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Chromebooks took a hike. Find them at Chromebookworld

Chromebookworld logoAfter increasing my coverage on the interesting Chromebook sector recently I didn’t feel happy with it in the UMPCPortal timeline. You’ll now find my Chromebook coverage at Chromebookworld.com.

In many cases Chromebooks are highly portable and often use similar platforms to the ultra-mobile PCs we track here but they aren’t quite the same as the all-flexible PC/Windows architecture. Chromebooks and ChromeOS have, however, been an interesting topic in 2014 could become an important option for consumers and vertical markets over the next 2 years. Simplicity, efficiency and value are good and high levels of intrinsic security are increasingly important considerations. The rate of improvement continues to impress as native code support feeds-in and we look forward to the promised ports of selected Android applications. Touchscreens are available in some cases and full HD screens are appearing too. There are even 3G/4G options around.

While ultra-mobile PC coverage continues here I’ll be increasing my coverage of Chromebooks over there. I’ve ordered the Lenovo N20p Chromebook touch/flex Chromebook and I’m heading to IFA and IDF in the next weeks too so there will be lots to talk about.

Join me at ChromebookWorld for a complete database of the latest Chromebooks and specifications, interesting reports and occasional reviews. You can also join-in on Facebook and Twitter.

Microsoft’s 8 Reasons to choose Windows Laptops instead of Chromebooks

Microsoft and Google are now head to head in the $250 laptop market and it’s going to be one big fight. Chromebooks and the Google ecosystem vs low-cost Windows laptops and the Microsoft ecosystem.  I have my opinion on which option is better (tip: there’s no best laptop, just a best laptop for you) and many of you have solid opinions too but what do Microsoft say? On their Windows 8 Chromebook comparison page Microsoft have listed 10 points that should be considered before choosing between the two.

Interestingly, and so, so obviously, Microsoft have omitted the discussion on security.

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What they do mention is: Applications, desktop, printers, DRM content, peripherals, document locations.

You’ll notice that there are only 6 points there. That’s because Microsoft want to tell you that there are three types of applications to consider. Office (and other Windows programs,) Skype (and other Windows programs) and  PC games (which are Windows programs.)  Two more bullet points cover Web and Web apps for which the Chromebook is also given credit.

My personal list of Chromebook issues is similar:

Skype, Local storage, Printing, Microsoft Office, Offline applications, USB device support, Playing a CD or DVD/Video format support, Network attached storage access, Music player synchronization, DRM content. [More detail here.]

The elephant in Microsoft’s room is the important area of security. I’m very impressed with the security features available on Windows 8 but it’s not easy to make sure you have these features in your laptop or even to configure them when you have them. Chromebooks have the huge advantage that they don’t assume that the user is going to proactively act to improve security. “We update transparently and try to provide safe defaults without asking users to make security decisions” [src.]  Cheap Windows 8 tablets do a good job if you use a Microsoft account (disk encryption, login tracking, secure boot, sandboxed apps in RT mode) but more needs to be done for the laptops which don’t have some of these features. Windows desktop remains a huge risk area too.

One other point I would argue, and Microsoft should bring this forward, is the fun aspect of using a touchscreen Windows device in RT mode. Chromebooks are as boring as Windows 7 laptops were and that’s not going to attract consumers in the sub $300 bracket. Devices like the Lenovo N20p might change that but only if Chrome OS evolves to offer better touch features and a richer choice of entertainment.

As you might have noticed I’m increasing my coverage of Chromebooks as simple, portable, secure PCs. I predict they will sell well as they improve over the next few years, they will drive a significant improvement in security across low-cost PC products, they will drive down prices of small Windows PCs and you’ll see some movement of Chromebooks into the ultra-mobile space very soon. I look forward to the first sub-1KG product.

We’re tracking the lighter Chromebooks in our database.

Acer Aspire ES1 Windows laptop will compete against cheap Chromebooks

I briefly mentioned the Acer Aspire ES1 in an article about the Acer Chromebook 13 last week but I think it’s worth taking a closer look at it now because this could be the next $199 Windows laptop. Given the specifications it also hints at a widening of the free Windows OS offer from Microsoft.

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The Acer Aspire ES1 is a basic Windows 8.1 laptop that will be offered with 11.6, 13.3, 15.6 and 17.3-inch. All of them will run on Baytrail-M CPUs but the smallest of them combines that with 32GB of SSD and is launching for 219 Euros (184 Euros before taxes) in Europe. You can assume it will be available for close to that in US dollars too which means it’s the cheapest Windows 8 laptop running a current processing platform. There are some netbook-era sub $200 laptops around but they’re all 10-inch which is outside the range that consumers, and reviewers, are comfortable with.

You can be sure that the Acer Aspire ES1-111, the Celeron (actually Intel Atom architecture but no-one wants to let that slip in their marketing) with 2GB RAM and the 32GB storage will compete against the Acer Chromebook CB3 (same CPU, same manufacturer,) the ASUS C200 (that I recently reviewed) and the Acer Chromebook C720 which uses a more powerful Haswell-architecture CPU. Retailers in Europe are saying that it will be available in early October.

Acer Aspire ES1-111

Can Windows laptops compete against Chromebooks, at the same price?

Back in 2007 we saw a similar fight as netbook manufacturers looked at ways to completely remove the cost of a Windows license. Linux-based netbooks arrived and shortly after disappeared as the Windows license cost was reduced to insignificance. ChromeOS isn’t your basic Linux distro, I agree, but don’t talk about the advantages of Chromebooks (services, simplicity, security, long battery life) without considering Windows 8. It too has sandboxed applications that auto-update (in the Modern UI environment) secure boot, on-disk encryption, supports low-cost memory and storage configurations and is extremely good at driving down power consumption.  It can also host a USB printer, run Skype and do a lot of other things that you don’t get in Chromebooks. The Aspire ES1 even has an Ethernet port which helps a lot if you’re into cloud-based activities and it comes with a year of Office 360 and storage thrown in. (I’m testing that on a Toshiba Encore 2 WT8 right now.)

For more on the latest Windows 8.1 security features take a look at my Windows 8.1 tablet security report.

How do you make a $200 Windows laptop?

The Acer ES1 is running Windows with Bing, which is interesting as it has an 11.6-inch screen and therefore doesn’t get a free Windows license – which would leave no reason to run Windows with Bing. Simply put it looks like Microsoft are removing or reducing the licence cost across a wider range of for factors and screen sizes now. The cost of designing and building an 11.6-inch Windows laptop is now the same as a Chromebook.

What about 13.3, 15.6 and 17-inch laptops?

MobileGeeks found evidence of an HP Stream a few days ago. It to, according to the report, will run Windows with Bing and have 32GB SSD storage. It has a 15.6-inch screen and Mobilegeeks say it will launch at $199.  If it’s true it will be a groundbreaker. Also in the low-cost price bracket is the HP 15-h015ng with the AMD E1-6010 which also runs Windows with Bing and has a 15.6-inch screen (and could be a version of the HP Stream.) The Lenovo B50, ASUS F200MA, HP 250 G3, Acer Aspire E3-111 and others all in the same boat.

As you look at low-cost laptop offerings over the next months expect to see a number of Windows options in the $200-$250 range. I’ll be at IFA next week and I expect to find out more there so stay with me for updates.

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