Microsoft thinks they can compete with Google in the low- to mid-range laptop space. Google's Chromebooks are simple and inexpensive and because they are essentially a web browser, they don't require much in the way of processing power. Battery life is more than decent, and they are priced to be easily within range of almost everyone. Microsoft wants to squash out the foothold that Google has gained. But can they actually make low-cost laptops that work well and actually compete with Chromebooks?
According to The Verge, Microsoft is working with HP to launch a new laptop called the Stream, which will cost a mere $199. Toshiba and Acer are also working on their own offerings, to be priced at $249. Toshiba's new notebook is supposed to feature an 11.6-inch display, while the Acer laptop will have a 15.6-inch screen. No specifics about the new HP Stream have leaked out yet.
Chromebooks generally cost between $200 and $300, so these new Microsoft laptops fall right in line with Google's current offerings. Current entry-level Windows laptops start at about $400. If you're on a budget, or if you are heavily invested in the Google ecosystem, a Chromebook is the way to go. The downside is that you need constant internet access, and Chromebooks aren't very powerful. These new laptops from HP, Toshiba, and Acer probably won't be much more powerful at such a low price. They would presumably, however, have access to Microsoft Office and other Windows applications that some users find necessary.
Microsoft hasn't had much like selling affordable notebooks, and their Windows 8 platform hasn't made many fans among Windows users that were used to Windows XP and Windows 7. Even so, Microsoft is coming right out and saying that they are targeting Chromebooks specifically with these new laptops. They're even creating presentations with titles like "Compete to Win vs. Chromebooks". Meanwhile, Google is quietly eating up market share with Chrome OS on Chromebooks, Android, and other competing services like Drive and Docs. Microsoft is struggling on all fronts. Will cheap laptops help them begin a recovery in the consumer market?