Chromebooks versus Cloudbooks: Will Microsoft beat Google?

In today's open source roundup: Cloudbooks threaten the popularity of Chromebooks. Plus: A review of Android x86. And Fedora 23 will offer a Cinnamon spin

Chromebooks versus Cloudbooks: Will Microsoft beat Google?

Chromebooks have proven to be undeniably popular, with various models getting rave reviews on Amazon's bestselling Chromebook list. But now a new wave of cheap Windows-based laptops called Cloudbooks are coming.

Will the new Cloudbooks give Microsoft the upper hand and destroy the popularity of Chromebooks?

Sean Portnoy reports for ZDNet:

With the official launch of Windows 10 coming at the end of the month, Microsoft will have a new opportunity to counter the success of Chromebooks, the inexpensive laptops running Google's Chrome OS. The company is already touting new systems from Acer (ironically, one of the top Chromebook providers) that will run its latest operating system and cost less than many of its Chromebook competitors.

Acer's not-so-inventively-named Cloudbooks were teased by Microsoft at this week's Worldwide Partner Conference as part of the run-up to the Windows 10 launch on July 29. There will be two models launching in August: an 11-inch version and a 14-inch edition. According to Acer, the smaller laptop will sport a small price tag as well -- just $169.

Unfortunately neither Acer nor Microsoft is disclosing any more information about the Cloudbooks, such as the specs, though it's probably safe to assume these won't be particularly powerful systems. Of course, minimal specs are part of the Chromebook pitch, though there's been feature creep over the years (such as more powerful processors and bigger screens).

The aggressive price can't completely match Chromebooks that retail for $149, but it comes pretty close -- close enough, Microsoft hopes, that people will pay the small premium for the familiarity of Windows and its desktop apps (including versions of its venerable Office suite). With more and more computing done in the cloud, that advantage continues to wane, which helps to explain the popularity of Chromebooks and its cloud-based ecosystem, especially in the large education market.

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ZDNet readers shared their thoughts about the looming battle between Chromebooks and Cloudbooks:

Karen Mod: " "Chromebook Killers?" You don't get it. The reason people are turning to Chrome OS is to get away from all the problems that have plagued Windows for years. People aren't buying Chromebooks because of the lower cost, that's just a bonus because it doesn't require the hardware necessary to accommodate a device-based operating environment like Windows. Sorry, Microsoft. You can make cheap laptops, but Windows has burned us one too many times. Game over."

Sam Caldwell: "Tis the rub! Chromebooks are popular because they are generally less expensive monetarily but more importantly less expensive in time and angst to maintain and use safely! Windows is more useful to many but far from user friendly when it comes to maintenance and use. I just spent at least 4 hours over many reboot and restart updates on an infrequently used Windows tablet. Another two hours running malware scans on my backup Windows PC. I have an older Samsung Chromebook that took less than five minutes to update after months laying dormant. No malware scan required!"

Thekman58: "Please, enough with the "killer" mentality. Let's just say an economical alternative for those that want to do more than what a Chromebook currently offers."

Jesse Pollard: "They can always use Linux on them and do a LOT more, with less hassle, no virus attacks, and better security than what Windows, with all its bloat and necessary anti-virus third party purchases can do."

Ice92: "I do not care how cheap these so called "Chromebook killers" are. In the end it is still Windows an we all know what that means. Viruses, BSOD, crashes, constant updates that do absolutely nothing in regards to security/performance. #ChromeOSFTW!"

PC987: "Since Windows 7, Windows has been almost entirely problem free. Some minor stability problems when a new version comes out and drivers aren't updated, but that's to be expected from ANY OS, and can be avoided by delaying an upgrade for a month or two.

Haven't gotten a virus since XP, and even then only twice in 10+ years. Haven't had a BSOD (beside early driver issues) in years. Updates get installed automatically, so I never notice.

If you can live in a browser, more power to you. Personally, I have professional applications I need to use, so a glorified browser OS does nothing for me."

Man: "Typically the Windows netbook runs lightweight browser apps at half the speed as a Chromebook on identical hardware - as all round browser benchmarks like Octane and Kraken running on HP Stream 11 have demonstrated. Running heavyweight Windows apps on these low end Windows devices really slows them down - the classic Windows netbook crawl."

Chris Lewis: "Price of 14", size of RAM and length of battery life. When I know more details... perhaps."

Norm Diaz: "Actually such terms like Chromebook Killers and other such hyperbole from all manufacturers GASP!!! Apple included, are just poor marketing. Just state your case and put out your op systems and let the last man stand. so to speak. As a tech, I've worked on a variety of these machines and each one has it's problems and limitations. Frankly every single one has extrapolated on pre-existing concepts and repackaged. Sometimes in the midst of all this are lost the small unknowns who came up with a tiny market and whose concepts were extrapolated and seemingly synonymous with others. Like that silly concept that the GUI was invented by Apple."

A Gray: " Microsoft already made this same race to the bottom mistake with Windows Phone. They are now back tracking and will build more premium devices that will give their 3% something good to use. I can't imagine a cheap PC like this being remotely useable. The new HP Stream desktop is barely useable with a cheap Celeron and spinning drive. It won't help that the media will try to compare it to the $1200 MacBook and wonder why its so slow and so "fat." "

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The news about Cloudbooks also spawned a thread over on the Chrome OS subreddit and redditors weren't shy about sharing their thoughts:

Madbrenner: "How is it ironic that Acer is making this and is a big Chromebook producer? There is no irony involved at all, they just make computers..."

Funky: "I made the switch from the an iPhone to Windows phone (flagship Nokia model) 12 months anti and whilst I have been impressed with the hardware and performance it have found the support for their apps lacking. Many Microsoft apps eg (word, onenote, Skype etc)haven't recieved updates in months, yet the same apps on ios and android are updated with new features regularly.

I bought a HP 14 inch chromebook two months ago and love it, and and it can access office 365 and one drive well, but nowhere near as quickly as Google equivalents).

My concerns with MS powered cloudbook would be the ongoing support and updates as they don't seem to care much about the customer's experience after they purchase. I could easily imagine these cloudbook a being bloated and slow in 12months time."

Profile3D: "Windows has gotten really good on low spec devices and it's formidable competition to chrome books, especially when most people can seem to understand that you can't install traditional programs on chromebooks. Google has spent 0 effort encouraging excellent applications and Microsoft has really worked hard on the unified App Store with cross platform apps."

ExploringDev: "My thoughts are I'm going to need to see specs and how windows runs on it."

Brokedown: "Seeing as how they haven't released any specs, I'm guessing it will be as underwhelming as the hp stream (with bing!) units were.. But I'll withhold judgement until they do."

Geoface: "Exactly. The OS is more important to a lot of people who dont care for performance. A large chunk people will not understand what the specs mean nor will the care. Does it have a web browser and does it run Office are what most people care about.

So if cloudbooks somehow turned out more popular than chromebooks Acer will have lost out on not introducing any cloudbooks. Theyre not competing against themselves, theyre seeing what the consumer wants and getting their foot in the door."

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