Microsoft is holding an event in New York City on May 2nd, where the company is expected to unveil new software, and maybe some new hardware. ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, who tracks these things closely, thinks there’s a good chance the May 2nd event will be the official coming out part for Windows Cloud, a new light-weight version of Windows that we’ve been hearing about for a few months.

The operating system is expected to look and act nearly identical to other versions of Windows 10. But out of the box it will only let you download and install Windows Store apps.

Theoretically this could make Windows 10 Cloud more secure than Windows 10 Home or Pro. It could also help guarantee acceptable performance even on entry-level hardware. It’s likely that Windows Cloud will be a cheaper version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system that could be used on low-cost computers.

In other words, Windows Cloud could be Microsoft’s latest attempt to take on cheap laptops running Google’s Chrome OS. But does Microsoft need such an operating system? And do users want it?


This all feels kind of familiar. When everybody and their kid brother was releasing a tablet with a low-cost, low-power ARM processor, Microsoft built a version of Windows 8 for ARM-based devices. It was called Windows RT and it looked like Windows but it couldn’t run most Windows applications. It was kind of a flop.

A few years before that, Microsoft tried to take on a different type of small, cheap notebook: the netbook. When Asus launched the original Eee PC in 2007 it ran a Linux-based operating system rather than Windows. For some people that was part of the appeal. For others, it was an obstacle to overcome.

Part of what prompted me to start this website was the amount of interest there was in my articles about how to install Windows XP on the Eee PC.

Microsoft lowered the Windows license fees for small, low-cost laptops and Linux netbooks became a thing of the past as more and more PC makers shipped models with Windows software. Then netbooks themselves sort of faded away.

Or did they? Almost nobody uses the word “netbook” anymore, but their legacy lives on in affordable portable computers including Windows, Android, and iOS tablets and convertibles, cheap Windows notebooks, and perhaps most of all, in Chromebooks.

Not all Chromebooks are dirt cheap. But some certainly are. And part of the reason is that device makers don’t have to pay for the operating system. Google gives it away for free.

If Windows 10 Cloud is offered as a cheaper alternative to Windows 10 Home, it could allow PC makers to shave a few bucks off the price of entry-level computers. But here’s the thing: you can already buy dirt-cheap Windows notebooks.

At a time when it’s not uncommon to find fully functional Windows laptops priced below $170, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would opt for a less functional version of Windows in an effort to save a buck.

One problem is that new PCs aren’t just competing with Chromebooks. They’re also competing with older PCs. Can’t find a super-cheap 2017 model? Then consider picking up a refurbished 2016 model.

Anyway, I’m curious to see what Microsoft has planned for Windows Cloud. But I’m a bit skeptical about whether this new effort will be another Windows RT (a failed attempt to compete with Android), or if it will work out more like Microsoft’s move to offer low-cost Windows XP and Windows 7 license options for PC makers (which contributed to the drop in netbooks shipping with GNU/Linux software).

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17 replies on “Will Microsoft’s next attempt to take on cheap Chromebooks fare any better than its last?”

  1. The Windows Store doesn’t have enough apps to support a device like this. I can see lots of these being returned if users can’t install apps like the Google Chrome browser. And what about installing device drivers for cameras, smartphones, tablets and printers? These probably won’t be available at the Windows store either. Amazon has a similar situation with Kindle Fire tablets, but at least Amazon has a better App selection than the Microsoft store.

  2. Apps, Apps, Apps.. Without them it will fail just like RT. The Windows Store is a ghost town and no one is showing interest even after more than a year of Windows 10 on the market. Microsoft simply doesn’t have the proper leadership to make functional, reliable consumer products that are appealing. Period.

  3. Think a little too late. MS should have first fixed the update, reboot, update, reboot. Running Malwarebytes and getting 100 hits. Long booting process and lower performance than other solutions. The MS kernel engineered explained.

    “I Contribute to the Windows Kernel. We Are Slower Than Other Operating Systems. Here Is Why.”

    Chromebooks (CB) took off before becoming the most supported OS in the world. They now get all of ChromeOS and then Android and then Linux/GNU.

    Google has something really special here. ChromeOS is a Linux kernel and now supports containers. So you basically of an OS of OSs. Kind of like the Internet is a network of networks.

    My 2nd oldest is at University studying CS and does all of his development on his Chromebook using Termux to get basically a Linux desktop. Use to use Crouton but Termux runs in a container.

    He learned from high school where they teach AP CS 1 and 2 on Chromebooks.

    Google is working their way up with the Chromebooks while MS is still trying to figure it out. Google is 2 steps ahead and has the luxury of owning Android.

    1. Sorry, but if you think Linux/GNU is the ultimate end point of your outlined evolution, then you’re way off track.

      1. At least Linux/GNU can work on any hardware – x86, x86-64, ARM, MIPS, PowerPC – you name it. And there are a lot of choice, of course – nobody will take your PC from because OS suddenly decided it’s time to update&reboot. It’s just unreliable now – I don’t is my compilation will finish or it will be halted caused by reboot? I don’t know, when I turn on my PC, is I can straight work or I will wait something about hour, while my PC (oh no, “that PC”) will install all updates. I even can’t turn it off, because, “that PC” before shutdown installs all updates he is needed to. And Jesus Christ will save ya, if one of the updates will installed with errors – you will see, how your PC (oh no, “that PC” again) is rolling back all updates he just made.
        It’s franky piece of shit, I can use it only for games. No real work anymore on Windows 10.

