Michael Santo

Who needs Remote Desktop Connect, VNC, or some other stand-alone remote control software package? All you need, at least if you accept the risks of a beta package, is a browser and an extension.

It's not such a bad browser to bet on, either. It's Chrome, which is expected to overtake Firefox as the No. 2 browser globally by mid-2012 at the latest. The fact that it's increasing in terms of adoption makes a browser extension for it quite handy.

The extension is called Chrome Remote Desktop, and typical of anything Google-related, it's being released in BETA form.

Since it relies on the Chrome browser, it can be used cross-platform, as long as there is a Chrome browser available. That means Windows, Mac, Linux, and --- possibly most important for Google --- Chromebooks. The cross-platform capability will make it useful for IT departments who are increasingly having to deal with multiple platforms.

Unlike something like RDC, however, and more like Remote Assistance, each time a session is established, the client user will have to issue permission to the server computer. With RDC, for example, one needs only to have the credentials for an account on the client.

In the case of Chrome Remote Desktop, the client user has to issue a 12 digit authentication code to the server user. This is more secure, but if, for example, you were trying to control a computer remotely in your home (as we do not infrequently), it would be a hassle.

Here's how Google describes the extension in the Chome Web Store.

The goal of this beta release is to demonstrate the core Chrome Remoting technology and get feedback from users. This version enables users to share with or get access to another computer by providing a one-time authentication code. Access is given only to the specific person the user identifies for one time only, and the sharing session is fully secured. One potential use of this version is the remote IT helpdesk case. The helpdesk can use the Chrome Remote Desktop BETA to help another user, while conversely a user can receive help by setting up a sharing session without leaving their desk. Additional use cases such as being able to access your own computer remotely are coming soon.

As a beta, more functionality will be added in the future. Nicely, Google said above that being able to control your own computer, meaning being able to utilize a computer for which you already have login credentials, is an upcoming feature.