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Chromebooks currently have a small market share, but new models like the Acer C720P (touch edition) are hot items

Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) latest round of attacks on archrival Google Inc. (GOOG) is heating up.  After appearing to pull the plug on the "Scroogled" campaign -- the brainchild of a former campaign advisor to President William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton (D) -- Microsoft brought it back with a vengeance, unveiling a whole line of Google-mocking products ranging from mugs to shirts.

I. Microsoft Calls Chromebooks "Bricks"

Now Microsoft has come back with a new commercial featuring Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, the Las Vegas, Nevada pawn shop that gained a national following via the History Channel's reality TV series Pawn Stars.

Ricky Harrison -- the younger member of the pawn shop's three generation family who specialize in detecting "fake" products -- receives a call from a Microsoft employee who wants to know if a Google "Chromebook" might be "worth something".  Mr. Harrison laughs, responding, "[W]hen you're not connected, it's pretty much a brick."

Okay that's not quite accurate. Chrome OS uses the Chrome browser as the environment to run apps within, however, it does have offline builds of its core apps like Google Docs, and recently gave developers tools to make third-party apps offline accessible.  And while it leverages the cloud, that's not very different from Microsoft's own efforts, slowly phasing out the PC-side standalone Office suite for the cloud-enabled Office 365 app suite.

Chrome OS
Many Chrome OS apps now work just fine offline, contrary to Microsoft's claims.

At the root of Microsoft's argument is a simple assumption Microsoft firmly believes in -- if a laptop or desktop doesn't have Windows 8.1 and Office on it, it's pretty much useless. This is a sentiment echoed by hardcore Windows fans like Windows SuperSite blogger Paul Thurrott, who writes, "Google's Chromebook initiative is a laughable attempt to turn a web browser into an operating system that runs on mostly lackluster hardware."

II. Why Windows Supporters are Scared

Is Microsoft scared of the Chromebook, just trying to be funny, or some combination of both?

Compared to Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) Mac computer line, Chromebook sales appear less than impressive at present.  The Interactive Data Corp. (IDCreports that Chromebooks are only expected to move 3 million units this year, accounting for about 1 percent of the market.  But that figure only covers warehouse sales to brick-and-mortar establishments.  By contrast on some direct sellers like, Inc. (AMZN) Chromebooks are outselling Windows 8.1 laptops.  Approximately 22 percent of school districts across the U.S. have adopted Chromebooks.

Chrome OS
[Image Source: ZDNet]

The NPD Group Inc. estimates that in H1 2013 Chromebooks captured 20-25 percent of the sub-$300 laptop market.  They estimate that 3 percent of laptops (all prices) bought in August-September back-to-school shopping season were Chrombooks.  And with new models out in time for the holidays, NPD Group VP of Industry Analysis Stephen Baker predicts Q4 2013 will be a watershed moment in Chrome OS's market adoption.  He comments:

[Chromebooks] are very well-positioned to expand that share over the holiday period The significant marketing and advertising support Google is providing its partners is likely to be a key a feature in helping continue to raise awareness of the product and show consumers that it is a reasonably priced alternative to a tablet.

With Windows 8/8.1 unpopularity riding at all time highs and with consumers opting to avoid high-end hardware in general, PC sales are seeing historic drops.  Microsoft appears less concerned about Apple -- whose sales have also been affected by the latter market trend.  After all Microsoft always prided itself as delivering quality at a budget price, as its past anti-Apple "I'm a PC" campaign illustrated.

In that regard Chromebooks represent perhaps a more serious long-term threat to Microsoft's bottom line.  Generally priced at $300 USD or lower, many of the models offer 7-9 hours of battery life, significantly better than the 4-7 hours that budget-to-mid-range Windows 8.1 laptops get.  Otherwise the hardware spec is somewhat low-end -- but then again so are the specs of budget Windows laptops.

Aside from targeting a market Microsoft took such pride in dominating, Chromebooks also are a headache for Microsoft as they're giving OEMs frustrated with Microsoft's role in poor PC sales an outlet.  One such OEM is Hewlett-Packard Comp. (HPQ).  Is the HP Chromebook 11 a brick?  

