Microsoft eyes Chromebooks, low-end PC market: All about the platform

Microsoft eyes Chromebooks, low-end PC market: All about the platform

Summary: Microsoft's plan is to tout Windows value and the ability to run native and Web apps, full Office, desktop apps and work with existing peripherals in its battle with Google's Chromebook.


Microsoft operating chief Kevin Turner said that the company and its partners won't cede the low-end of the PC market and will sacrifice Windows licensing margins to do it.


Turner, speaking at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner conference, put some meat around the company's plan to focus on platforms and productivity. As Mary Jo Foley noted Microsoft is going for a suite of experiences across multiple devices.

Here's the problem: Microsoft has the share in the PC market, but smaller screens and cheap devices are a bigger challenge. After all, Microsoft lacks smartphone share and Google's Chromebook is nibbling at the lower end of the market. Microsoft will even allow its Nokia unit to launch an Android smartphone to keep visible in the low end of the device market. 

Microsoft's plan is to tout Windows value and the ability to run native and Web apps, full Office, desktop apps and work with existing peripherals. Acer has a $249 laptop and Toshiba another version coming at the same price point. 

The big question is why Microsoft wants to duel in the race to the bottom. The short answer is Microsoft has to play ball where profit margins don't exist to remain relevant. Google doesn't care about hardware revenue---all the money is made on advertising---because the goal is to get engagement. Chromebooks are merely a Trojan Horse to get you to use Google more.

Decoding the hidden messages in Satya Nadella's letter to Microsoft employees

Microsoft is adopting a similar move. With low-end PCs, the aim isn't necessarily to wow laptop buyers as much as get them using OneNote, Office and buying storage from the company. The risk is that Microsoft's ecosystem will have to deliver something better than the next-gen netbook.

In the new world order, hardware will become super cheap as cloud players aim to make money in other ways such as ads, e-commerce and services.

Topics: Hardware, Laptops, Microsoft, Windows 8

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  • Microsoft eyes Chromebooks, low-end PC market

    Competition is great for the consumer.
    • Unless competition, ultimately, results in less choice

      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Then you dont have competition

        • It's all about 'fairness'

          Sometimes competition is conducted in a fair manner and sometimes it's not.

          Please note that I am not singling any corporation out.
          Rabid Howler Monkey
          • well its true

            Google is playing very unfairly. Companies whose focus is software to meet a goal are being undermined by Google's free version. And Google's free version is generally not as feature rich, may cease to exist or change completely. Because google only wants to track and advertise to you. They don't care if the products are good as long as it is enough to draw you into the rest of their universe.
          • Good enough is the enemy of great

            Google Docs, Sheets, etc., isn't going to lure anyone away from MS Office who needs anything close to the power of those mature, feature-rich, sophisticated tools. But I give Google credit for recognizing that there are a lot of people who need only a fraction of that capability, which can be developed for a fraction of the cost and delivered for free (perhaps with freemium upsales for power users & corporate customers.)

            Microsoft's relatively recent moves with OneDrive, free but limited web apps, and Office 365 validate what Google has been doing while, at the same time, clearly show that they have learned a great deal and that they are willing and able to compete very strongly in more spaces than they have in the past.

            I'm impressed with what I'm seeing them do with Windows 365 in mobile, OneNote everywhere, and OneDrive. Microsoft may have lost some casual users to Google over the past several years, but IMO they're quickly mitigating risk of that becoming a larger, long term trend.
          • I work in the Commodities Industry

            Use spreadsheets every day.

            I let my Office 365 subscription expire in June 2014. And I finally uninstalled it from my computer last week.

            I use Google Apps and Drive. I work faster than I did with less keystrokes than I ever did in Excel. So far I haven't missed any of the Excel's extended bells and whistles. If I'm away from my desk I can open and work on my Google Sheets on my Android smart phone or iPad Air if I have that with me for quick touch ups. Even if I still had Office 365 subscript I'd still use Google Sheets because of the acute convenience. I can even program my own addons for Google Sheets. Yes I've done plenty of Excel macros. I'd rather use Javascript to extend Sheets than macros. And when I have to sent to Office users Google sheets downloads in Excel format including older ones if you want that. Importing text file data is quicker and smarter than Excel's equivalent feature set.

            Same thing with Google Docs - like it way better than Office Word. I'm working on a new ebook - last one I did in Word. This one is in Docs. I can work on it anywhere on any of my computing devices from smart phone up. If I think of something on the go I flip open my Samsung Galaxy and annotate the idea. I even show people the book on my phone. It's as easy to read as on my Kindle (which is lost somewhere in my office - I don't even know where it is anymore I haven't used it in so long).

            If you tried Google Apps for 3 weeks and not allowed to go back to Office I suspect after 21 days you will be more comfortable in Google Apps and doing more than you ever did in Office 365.

            This is why Microsoft can not afford to loose the low end to Android. The digital generation can more readily relate to Android/ChromeOS and thus Google Docs/Drive than to Office. The cloud changes everything. I've been an Office user for 20 years and I'm never going back.

            Microsoft can save Windows if they reinvent the Windows Desktop as the new private cloud server that works with public clouds including Azure, AWS, and Google App Engine. We are going to want to keep critical information on our private cloud. But the Google Drive paradigm is the wave of the future - that and a hybrid public/private cloud.

