blog Huge news coming from Computerworld today with respect to retail chain Woolworths, which is reportedly set to switch 85 percent of its PCs across to Google’s Chrome OS operating system, shifting off Windows in the process. The outlet reports (we recommend you click here for the full article):
“Google Chrome OS devices will account for 85 per cent of business devices at Woolworths at the completion of the supermarket’s technology transformation, according to Woolworths acting CIO, Damon Rees.”
Woolworths’ love for Google apps such as Gmail is very well-known already — in April last year it announced it was planning to shift some 26,000 staff onto Google Apps, in a move revealed after the retailer had already announced plans to shift store managers onto iPads equipped with Gmail.
However, this shift to Chrome OS on the desktop is a fundamentally different and more radical step for Woolworths. Chrome OS is great at basic tasks such as playing YouTube videos and checking your email. However, for most other tasks, including most corporate work, it is extremely limited. No Microsoft Office, no complex apps such as Adobe Photoshop … everything is supposed to take place through a browser, and that typically means the heavy desktop apps we’re all used to using are not available.
Google’s attempting to address these issues, but in the meantime Chrome OS is still a very limited desktop experience. What Woolworths is saying with this shift is that this is OK — it has no problem with the majority of its staff PCs being quite limited.
I used to work in Big W around 16 years ago as a teenager, and I have to say this makes a lot of sense. Big W’s computers at that stage were basically stock management systems — green screens connected to central servers. I anticipate that Woolworths still doesn’t want the majority of its staff having anywhere near full desktop access; it would reserve that for managers and head office ordering and administration workers. Chrome OS would make a good fit in this scenario.
However, I have to say the whole move still makes me a bit nervous. In 2014, Windows isn’t precisely that expensive for corporates as a cost, and its flexibility usually makes it the best choice for most desktops. Woolworths is placing a huge bet on a very non-standard technology here. And that’s usually a terrible idea in corporate IT. Of course, I could be very wrong, and I’d be happy to be. It will be fascinating to see where this rollout is in several years. If it works, this could be a very, very good result for Woolworths and a great case study for Google … but if it fails, it could be a big problem indeed.