        1. Personal opinions always welcome, of course, but you are one user. I’ve been in the computer industry for over 30 years, and have been waiting for the predicted demise of Windows at the hands of Unix/Linux almost as long. I suspect I will die waiting. False dawns become tedious after a while.

          I am not even talking about personal preferences. I couldn’t care less what ecosystem I use. I’m talking market reality. Microsoft and Windows dominates the client (non-mobile) computing space, and will continue to do so for many years to come, and if and when their domination ends, it almost certainly won’t be Linux that ends it, but something new as our computing needs and habits change, just as they have in the mobile arena. Most likely, it will be something that is cloud based.

  4. The mistake Microsoft are making (or trying to ignore) is that the majority of people currently buying Chromebooks are doing so not because Chromebooks are cheaper but because they prefer them to Windows devices. They are cheaper but they are also secure, easy to use and reliable. For 80% of the population they will do everything they will ever need. What is more worrying for Microsoft and for Apple (as regards ma books etc is that as internet speeds and availability improve further the regular arguments of “you can’t do serious video/photo editing on a Chromebook” will cease to exist. The case is the same for gaming PC’s and even games consoles. People love the convenience of working/playing anywhere/anytime and Google has really started to make this possible. The other place where MS need to be concerned is with MS office. The general view in UK education (where I have worked for 30+ years) is that MS office is what ‘business’ uses so we must teach it. This will change. Business (and people) use what works best and using both Office 365 and GSuite side by side on a daily basis, 365 frustrates, Gsuite works! Microsoft got us to where we are now so thanks for that but now it’s time to step aside.

    1. This, exactly. For the price on sale, I could have bought a Lenovo Ideapad 510 (£200 off) but I opted instead for a Acer Chromebook R13 for £400. I Don’t regret it for a second, when I consider how ahead Chrome OS is in many core areas. To look at it this way, Windows is still based on many core design and programming principals that came with DOS – in the mid 1980’s. Chrome OS was born in 2009 – a slight difference in future proofing.

  5. This new ‘Cloud’ version Windows will come with the Windows Store? That’s not very encouraging. Chromebooks are coming out now with access to the Google Play Store and over some 1.5 million apps. The Windows store will have, what, 250,000 of which about 10,000 are to any real use due to Microsoft’s lax vetting process.

    I think Google can rest easy knowing the attractions and strengths of Chromebooks will see them through.

    1. They’ve got to start somewhere, and the Windows Store is all they have. It’s an uphill battle for sure, but I really don’t mind if Microsoft becomes a viable alternative to Google (and Apple) in the mobile space. Three is better than two for end users when it comes to competing for their dollars.

      1. That’s very true, competition means better value for us for sure. However, I only remain sceptical because Microsoft has had its Windows Store since 2011, and you can see the sorry state of it for yourself. In another 2-3 years when all Chromebooks enjoy access to Android apps, and as long as Google markets it right, I can see consumers opting for a Chromebook over a Windows Cloud Machine. Many still remember Windows RT, as much as Microsoft would like to erase it from history.

        It may turn out like the iPad and Microsoft Office – When iOS finally got Microsoft Office, people started taking the iPad more seriously as a productivity machine.

        We could see the day when a Windows laptop and a Chromebook are sitting by each other, but this time, the Chromebook can access Adobe apps from the Play Store, and the Windows Cloud laptop is left out in the cold. The irony is palpable considering how Microsoft once run an advertising campaign slating how Chromebooks couldn’t specifically run Adobe programs, and a *Windows* machine can. But then, that was when they thought Chromebooks would die out like the Netbook.

      2. Also I forgot to say, there won’t be options for multiple browser options on Windows like there is on Chromebooks (Play Store). Something like 80% of the browser market is owned by Chrome, so it could be quite jarring to a lot of people if they’re forced to use Edge or the deprecated Internet Explorer.

    2. you dont get meaning of windows cloud, if you are power user and you want lot of apps and programs then buy windows home/pro/enterprises, if you just need browser and few essential programs like office then windows cloud is for you.

      you can change windows cloud to other versions of windows

      1. My point is that Chromebooks are getting Google Play Store, some already have it – which is going to be a powerful tool towards productivity. Windows Cloud devices will be comparable in cost to Chromebooks, but won’t have the apps. Sure, a user could upgrade, bit at a cost, nulling the point of the low cost device.

  6. and maybe some new software…..

    “…expected to unveil new software, and maybe some new software.”

  7. Not smart enough to know if they will succeed, but they have to try. They’ve already lost the mobile OS market and there’s no sign of them recovering that any time soon, and they certainly don’t want ChromeOS to make inroads into their bread and butter (laptops/desktops) unchallenged.

    Windows and Office are MS’s two strongest intellectual properties, so it only makes sense that they would try to leverage them to help shore up a weakening part of their business.

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