            When I want to do serious typing when I'm away from my desk I bought a ChromeBook now and leave my Sony laptop in the office. The ChromeBook touch pad gestures are better than on my iMac
          • Good for you.

            But I hope you aren't collaborating or sending files to people who use a real productivity suite like Office.

            As an IT Systems Engineer, Google's products are the bane of my department's existence. Horrible compatibility, literally no legitimate support, no useful features. It's like using notepad with sparkles for ANY of their productivity apps.
          • It's all about what IT wants

            IT will decide what's real and how you should work. Get back in your cube and shut up.
          • Not Exactly

            In my experience, it is up to the lawyers. If you work in government, they usually go for BOX or Office 365 because Google is not compliant with some privacy laws. There is a class-action lawsuit looming because Google reads each and every GMAIL, for example.
          • A little different for collaboration

            While I understand and live with the same situation, we use Google Apps for Business and yet we install Office for everyone.

            The point where I disagree is with collaboration. Google Drive (previously Google Docs) is actually a really good collaboration tool, where multiple people can be working on the same document/spreadsheet/presentation at the same time and you can see who is logged in (presumably you're also in phone contact with each other, but sometimes not). Once you get into real time collaboration, Office gets to be clunky, since you have to close (save) so someone else can edit. True, the final will need to be put into Office for dissemination, but each type of document has the option of saving it as Word/Excel/PowerPoint.

            However, I do agree with your view on compatibility (or lack thereof), and lacking the really useful features.

            "Support," on the other hand, needs to be defined. I mean when was the last time you called Microsoft for support? In all the 2+ decades that I've used and supported Office (I've used Excel on Mac, where Excel started in 1985, when MS-DOS only had Multiplan), I've never called Microsoft (at one company where I worked for, for 15 years, we were so heavy into Microsoft that we had a Microsoft tech on-site and other than lunch, never spoke to him for help). Where do you go for support now? I generally just go to the Web, which is where there is a lot of help for Office and Google Drive. Most times, I just work it out for myself.

            In a volunteer organization that I belong to, we have sign up sheets that we can all open at the same time. We also collaborate on documents that we produce. Nothing is really private in that scenario and thus, Google Drive is very useful.
          • The "real productivity" slam

            It amuses me when MS Office defenders try to degrade other choices by calling MS Office "a real productivity suite," even when other long-time MS Office users discover and explain how pleasantly surprised they are that they are "really productive" with Google Docs/Drive. Even with real world examples like those that jwebsmall provided (clearly not a "fanboy" of any particular platform given the variety of platforms he owns and uses), some people will refuse to admit that that a different product other than their favorite (and perhaps the one they have invested much into) could possible suit someone else, and if it does, it's because the other user is not sophisticated enough to need a "real" product like the one they promote.

            It's also interesting to find someone who would actually say that "collaborating" is the main reason for MS Office over Google Docs given that this is the single area where even most critics admit the Google solution blows away Office. Turismo, it's clear that you've not done much "real' collaboration (especially real-time simultaneous editing) with Google Drive. To claim a product has "NO" useful features shows more about your research than it does about that product.
          • Collaboration?

            Multiple people can be working on the same Google Doc at the same time. How is that for collaboration?
          • Hope You Don't Have Any Customer Confidentials on There

            You do know that Google scans and/or reads every single document that passes through their services? Hopefully, your data isn't subject to government laws such as PCI-DSS. As I mentioned elsewhere, they are not CJIS-compliant (look up City of Los Angeles AND Google).
          • If you do not miss Excel's bells and whistles, Microsoft's free ...

            ... Excel on-line would probably serve you just as well as Google Apps. People use what they want to use. They make their choices based upon the trade-offs they are willing to accept. Competition is good for everybody.
            M Wagner
          • Not Just the Power

            A lot of business use (and some personal use as well) is related to Google Terms of Service (ToS) and Privacy Policy. Where I worked in criminal justice, you just could not use Google for anything because they are not CJIS-compliant. That is, they refused to do background checks on their employees. Microsoft Office 365 is fully compliant with federal CJIS rules.
          • RE: "...Microsoft Office 365 is fully compliant with federal CJIS rules..."

            Perhaps, but that fact does not correlate at all as to how robust (not) or immune to external compromise (not) the product may be - I suggest that background checks have no impact on product performance - they are simply a different set of blinders to don.
          • Yes, it is

            Which is why the "camera" market is eventually going to shake out into two main segments: DSLRs and mirrorless "SLRs" at one end (for people who have to - or want to - take high-quality photos with great flexibilities) and, at the other end, phones, tablets and iThings (for people who just want a snapshot to email to other people's phones, tablets and iThings - probably after having done something "creative" with a canned Instagram filter).
          • True but tere are other factors too, affected by the choices companies ...

            ... make.

            Apple cannot compete head-to-head with Microsoft because Apple's business model is different than Microsoft's. Both are very successfully companies but their customers are quite different - and so is their market penetration.

            MS cannot compete with Google for the same reason. The difference in their business models.

            Linux is perhaps the most unique of them all. Linux vendors make more money in the enterprise machine room than they could ever make in the desktop.
            M Wagner
      • Competition doesn't lead to less choice!

        It leads to more choices. At that point it's the maker's part to stay competitive and offer what the competition offers. The competing makers must continue to offer or upgrade to keep up the demand for the product. Basically most companies will stay competitive as long as they see a financial benefit (Profit).