Trying to decide whether to pick up a Chromebook or a Windows laptop? If you’re leaning toward a Chromebook because it’s cheaper… well, it might not be. There are already plenty of cheap Windows laptops, and Microsoft is promising that we’ll see even more cheap models from partners including Acer, HP, and Toshiba in time for the holiday season.

The Verge reports that Microsoft is taking on Chromebooks directly, suggesting that Windows devices can offer more value for a similar price — although fans of Chrome OS might argue that sometimes less is more.

windows v chrome

Microsoft says we should expect to see a 2.4 pound Toshiba notebook with an 11.6 inch display, a 32GB solid state drive, and a $249 price tag this holiday season, as well as a $250 Acer Aspire ES1 notebook with a 15.6 inch display and 500GB hard drive.

HP, meanwhile, is said to be working on 7 and 8 inch “Stream” devices which could sell for just $99. I suspect those will be tablets rather than notebooks.

Update: Yup, HP’s got a “Stream laptop” in the works which will sell for $199 and a 7 inch Windows tablet that will be part of the same family and sell for $99.

As Microsoft points out, there are some things you can do on a Windows machine that you cannot on a Chromebook. You can run the full version of Microsoft Office, be sure that most printers and other peripherals will support your device, and run native Windows apps. You can also install the Chrome web browser and do nearly anything you would be able to do on a Chromebook.

But some of Microsoft’s other key selling points aren’t entirely true. You can use some Chrome web apps even without an internet connection, use Google Cloud Print to send print jobs to supported devices, Google Drive (or Microsoft Office Web Apps) for some document editing, or even load Ubuntu, Debian, or another Linux distribution if you want desktop apps.

Meanwhile, Chromebooks tend to boot quickly, offer a secure platform since apps run in a sandboxed environment, and the peace of mind that comes with knowing that almost all of your data is backed up in the cloud so you can pick up where you left off just by logging into another machine.

I’m not saying Chrome OS is better than Windows. But it’s a lot less complicated and I suspect Chromebooks haven’t become one of the fastest growing segments of the PC space solely because the average Chromebook is cheaper than the average Windows PC.

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23 replies on “Microsoft: Cheap Windows notebooks to tackle Chromebooks this year”

  1. Hold os (bs) – just give me MS Office native for my Lubuntu – will buy for sure. Due to my work, I require 99% compatibility. This offer holds until WPS office catches up with file format compatibility. After that – bye bye (no more buy) MS products.

  2. The battery life numbers I’ve seen on these units so far seem low. I can’t beleive that ChromeOS has better battery optimization from Intel than Windows does.

    I wonder if they are skimping on batteries for pricing or if the size of the 2.5″ internal drives is forcing them to skimp on battery perhaps.
    It will be interesting to see how this plays out. It’s not like a Nexus product vs and Apple product kind of thing.

    Most every major computer OEM now has ChromeOS devices. They are competing against themselves. On the one hand MS is an old partner. On the other ChromeOS has shown growth in a week market and many of those partners were, I suspect, less than thrilled with MS becoming a hardware maker itself.

    I think MS will be dumping huge amounts of cash into marketing here too. Perhaps more aggressively than Google.

  3. I like local. I like control.
    If made to choose give me the windows machine.

  4. It’s all about safety, viruses, malware, instant start-up, hassle (none), interaction, cloud storage. All my banking is done with my Chromebook. Windows updates (win 7) break my system way too often. Too many admin headaches. The list goes on and on.

  5. You can already get a Dell Inspiron 15 (15.6″ 4GB RAM/500GB HDD) on Amazon for $249 right now, so this isn’t anything new. CPU is a Bay Trail (Atom) Celeron, and OS is the freebie “Windows with Bing” version. That’ll be the commonality: all of these entry models will have an Atom/Celeron, or AMD equivalent.

    1. I bought one as a test. It’s literally unusable. I’m not even talking about the giant screen (with lousy viewing angles) at low res. The performance is archaic. MS is doing itself a disservice by associating windows with such painful user experience.

  6. Isn’t competition great! Is MS expecting to see Office sales for these machines? I have the homeware version of MS Office for use at home (on my son’s pc) one copy for the entire household. Comes in handy about 3-4 times per year. Google and Apple are killing MS.

    1. Many people would use office on a portable laptop. I think you are one of the few exceptions!
      Google and apple are in no way killing MS. I can’t imagine using a chromebook personally. The lack of functionality would be like trying to rely on just a ipad for a business trip. Very few could make it work.

    2. MS does offer some good pricing for studends on the Office subscriptions – of course. Other than that I don’t get why so many people are into them.
      I bought Office Home Student like 6 years ago or more when I was taking some classes. I used it then and as you say it still comes in handy a couple times a year perhaps. Mainly just because it’s there. I paid like $125 for it and had three licenses. Back in the day actually using it on a couple desktops and a laptop. The lone copy now sits on one old desktop in the house.
      If I was doing the same with Office 365 at $10/month I would have paid about $700+ for that same time period. That’s more than I had spent on the computer and laser printer at the time.
      I’ve never done anything with Office which I couldn’t do on Google Docs.
      Let’s say I took advantage of some great student discount and got it for free for four of those years – just keeping it for the last two would have cost me about $240. That’s more than I paid for my Chromebook – which I use Docs on regularly.
      For most poeple today the only reason to use MS Office is becasue a prof or work or client want you to. I know there are some cases where it has more powerful features than Docs. It’s just that most people will never use them.

  7. Either way, it just means cheaper hardware to install Linux distributions on.

    1. Exactly right. These cheap machines are unusable running windows — I’ve tried. But linux works great.

  8. Love the competition. Really hard for me to go for a Chromebook if the Windows machine is the same price and runs off of an SSD like chromebooks do.

    1. I wonder how fast that windows machine will run? I have an Acer C720 I got refurbished for $149, and it has been a great machine for general use – I can open the lid and it’s instantly ready to go from standby.

      1. I would not expect a discounted celeron 2955u windows product… it is too close to i3 performance. MS just wants to recapture the low-end.

    2. As an experiment I recently tried one of these $250 machines running Win8.1. It was *awful*, and this one, a Dell, has 4GB RAM, unlike others that only have 2GB. Everything took forever, it was like running a 10-year-old computer. Chromebooks have many limitations but they don’t drag this way.

  9. The race to the bottom continues. I wonder what the price for a more usable Windows machine will be by Christmas shopping season.

    1. Probably higher than now, because Microsoft will no doubt be paying for the subsidies on these netbook mark 2 models by stamping a Microsoft tax on Windows licenses on higher priced Windows models.

    2. As per a previous post, these things are not usable. Windows is just too heavy for this very limited hardware.

  10. Is there some special agreement with the hardware manufacturers with this or something? It seems like you could still build a chromebook with similar hardware (minus a 500gb hard drive most likely).

      1. 16GB storage is unusable on Windows (and anything less than about 128 GB will require periodic clearing out of data/apps to avoid running out of disk space). However 16GB SSD is more than you will ever need on a Chromebook, because ChromeOS has a very compact fixed size OS image in which space requirements do not grow, and Chromebooks use cloud storage for user data – the only thing Chromebooks use local SSD storage for is downloads and temporary caching of things like offline files – which are automatically managed to stop them from continually growing.

        You can also plug in USB flash storage or a USB external drive if you have really massive storage requirements, so I think the balance is exactly right on Chromebooks. The only reason you would need more than 16GB of storage is if you want to install high-fat local operating systems like Linux or Windows on it.

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