Cheap Windows laptops: One area they can't compete with Chromebooks

Cheap Windows laptops: One area they can't compete with Chromebooks

Summary: Microsoft is pushing for cheap laptops, including the Stream from HP, to compete with Chromebooks. There’s one crucial advantage of the Chromebook that may throw a monkey wrench in that plan.

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Those unwilling to believe that Microsoft is not concerned with the competition from Chromebooks better adjust their thinking. The company has been targeting the cheap laptops running Google’s OS since the early days of its Surface tablets. It is now pushing the building of cheap ($200) Windows laptops to go head-to-head with the Chromebook.

acer-720p-chromebook-side-view
(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

There’s good reason for the folks in Redmond to be worried about the Chromebook. They are cheap and making inroads into the vital education market. Selling laptops is important to the industry where they buy in bulk and are training the computer buyer of the future in the systems they will look to down the road.

When a Chromebook stops working, whether through rough handling by students or simple failure, Google replaces it with another.

The education sector may be a target for these cheap Windows laptops. As reported by ZDNet’s Steve Ranger, HP will soon launch its Stream Windows laptop that should cost around $199. It is including 200GB of cloud storage with the purchase.

That’s well and good, but it still falls short of what schools get with Chromebook deployments. In a recent article about how Chromebook deployments in schools is ramping up, one of the school district employees behind a successful program summed up why the Chromebook makes more sense than Windows:

"The affordability and easy maintenance of Chromebooks clinched the deal – we could buy three Chromebooks for the price of a single desktop computer and the district’s small IT team wouldn’t have to struggle to keep up with the repairs and updates on aging PCs.”

That’s it in a nutshell — deploying Chromebooks to schools removes expensive support from the equation. School districts with Chromebooks don’t have to worry about supporting the OS and updates are handled automatically without issues. Even though Windows 8 is probably the easiest version of Windows yet, many users still require regular support. Tech-savvy users who have to support friends and family will admit that’s the case.

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Perhaps most importantly, school personnel don’t have to worry about hardware maintenance. When a Chromebook stops working, whether through rough handling by students or simple failure, Google replaces it with another. This is a tremendous advantage that the Chromebook has over Windows laptops. It makes it easy for school districts to put a fixed cost on the deployment, a crucial component of IT costs in cash-strapped organizations.

It’s a good thing for Microsoft to get behind cheap laptops to compete with Chromebooks, especially in schools. It’s going to take more than cheap laptops with Windows to do so, however. There will have to be turn-key programs like that from Google with Chromebooks to remove the cost and concerns of hardware and software maintenance. All for a low price schools are able to pay.

Additional Chromebook coverage: 

Topics: Mobility, Google, Laptops, Microsoft

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239 comments
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  • Chrome OS = Simplicity, Security, Speed

    Chrome OS is not only about the price, it's about Simplicity, Security and Speed, Windows OS has none of those. The only way Microsoft can compete with Chrome OS, is for Microsoft to take the 100% free open source http://chromium.org source code and package it with Bing as default search instead of Google, subsidize hardware makers accordingly ($20 or more per device) and call it Bing OS, Microsoft is allowed! Microsoft should not make the same mistake they did vs Android, there is no way Microsoft can compete with free and open source anymore. New CEO should get a clue!
    charbax@...
    • They might not be Open source, but they are free

      I don't remember where the price limit on that is, but Microsoft is giving away Windows for those cheap laptops. They call it "Windows 8 with Bing". So Microsoft, at least, is going 100% free.
      thoddi
      • Still Waiting

        I have been watching but have not seen a $200 Windows with Bing laptop. I expect they are around by now but doing a bunch of searches I cannot find one yet. Some articles said 3rd Quarter. Maybe they will be available by Christmas. Until we see the first ones and see what happens this holidays season these forums are mostly just spreading FUD.

        Microsoft may have missed this school year. It will be interesting to see what happens next year.
        MichaelInMA
        • I found a deal..

          last month on an HP Windows 8 touchscreen convertible for $146 at Amazon; the only reason I didn't buy it is because I was not up to snuff on the modern improvements in the Celeron processors - had I known that, I would have snapped up that puppy!
          JCitizen
        • ....

          You can get $200-$300 laptops with windows, physical harddrives and optical drives everywhere. I saw 3 different one at wal mart yesterday, tiger direct has them, ebay tons of places. This wouldnt be a new concept unless they try to make you use the god awful cloud for storage. A physical harddrive and optical drive are must have. just buy one bring it home knock windows 8 off pop on windows 7 and your good to go for around $200
          Fletchguy
          • optical a must? really?

            not really clear on why an optical drive is "a must". I haven't had an optical drive on a PC for like 6 years. What's the point? Especially in a large environment like education. Use thumb drives/pxe booting. Done. Put windows 7 on at home? use a thumb drive. Way faster anyway. Optical is a waste of space and battery. It's actually not that hard to find a cheap laptop with windows 7 on it already in refurbs or whatever. Even comes with a warranty. I put the physical NIC at a much higher priority than an optical. But that's just me.

