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Today, Google announced that its free, chromium-based operating system, ChromeOS Flex, is coming out of beta. 

ChromeOS Flex will provide PC and MAC users with a cloud-driven secure operating system that they can deploy via USB, and manage alongside other Chrome OS devices. 

While Chrome OS Flex has the same codebase as Chrome OS, unlike the latter, ChromeOS Flex can be installed on Windows and Mac machines as well, opening the door to millions of potential new users. 

Since Google made ChromeOS Flex available for early access users in February 2022, there are now over 400 devices that are now certified for Flex, and can be managed through the Google Admin console with the Chrome Enterprise Upgrade. 

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For enterprises, the newly released OS offers a secure, user-friendly operating system, which they can deploy rapidly across an entire fleet of remote employee devices to reduce the prospect of data loss if a device is lost or stolen. 

Standing up as the go-to secure OS 

The launch of ChromeOS Flex comes as more organizations are struggling to deal with modern ransomware and malware threats. For instance, research shows that ransomware attacks rose by 92.7% in 2021 compared to 2020, growing from 1,389 reported attacks, to 2,690 last year. 

One of the main reasons for this struggle to secure modern enterprise environments is the complexity of remote working, and ensuring that employee devices are completely patched against vulnerabilities. 

In fact, 74% of IT managers say that remote work makes it harder for employees to follow good security practices. 

ChromeOS Flex addresses this challenge by enabling users to manage devices through the Google Admin console, not only controlling updates for multiple devices but also having the option to remotely wipe or disable compromised devices. 

“ChromeOS Flex provides much needed protection from growing threats, including ransomware, malware, and employee errors,” said Group Product Manager at Chrome OS, Mike Wendling.  

 For example, with a one-page guide and a USB drive, employees across 200 Nordic Choice hotels were able to bring 2000 previously compromised computers back online in under 48 hours by converting them all to Chrome OS Flex, protecting their business from a costly extended shutdown,” Wendling said. 

In this situation, Nordic Choice Hotels managed to use the rapid deployment capability to reduce the overall impact of a ransomware incident and restore critical operations, that they wouldn’t have been able to with a less remote-friendly browser. 

Where does ChromeOSFLex fit into the OS market? 

As the latest entrant to the OS market, ChromeOS Flex is competing against some firmly established competitors, like Windows 11, which is used by roughly 1.44 percent of PCs.

However, while Windows 11 has a much wider user base and diverse ecosystem of Microsoft consumer and enterprise tools, it’s also a much bigger target. Threat actors are constantly developing malware for Windows because they know the platform has a high volume of users. 

In contrast, Chrome OS Flex has the potential to provide a secure alternative to Windows, not only because it’s exposed to a much lower volume of threats, but because it doesn’t support native applications, meaning that malware has limited room damage data held on the device. 

At the same time, it’s competing against the diverse Linux ecosystem. While less than 2% of computers use Linux according to TurboFuture, distributions like Ubuntu have always offered enterprises and consumers greater control over the applications they deploy. 

Where Chrome OS Flex has the potential to excel, is in the protection of older PCs and laptops. USB-based deployment makes it easy for users to upgrade systems that have been discontinued, which will become more relevant in the future when OS’s like Windows 10 come to end of life security support. 

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