When Google rolled out its Chromebook initiative to consumers, it had one critical advantage as it looked to disrupt the low-cost laptop market: Manufacturers could ship their notebooks with Google's free Chrome OS instead of paying for a Windows license from Microsoft (and passing that cost onto the customer). The success of Chromebooks -- along with other market factors (such as Google's free Android OS powering budget tablets) -- has forced Microsoft to pivot from its long-held business model of extracting a nice chunk of change for every Windows license it sold.
Whether making upgrades to the latest version of its OS free to many customers or pretty much giving away its license to device makers, Microsoft is now bending over backward to make sure it can compete at the low end of the PC market. So it was little surprise a few weeks ago when Acer (and Microsoft itself) teased a new line of Windows 10 laptops that would be very competitive price-wise with Chromebooks -- and would even sound like them with the Cloudbook name.
At the time, we were only told that the Aspire One Cloudbooks would be available in August in 11-inch and 14-inch flavors and with a starting price of just $169.99. Now that August has arrived, Acer has finally unveiled all of the details behind its Chromebook killers (ironic, given Acer's own success with Chromebooks). As you can imagine, you don't get the works for that amount, but you can get a few niceties beyond the computing basics.
Like their Chromebook rivals, the Cloudbooks shave costs by skimping a bit on the specs: That $169.99 model, for example, only comes with 2GB of RAM and a mere 16GB of built-in storage. (You at least get an SD card slot so you can boost capacity through external memory cards.) Moving to the 32GB configuration for $20 more not only doubles the capacity, but also adds another perk: a year's subscription to Microsoft Office 365. That subscription to the online version of Office is included with the $199.99 14-inch edition, which comes with 32GB of storage as well. The 32GB models also receive 1TB of cloud storage through Microsoft's OneDrive, whereas the 16GB version gets 100GB.
All three editions use Intel's Celeron N3050 dual-core processor, include built-in 802.11a/c Wi-Fi, and feature 1,366x768 screen resolution (whether the 11.6-inch or 14-inch display). While being a little light on specs, the Cloudbooks will at least be light to lug around at just 0.7 inches thick, with the Cloudbook 11 tipping the scales at 2.54 pounds and its bigger sibling weighing about a pound more. The Cloudbook 11 AO1-131-C7DW and Cloudbook 11 AO1-131-C1G9 will be available through Microsoft's online store starting this month, while the Cloudbook 14 AO1-431-C8G8 can be purchased through Walmart in October.
We can be fairly certain that the Acer Cloudbooks won't be alone in the sub-$200 Windows 10 laptop space, especially as the back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons approach. Will you be in the market for one? Let us know in the discussion section below.