Is Microsoft driving PC makers to Google Chromebook and Android?

As Microsoft blames hardware vendors for poor Windows 8 sales, HP may be next to board the Chromebook bandwagon

In the wake of Acer's declaration of brisk Chromebook sales and lackluster Windows 8 PC sales, HP appears poised to soon announce its own Chromebook as part of the Pavilion family. The news doesn't bode well for Microsoft -- the last thing the company needs now is to lose ground to Google and Apple in the PC space as it struggles to play catch-up on mobile against the same rivals.

Unfortunately, Microsoft may partly have itself to blame for driving PC makers to Google. The company's decision to build its own Windows 8 tablet last year ruffled feathers, and behind closed doors, the company has been heaping blame on the backs of PC makers for disappointing Windows 8 sales.

HP appears poised to join its rivals in the Chromebook market. A spec sheet on HP's website (PDF) -- first spotted by the Verge -- describes a forthcoming 14-inch HP Pavilion Chromebook with a 1.1GHz Intel Celeron Processor 847, 2GB DDR3 SDRAM, and a 16GB solid-state drive. HP particularly plays up the 14-inch HD display, dubbing the machine the world's first full-size Chromebook. Models from rival vendors tend to have 11.6-inch displays.

HP's foray into the Chromebook world may not be entirely surprising, as the platform has quietly gained popularity thanks in part to software improvements, increased security, and lower prices. Acer President Jim Wong told Bloomberg that Chromebooks have accounted for 5 to 10 percent of the company's U.S. shipments and Acer is now considering expanding Chromebook sales to other developed markets. Meanwhile, Samsung's Chromebook is the top-selling laptop in the United States on Amazon.

Samsung and Acer aren't the only ones finding success in hawking non-Windows machines. Asustek reported that sales of its Android-based Google Nexus 7 tablet helped drive up Q3 profits by 43 percent to $230 million.

While Google deserves its share of credit for winning over users by improving both Chromebook and Android, Microsoft may need to accept some responsibility for turning off hardware vendors. First, the company antagonized partners when it decided to build its own Windows 8 tablet last year. Second, Microsoft and partner Intel couldn't get their act together in time to build drivers that hardware makers needed to ship Windows 8 machines in time for Christmas. More recently, according to the Register, the company has lectured hardware manufacturers for failing to follow its guidelines for building sufficiently attractive Window 8 tablets.

Hardware vendors have a different perspective, dismissing Microsoft's Windows 8 hardware requirements as unreasonably costly. "Windows 8 itself is still not successful," Wong told Bloomberg. "The whole market didn't come back to growth after the Windows 8 launch. That's a simple way to judge if it is successful or not."

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