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Chrome OS Kiosk Mode: What IT Professionals Need to Know

Chrome OS Kiosk Mode: What IT Professionals Need to Know
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Chrome 57 now supports Kiosk Mode on Chrome OS devices. This opens up tons of functionality for some businesses.

Using a device in a "kiosk mode" is an increasingly popular use case. By kiosk mode we mean that the browser window itself is full screen and all menus and toolbars for doing anything but interacting with that screen has been stripped away. Small businesses in service industries can repurpose phones or tablets to display dynamic information. Warehouse or other shift workers can more effectively keep track of inventory or update a database in real-time through a device being used this way.

MORE: Google Chrome OS for Work: What You Need to Know

Google wants a piece of this action through Chrome OS devices. Chrome 57 and forward now supports kiosk mode, widening the possibility this will work on most available devices. On the one hand, a Chromebook can be had for cheap. And more savvy businesses could repurpose an older device with Chrome to get the same result at a much lower cost than doing so with something like an iPad.

Is this the right use case for your particular business or enterprise setting? It depends.

Retail use

Kiosk mode makes sense in a number of different retail settings. For example, customers can peruse a menu or other ordering options from a dedicated device. Employees can use a tablet or Chromebook as a register with a device that is probably going to cost less than iPads, especially when paired with dedicated hardware from such companies as Square.

When paired with a Chromebox, the output can get even larger. A Chromebox is essentially an inexpensive desktop computer that's paired up with a monitor. This allows you to put a menu or other digital signage on a larger screen.

An administrator can install either Chrome or Android apps for a kiosk mode.An administrator can install either Chrome or Android apps for a kiosk mode.Of course, Google touts this as both an easy-to-use option and one that's secure given the management capabilities of Chrome OS. Administrators are given several options for what types of applications are used in this mode and the access that users will be able to have. And there's additional flexibility with the inclusion of Android apps.

Enter Android

The biggest boost in this area has been the inclusion of Android apps on Chrome OS. While the feature is still in beta, all new Chrome devices going forward will have access to the Google Play Store. This really opens the doors as to what you could do, as Android apps offer a wider range of choices for retail, enterprise or even fun experiences for customers and employees such as games.

To use Kiosk Mode, a Chrome device must be managed by an administrator. Once this is done, there are different types of kiosk modes that you can enable. You can lock the system down completely so that only the administrator has privileges. Or you can auto-launch a single kiosk app, which would allow an employee or customer to interact with the device.

An administrator has the extendibility to install public session kiosks, where one can install Chrome packaged apps, extensions and hosted apps. While these capabilities are available on most Chrome hardware, Google has touted the AOPEN Chromebase Mini as type of sturdy device that could be used in this situation.

Administrators can also enable a system log to capture all of the interactions performed while the Chromebook or Chromebox is in kiosk mode. This would allow for additional troubleshooting and limitations on access.

For anyone who needs to deploy many devices for such dedicated purposes, Chrome kiosk mode offers a lot of advantages. The main challenge is going to be the situation with apps  ̶ Android apps are still in beta, and Chrome is much newer to this category than other operating systems. One's own workplace and IT setup is going to be a large decider of what plan makes the most sense.