Microsoft acknowledges the Chromebook threat, plans to “redefine” the value category

8 Comments

Last year, I suggested Microsoft(s msft) was feeling the heat from Chromebooks(s goog): Why else would the company invest in a Scroogled ad campaign to show how much better Windows is than Google’s Chrome OS? I received a fair share of criticism on my stance back then, but on Monday, Microsoft confirmed my thoughts, essentially admitting that Chromebooks need to be taken seriously.

Speaking at the Windows Partner Conference, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner had this to say according to The Verge:

“We are going to participate at the low-end. We’ve got a great value proposition against Chromebooks, we are not ceding the market to anyone.”

Along with the statement, Turner showed off the following slide that highlights how Windows computers will tackle Chromebooks head-on: Though low-cost laptops offering features that Chromebooks either can’t or don’t:

chromebooksmsft

From a price perspective, these devices — as well as some new small Windows 8.1 tablets coming down the pike at or under $99 later this year along with $199 laptops — will surely give consumers pause before purchasing a Chromebook. Helping these prices is Microsoft’s reduction, and in some cases, elimination of the licensing fee for Windows 8.1.

However, the success of stemming Chromebook sales will have just as much to do with the overall experience these laptops and tablets actually provide. While Microsoft’s list of things a Chromebook can’t do is accurate — although I’m not sure consumers care about everything on that list — what a Chromebook does do, it does extremely well and without much of the overhead that comes with a Windows system. That’s one of the advantages to a “lighter” operating system.

Asus Chromebook C200 angle

The tricky part for Microsoft is that many of its key hardware partners don’t just make Windows devices; many have decided to jump into the Chromebook game as well. Think Dell, Lenovo, HP(s hpq), Acer and Asus to name a few.

It’s also telling that these Windows computer makers have broadened their products to include support for Chrome OS over the past two years. It’s as if they knew back then what Microsoft is only recently learning: Google’s Chromebook strategy to usurp computing experiences shouldn’t be taken lightly.

8 Comments

Luscious

While I’ve yet to try a Chromebook (too limiting for my software needs) I just cannot see these $249 notebooks being a sales hit. Not unless the netbook is to make a resurgence in the 11.6″ form factor.

The sad part is that MS and Intel already had the formula for this years ago. A Cedar Trail-based netbook running Windows 7 still kicks any Chromebook to the curb. I have a high-end 10″ HP 210 Mini, and I would not trade it in for a Chromebook. Ever.

If MS really wants to hit the low-end, they should put Windows RT in a 10″ clamshell form-factor and slap a $149 price on it. I can guarantee a device like that will find buyers.

hongcho

I think the more popular selling point for Chromebooks will be the upcoming Android apps on the Chrome OS than Chrome apps on Windows/Mac.

Kevin C. Tofel

That’s true but bear in mind: Android apps on Chromebooks are an experiment at the moment. And they’re not the same apps (or the same code, really) that run on Android devices; they’re ported over. Still, I agree there’s definitely upside there.

Jason

The upkeep of a Google Chromebook is a wonderful selling point. They’re very easy to reset (powerwash), and when you log in it returns to your personal configuration. You can easily create a restoral USB stick, put in a new drive and it boots into a loader and will easily and quickly install the Chrome OS. Login and you’re back to your familiar environment as you customized it. The updating and security are much better as well. I believe they still need some trim support built into the OS as my SSD started to slow, but a powerwash and logging in again had me back to running fast. For many people a Chromebook is the best option and using the device is headache free, but they function best when you are a user of the Google Cloud environment and services.

Silversee

Yes, all this is true.

However, I’d argue that all or most of this is true of a modern Windows device as well. Windows 8.1 (and Phone) devices are very easy to reset or refresh, your personal configuration and settings (including installed apps, browser favorites and tabs, and passwords) are synced with the cloud, photos and videos can be automatically backed up to OneDrive, mail, calendar, and contacts are synced with Outlook or Gmail, even SMS messages on the phone are cloud-synced. All of your documents and data can be roamed across devices via OneDrive, or backed up to (and automatically restored from) network attached storage via File History. Anti-virus software is built into Windows 8.1, and the OS and modern app are updated automatically. If you use any version of Office 365 or Adobe Creative Suite, or alternative browsers such as Chrome, these desktop apps are automatically kept up to date as well.

Chromebooks are simpler, but mostly due to a reduced set of choices, not because of any inherent advantage in cloud-powered features.

Yes, most PC OEMs ruin the Windows experience with awful bloatware, and many consumers are unfamiliar with the platform enhancements I just outlined. It’s also true that it’s easier for consumers to “break” a Windows PC, due the non-sandboxed nature of desktop software. But Microsoft certainly recognizes the problem set.

David H Deans

You forgot to mention the other big bonus — the SSD enables the Chromebook to last a long time between charges (~6-8 hours).

Ric

Thats great and all but the unmitigated death knell for anything they do to compete with Chrome in thin client is Win 8. I have no interest personally in cloud functionality but I would chose Google or anyone else in the blink of an eye. Perhaps thats why they are cutting staff now. They no longer get it nor can they compete.

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