, with a few clicks, I had created a basic Windows desktop complete with a number of Microsoft Office productivity applications. Step two — install the Amazon Workspaces client on the Chromebook. Step three — log on. I have to say that the setup was quick and simple. The Chromebook works well, and is an environment that will pass the litmus test for employees that need to access Windows applications.

My little experiment proved to be invaluable in understanding how quickly a Windows desktop can be built on Amazon — and the usability of running Windows on a Google Chromebook. It’s clear that businesses have some interesting endpoint, productivity apps, and workspace hosting choices ahead of them that include:

  • A hosted desktop model that flips capital costs to operational-based consumption. Hosting desktops has the benefit of greatly simplifying the entire desktop deployment process, as well as ongoing management process. At ESG, we continue to hear from senior IT pros about how they are not building new datacenters, and that some are on the fast track to get out of the datacenter business altogether.
  • Using the Google Chromebook in the enterprise could prove to be an effective end point. Companies that have already jumped on the “Google for Work” train have the potential to accelerate the adoption of the Chromebook as they embrace Google productivity apps and build a temporary bridge to existing Windows applications. There is certainly considerable risk for Microsoft in this scenario, as access to Windows apps could potentially be a short-lived connection.

So while I have my doubts that the exact scenario I ran will become commonplace in the enterprise, it does call attention to:

  • Google’s trajectory into the enterprise
  • Amazon’s simple setup and solid user experience
  • Microsoft’s multi-pronged strategy

And depending on how any one of the above (or combination thereof) play out, this might ultimately affect the ways in which we can choose to work.

On that note, please let me know if you have any examples of Chromebook use in the enterprise, Amazon Workspace deployments at scale, or projecting Windows applications. Would be great to compare notes.

ESG Senior Analyst Mark Bowker focuses on all things related to virtualization and cloud computing. Read more ESG blogs here.

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    Jim Lippie:

    You should be speaking with IndependenceIT. They have been at the cloud desktop game longer than anyone (way longer than Amazon) . In fact, Microsoft sued iIT several years ago over it’s original name choice “Host Windows” (MSFT won). They have hundreds of channel partners with tens of thousands of end users, many of them using Chromebooks with thousands of 3rd party enterprise applications….it definitely works at scale.

      Joe Panettieri:

      Hey Jim: Always good to hear from you.
      Readers: Jim previously built/sold an MSP, and also helped to get independenceIT off the ground with a pure channel strategy.


    You got it Joe! I just think the better DaaS or WaaS platforms on the market are a great way to go for better security/flexibility in the world of device proliferation and BYOD. All stuff you and I have been discussing for the last few years.

      Joe Panettieri:

      Agreed. I think the example ESG shared is an important “proof of concept” that makes partners realize this is no longer vapor. But certainly, partners will need a channel-centric platform to monetize workspace as a service… Hence, IndependenceIT and others.

      All the best,

    Luis Garcia:

    We have been testing Intel compute sticks for this very same purpose. Monitor with Bluetooth keyboard and mouse with RDP. Any idea if Chromebooks can be used with Windows Azure platform instead of AWS?

      Joe Panettieri:

      Hey Luis: Instead of thinking of it as an Azure-to-Chromebook connection, think of it as an Azure-to-browser connection. And the browser just happens to be on a Chromebook.


    Hi Joe,
    Thank you for the post! Does AWS through Chromebook have the same mouse and tract pad functionality as a standard pc?

      Joe Panettieri:

      Hey Clint: You’ve stumped me (… and admittedly, that happens all the time). I’ll see if I can track down an answer for you and will provide an update here in the days ahead.

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