Chrome OS Flex - A Business Use Opinion
I was asked recently to give an opinion if Chrome OS Flex would be suitable for a specific business to roll out across all existing laptops.
The business goal was to primarily rejuvenate their aging hardware, in addition they would gain more uniform user experience and begin to make use of Google Workspace Endpoint Management or a similar MDM.
Chrome OS has been available pre-installed on a variety of devices from Google, Lenovo, HP and other manufactures for about 10 years. The OS is based around the Chrome browser as the user interface and is relatively locked down in much the same way as a mobile operating system. Chrome OS Flex allows for the operating system to be installed on pre-existing hardware such as Windows Laptops and Macs. There is a Google maintained compatibility list of devices which have been tested, but in theory the operating system could be installed on a broader range of devices potentially with some minor issues.
The operating system is free, natively quite secure, restrictive when it comes to user misconfiguration and is compatible with a number of Mobile Device Management solutions. Does this make it ideal for business?
Chrome OS Flex does seem to tick a number of boxes for ease of support, centralised management and compliance etc. However I would suggest outside of a few select circumstances it might not have a broad purpose.
In the specific case I was asked to assess, and I suspect many cases “Rejuvenating” hardware might not be the bonus it appears. Chrome OS Flex is almost certainly a more lightweight operating system than Windows and MacOS and will give a snappier user experience for browser based tasks and apps. Unfortunately if a businesses machines are not performing as they once were with the operating system they shipped with, this is likely to indicative that the machine might be aging to a point it will need to be replaced.
Committing time, and cost for alternative apps to rebuild business machines that are 5 years or more old, will likely be lost within a short period when machines start to experience hardware failure.
From a compliance point of view firmware and fully updated drivers from the hardware manufacture can be critical. The manufacturer is unlikely to produce drivers for an operating system not shipped with the original hardware and any firmware would usually be applied via a tool through the original operating system.
My thought generally is if you want to move to Chrome OS for businesses, buy machines which come with that operating system from a main stream maker like Lenovo who have a number of Chromebook devices including some aimed a business and education. Support will be better and warranties will be reliable. If replacing in one go isn't practical consider replacing them as they age out.
In the business context Chrome OS Flex is a No from me. I haven't seen a scenario yet where I would choose it.