Could a $99 Chromebox be a game-changer?

At a time when consumers are price-sensitive, a low price tag rules. A $99 Chromebox -- even running an operating system that, to most, is totally unfamiliar -- could be very disruptive.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Rumors are circulating that Acer is planning to unveil a new Chromebox -- a compact desktop computer powered by Google's Chrome OS -- that could retail for as little has $99.

The cloud-centric Chromebox -- codenamed "Kiev" -- is thought to be powered by a 2.7GHz Pentium G630 and have 2GB RAM and a 500GB hard drive.

All this for $99 would be a undoubtedly be a game-changer is an environment where consumers are price sensitive. A system like this isn't going to run something like Crysis or be any good for video editing, but as a general-purpose desktop for in a home or office, it would be more than ideal.

If a system like this can hit the magic price of $99, I see a number of potential casualties:

  • PCs: Cheap PCs that are primarily used for Internet-based applications could suffer the most. As more and more people increasingly see Windows as a platform for launching a browser so they can access the Web, it is becoming difficult to justify the high price of a Windows license.
  • Windows 8: The appearance of what consumers view as a new operating system could mean that focus is shifted away from Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system.
  • Tablets: Devices such as the Chromebox could distract buyers -- consumers and enterprise alike -- away from tablets. Whether their appeal is short term, as was the case with netbook, or more permanent, as appears the case with tablets, will remain to be seen. This could have repercussions on Android, iOS, and Windows 8/RT sales.
  • Mac mini: In the firing line also would be Apple's Mac mini. A Chromebox such as this one is capable of doing what the Mac mini can do at a fraction of the price.

A $99 Chromebox -- even running an operating system that, to most, is totally unfamiliar -- would be very disruptive to a number of consumer electronics markets and could have quite far-reaching effects.

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