Microsoft, Acer prep new ‘Cloudbooks’ to take on Google’s Chromebook

ExtremeTech-For the past few years, Google has been pushing its idea of a low-cost, web-connected PC that offered minimum offline capability but was backed up by a suite of online applications courtesy of Google’s cloud ecosystem. The idea of thin-client PCs with fat-client capabilities has slowly taken off, helped by the rock-bottom price on many of these systems (Chromebooks can be had for as little as $149.) Now it seems that Microsoft wants to challenge Google’s Chromebook with a project of its own, courtesy of Acer.

Cloudbook

We don’t know much about the Cloudbook, yet, save for its $169 price and 11-inch form factor, but recent events suggest Acer is hunting desperately for a new revenue driver. The company didn’t put out a full press release for its latest earnings, but it did note that its revenue fell 27.6% thanks to weakened demand in the Chinese market (the Chinese stock market has been in free-fall in recent days, which hasn’t really helped matters). The company reportedly believes that a combination of Chromebook-style systems and higher-end gaming PCs can help restore it to profitability, but analysts that combed through the company’s Chinese statements report that its quarterly revenue may have just been the lowest since 2006.

AcerQuarterly

Data compiled by Charles Arthur.

Meanwhile, the idea of a new “Cloudbook” also jives with much of what we know aboutWindows 10 and Microsoft’s own plans. While the manufacturer hasn’t explicitly said that it would target this type of device, Nadella has talked about introducing new PCs and ideas around Windows 10. The launch of so-called Universal apps that are meant to bridge the Mobile and Desktop operating environments means that Microsoft could conceivably offer light-duty systems that are designed to run a collection of web applications and tap into the mobile versions of its Office suite, rather than pushing low-cost customers towards the “full” version of Windows 10.

What’s less clear is how these new devices might or might not be limited as far as available Windows 10 features. These devices will ship with full Windows 10, not Windows 10 Mobile, which means they should have access to the Desktop and conventional x86 applications. The “Cloudbook” moniker might be Microsoft’s way of launching a new class of device, or it might refer to value-added products that Acer intends to offer on its own, such as cloud storage or file locker support. Either way, entry-level Windows 10 systems will apparently debut as low as $169 — we’ll see if they can match the ARM-based Chromebooks we’ve seen at that price point.






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