Are cloud-based Chromebooks gaining a foothold in the enterprise Relevant Products/Services? A new report from Forrester Research says yes.

The report by analyst J.P. Gownder surveyed more than 1,200 IT decision-makers in the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany and the U.S. While acknowledging that Chromebooks will not replace all or even most Windows PCs, Macs, or tablets, the report found there is a beachhead of interest among enterprises.

It noted Chromebooks can be appropriate for companies that are willing to segment their workforces by offering the devices to some classes of workers, and that are adopting Gmail or Google apps. Benefits of the cloud-based laptops include a radical reduction in maintenance time, encouragement of collaborative computing, and a relatively low pricetag for each device.

'Under 15 Minutes'

Twenty-eight percent of respondents in the Forrester survey said they had at least some interest in Chromebooks, including 4 percent who are already using Chromebooks, another 4 percent who expect to do so, and 16 percent who have expressed some interest. The balance of the 28 percent -- 4 percent -- were managers reporting they had employees who are interested in the devices. The other 72 percent had no interest in Chromebooks.

A key factor driving enterprise interest in Chromebooks is their low maintenance, since the apps and data Relevant Products/Services are kept in the cloud. Gownder noted in a blog posting accompanying the report that Chromebooks "can be configured for a new user in under 15 minutes," they sell for as little as $199, and any Chromebook can be used by any employee.

"It's time to take a fresh look at whether Chromebooks might fill a legitimate computing niche for your company," he wrote.

He added that, if an IT department holds "specific goals, such as lowering support costs, simplifying deployment of devices, ensuring device uptime, or projecting software changes quickly into the workforce, Chromebooks can help support those initiatives."

'Grow Up' for Enterprise

Laura DiDio, an analyst with industry research firm Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, said that Chromebooks' niche could grow, but "Google's tech service and support has to grow up for the enterprise."

She added that the devices fit the use case profile of certain scenarios, but there is not a "big stampede" among businesses to use Chromebooks, in part because "Google has not yet proven itself in the enterprise" the way Apple, for instance, has proven itself for reliability and tech support in schools. Apple's credibility in schools, DiDio pointed out, has been a major factor in the acceptance of the iPad in the education sector.

Earlier this month, a report from the NPD Group noted that Chromebooks have taken between 20 percent and 25 percent of the U.S. market for under-$300 laptops in the last eight months, and are now the fastest growing segment of the PC industry based on price. This counters the decline of PCs in general, whose sales are expected to drop nearly 8 percent this year, according to IDC.