            If the Microsoft flavor of chrome has physical NIC for $200 it will have both that an the ability to connect to a printer directly as an advantage. Still the possibility of viruses on windows but it seems like these little netbook things would work better as a thin client sort of setup anyway (RDP'd into a server or something like that).
            kache2k@...
          • The worm has turned

            So I can buy a Windows 8 laptop for $300 and install the usable Windows 7 OS myself at home, OR I can buy a $200 Chromebook and get the very usable Chrome (Linux) OS pre-installed.

            Welcome to the new world. :-D
            ricegf
      • Except for the support expenses that come with them...

        patching, rebuilding, unbricking, virus...
        jessepollard
        • Have you ever worked with school PCs?

          They're locked down to standard user rights, more or less meaning that they can't get viruses.

          Patching is done automatically, like most computers.

          The rebuilding and unbricking is complete BS, however. Chrome OS would have the same issues.
          ForeverCookie
          • Unless.

            Unless the school uses deep freeze. But most malware can be install/run with limited privileges. That would only affect that user account.. So malware yes.. Viruses not really cause there not many viruses for computers anymore.
            Anthony E
          • Work with School PC's Regularly

            The biggest issue with school PC's is the time it takes them to boot up and shut down. As you said - they lock them down (though that did not stop a virus from shutting down all LWSD PC's for a couple weeks this past school year, but I digress ...), but all of the software they use for that process makes them nearly unusable for the situation they are expected to be used. A student may have 10 free minutes to work on their assigned laptop, and 5 of those minutes are spent booting it up and shutting it down - not to mention how slow simple web browsing is on the device.

            In a corporate environment, Windows desktops makes sense (or some hyper-v solution), but in the education world, ChomeOS is a vastly better solution.
            monteith
          • K-12 schools, like most government entities ...

            ... get one-time money. A cheap device with a on-year warranty will never last in that environment. That is why most K-12 districts are buying iPads with extended warranty.
            M Wagner
          • I know all about school computers

            You are so right-on with the slow boot-up & shut-down and the frustration students have when they have just a few minutes to get something done or just need to print something. And "forget-about-it" if it immediately goes into an update while it is booting up or while they are in the middle of something.
            mystic100
          • That would be a first

            The point here is that MOST schools Don't have support, and windows boxes are deployed naked and with auto login and no users restrictions. Your's is the exception.
            Branedy
          • Not true

            ForeverCookie said: "The rebuilding and unbricking is complete BS, however. Chrome OS would have the same issues."

            Thats not true. You can loose a ChromeBook, get another and log into the same "desktop" you were using before.

            Until Windows heads off into the cloud, they can't match that.
            Tinman_au
        • You're so full of "it"...

          I've used Windows 8 and 8.1 since the original release, and I've yet to encounter a problem..

          Tell you what...

          If you're so inept that you encounter just a few of the problems you attribute to Windows, then, you need to get some middle-school kid to do your setups and maintenance. You'll be a lot better off not using computers without some supervision by somebody that knows what he/she is doing.
          adornoe@...
          • Its always a matter of time...

            Its always a matter of time until someone explains away the hassles of Windows with condescension. Bravo.
            Marc Ello
          • It's quite easy to be condescending against the clueless and dimwits,

            and you apparently are seeing yourself as one of those, since you are either defending yourself against my condescension, or you identify with the dimwits and clueless.

            It's also quite easy to explain away the "hassles" of Windows, when there haven't been any with my usage of the system. That's how it works, like it or not.

            Now, go and find something else to defend. You failed in this case.
            adornoe@...
          • School Use

            We are discussing the ideal OS / devices in the education world, not a particular individual's ability to master the system.

            This previous school year the Lake Washington School District (Redmond, Washington - home of Microsoft) had to collect ALL student laptops due to a virus that infected their entire network. They have highly educated tech staff working in their district and that have all of the Microsoft certification boxes checked.

            I'm glad that you have never experienced a problem but the issues with maintaining Windows are quite real.
            monteith
          • Yep, Windows problems are real, but, there is no such thing as

            a perfect OS or a perfect system.

            The schools' systems implementation of Chromebooks or Chromeboxes, are being done because, they are being given away or are subsidized or are dirt-cheap, all for the basic purpose of Google and partners getting the devices to be used, but, outside of education, hardly anybody is buying those stupid things.

            When those students leave school each day, they won't be using the Chromebook or Chromebox at home; and when they graduate from high-school or college, they will encounter a Windows machine at work.

            It it wasn't for schools, Chromebooks and Chromboxes would have been another set of projects that Google would've have to scrap; so, they desperately had to get schools systems to "take" their "crummy" things off their hands.
            adornoe@...