HP Chromebook 11
HP Chromebook 11 [Image Source: AnandTech]

Microsoft and Pawn Stars may say so, but AnandTech says otherwise, writing:

Under Google’s influence, HP has built a near perfect example of what an entry level PC should be. It boots fast (< 13 seconds even in dev mode), has a great display, comes with dual-band 2-stream 802.11n WiFi, has good sounding speakers, looks stylish, is light and feels well built. The keyboard is great and even the clickpad isn’t as bad as it is on far more expensive PCs.

You honestly get one of the best examples of a portable machine for $279, and that’s without even relying on the benefits of Chrome OS to help sell the bundle. Anyone looking for a glorified web browsing, email checking, internet terminal will be right at home with Chrome OS. Flash works and you obviously get what’s arguably the world’s best web browser. You don’t have to worry about updates, malware or viruses, all of that is taken care of for you. It’s the modern typewriter equivalent, a true entry level computer, and HP/Google have done an excellent job in bringing this to market.

ASUSTek Computer Inc. (TPE:2357) this quarter became the latest OEM to "cheat on" Microsoft with Chromebooks.  The message from OEMs to Microsoft seems clear -- "If we're not getting satisfaction in this marriage, we'll go out and find satisfaction elsewhere."

And "elsewhere" appears to the Chrome OS.

III. New Touch-Screen Acer Chromebook Wows 

In related news Acer Inc. (TPE:2353) strengthened its already best-selling Chromebook lineup this week with the addition of the C720P -- the touch-screen upgraded variant of the popular C720 which retails for $200 USD (2 GB) and $250 (4 GB), depending on your preference memory-wise.
Acer C720P

For $299 you get a thin (0.78-inch thick) and light (2.98 lb) laptop with:
  • 1377x768 11.6 inch screen with multitouch
  • Intel Corp. (INTC) dual-core 1.4 GHz Celeron 2955U (Haswell)
  • 7.5 hr. of battery life
  • 2 GB DRAM
  • 100 GB of Google Drive cloud storage (free for two years)
  • 12 Free GoGo Wireless in-flight passes
  • 32 GB SSD w/ 7 second boot
  • WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n
Acer C720P
Acer C720P
Acer C720P

By contrast about the best $300 USD will get you in terms of Windows touchscreen laptops is a Lenovo Group, Ltd. (HKG:0992IdeaPad S210 11.6-inch touchscreen laptop (and that's only when it's discounted 29 percent with a big sale).  

The Lenovo machine comes with slightly more memory (4 GB), but with a last-generation Ivy Bridge processor, the dual-core 1.9 GHz Intel Pentium 2127U ULV.  It's thicker (0.90 in.), weighs more (3.1 lb), has no SSD (instead it has a cheaper 500 GB, 5400 rpm HDD).  
Lenovo Ideapad S210
The Lenovo Ideapad S210 11.6-inch. (w/ Touchscreen, Windows 8.1) sells for $300 USD sale, but only gets about half the battery life of the Chromebook, has no SSD, and has a last-generation Intel processor.

And the kicker? The Windows competitor gets a claimed 4 hours of battery life -- about half what the Acer C720P Chromebook promises.  Well, you know what they say -- if you can't beat them make fun of them.

Windows 8.1 RTm
But Microsoft does offer one unique "benefit" -- Metro UI. [Image Source: CNET]

Feel free to share your thoughts on which budget laptop is "worthless" -- the thin, light, Chromebook with a fast SSD, latest-generation Intel processor, and 7.5 hours of battery life, or the Metro UI-packing Windows 8.1 laptop with more memory (4 GB), but a last generation processor, a slower HDD, a thick/heavier body, and only 4 hours of moderate-to-light use on a full charge. 

Sources: Microsoft on YouTube, Acer [C720P press release]

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RE: Funny AD for sure but....
By sprockkets on 11/27/2013 8:04:17 PM , Rating: 0
What, you want an old archaic super slow laptop HDD that makes your computer slow? Go ahead.
I'll take an ssd over a HDD eveytime.

RE: Funny AD for sure but....
By rocky12345 on 11/27/2013 9:05:07 PM , Rating: 2
I see you missed my point & several other peoples point as well. What I was saying he talked like the 32GB SSD was better than the 500GB hard drive. Yes it would be better in a OS that does not take up a lot of room but that same 32GB SSD would suck in a OS like Windows that uses a huge amount of space but it would make a great cach drive for the much larger 500GB drive in a Windows setup but not much more than that.

