Low Cost Chromebooks Force Microsoft's Hand in the Portables Market

by Ostatic Staff - Aug. 12, 2014

Chromebooks, low-cost portable computers that run Google's Chrome operating system, are quickly becoming market movers as sales are poised to reach almost 15 million units in 2017. That's the forecast from Gartner researchers, which also reproted that sales will hit 5.2 million units this year, up 70 percent from sales in 2013. Gartner has also reported that the U.S. education sector is playing a big part in this, noting that it accounted for 85 percent of Chromebook sales in 2013.

There are strong signs that Microsoft is taking this trend seriously, and we may see unprecedented prices on new Windows portables designed to compete with Chromebooks.

As ExtremeTech has noted:

"Microsoft has finally decided to compete with Chromebooks at the very lowest end of the PC market. Come fall, you’ll be able to get your hands on an HP Stream laptop running Windows 8 for just $200 — a Windows price point that we haven’t seen since the last time the PC market scraped the barrel (netbooks). With Chromebooks quickly gobbling up market share, and Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 failing to gain a significant foothold, Microsoft has clearly decided it’s time to resort to desperate measures."

I've made the point that, in answer to Microsoft's moves, we are likely to see increasing incentives from Google for purchases of Chromebooks.  Google has already explored this avenue.  For example, buyers of Chromebooks have been getting 100GB of free Google Drive storage, free WiFi when flying, Google Play incentives and more.  Next up, we're likely to see incentives from Google aimed directly at schools.

As just one example of the new playbook from Microsoft, the Acer Aspire ES1 is available from Amazon at $240 as a fully equipped Windows 8 portable system, and we're likely to see many more of these portables by the end of the year.

According to TIME, Acer also has some very impressive new Chromebooks out at low prices, running Tegra chips. Shrewdly, Acer is poised to straddle the competition between Microsoft's platform and Google's, focusing on the low cost portable market.

All of which means that if you're in the market for a portable computer and you don't want to spend much, keep your eyes peeled for big bargains. And don't be surprised to see Chrome OS becoming a much more influential platform.