Yes I would prefer ta SSD drive over a Spindle drive any day but the SSD would have to be much larger than a puny 32GB for sure.

RE: Funny AD for sure but....
By Reclaimer77 on 11/28/2013 12:13:11 AM , Rating: 2
What I was saying he talked like the 32GB SSD was better than the 500GB hard drive.

It is.

RE: Funny AD for sure but....
By inighthawki on 11/28/2013 2:59:08 AM , Rating: 2
That depends on what you need it for. Capacity is just as valid of a specification to base your choice on as speed. Fast SSDs are great but unless the only thing you use your drive for is an OS and some photos, 32GB will run out quickly, even with a thin OS and a liberal amount of cloud storage.

I purchased a new laptop a few weeks ago, and after partitioning the drive to dedicate a partition for the OS, the other partition is already using 82GB, and none of that is photos, music, or videos. Just applications, a few small games, and some programming projects. If you gave me a choice between a 32GB SSD and a 500GB hard drive, I'd laugh at you and take the hard drive any day. Good speed is useless if you can't do anything on it.

RE: Funny AD for sure but....
By rsmech on 11/27/2013 9:08:46 PM , Rating: 1
Are you seriously arguing 32gb is equal to 500gb. That's funny. They couldn't even give you 128gb or even 64gb. If I need a flash drive I'll carry it in my pocket not a bag.

RE: Funny AD for sure but....
By rocky12345 on 11/27/2013 11:00:03 PM , Rating: 2
no i was not saying 32GB ssd was as big as a 500GB if you were replying to me. I was actually saying 32GB is pretty much puny & would barely hold a Windows crap I got 64GB USB sticks that are far more useful to

RE: Funny AD for sure but....
By rsmech on 11/27/2013 11:52:59 PM , Rating: 2
Was agreeing with you.

RE: Funny AD for sure but....
By jimbojimbo on 11/28/2013 1:17:48 AM , Rating: 2
But the point of the comparison is the 32GB model holds the Chrome OS, NOT Windows so won't need so much. Also, most of what Chrome OS does is online so why would you need 500GB?
If you want to store all your music somewhere, yes, 500GB is better even at 5400RPM. If you want a fast OS that boots up and starts apps in no time then yes, a 32GB SSD is better. With Chrome OS though you don't need the storage so 32GB SSD would be better for it. Windows 8.1 on a 5400RPM drive would be unbearably slow these days though.

RE: Funny AD for sure but....
By rsmech on 11/27/2013 9:14:25 PM , Rating: 1
I think the 32gb "drive" you would take anytime would be better off in my phone micro SD slot. It would save me $175.

RE: Funny AD for sure but....
By evo slevven on 11/27/2013 11:55:51 PM , Rating: 1
Problem is how people are comparing devices for devices w/out actually thinking bout it more thoroughly. Its like Apple accusing Samsung saying Samsung phones are just like an Apple phone w/out an IOS in it. Google and OEM's have really invested distinguishing this stuff but people get confused listening to their "techie" at work.

Yeah I have multiple devices and I do have a chromebook, an HP Slate (gifted), a toshiba with an A10 AMD and a custom desktop with multi OS's on it. My Samsung Chromebook is nice for those activities I want to sit it at a coffee house, visit people for a few days or travel and need something more than a tablet. The tablet is my least used device but I used mostly for reading online content and media. The laptop was something when I went out and needed something to do PC repairs.

IS a Chromebook functional versus Windows? No. Does it do the job? Yea. Does it do the job better than a Windows tablet or cheap $300 PC laptop? Yea. Why? Because any $300 laptop is going to be really shitty and slow and for all the cheap costs to buy it I'm stuck with a longterm headache. I believe in celeron, pentium and AMD-E/C processors as I do the Chinese government when it says it doesn't hack the US.

And frankly since all I do with it is use my chromebook as a glorified tablet with a keyboard at least I can sit down anywhere, do some work and not carry a giant brick.

Ultrabooks are the only real competitor for form and speed but not on price. Again pick your device on what you do not what others do.

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer

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