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8/19/2014
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HP's $199 Windows Laptop: Chromebook Killer?

Leaked specs show what a budget-friendly Windows device might offer. Is it enough to stem surging Chromebook sales?

Windows 8.1: 8 Things I Hate About You
Windows 8.1: 8 Things I Hate About You
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

In July, Microsoft previewed HP's Stream, a $199 Windows 8.1 laptop, but little else has been said about the device. Support documents posted online have revealed the Stream's specs and given the market its first sense of what a $200 Windows PC might offer.

The Stream will run Windows 8.1 with Bing, one of several free and low-cost Windows licenses offered to OEMs. Microsoft introduced the new options in an effort to make Windows devices more affordable and to stem rising sales of Google's Chromebooks. With a price that undercuts most similarly sized Chromebooks (often by more than $100), the Stream could help Microsoft's cause. But recent Chromebook momentum makes the issue far from certain.

Even though the Stream isn't yet available, HP -- perhaps inadvertently -- posted a maintenance guide for the device. First spotted by MobileGeeks.de, the guide documents the Stream's specs and components, which are headlined by an AMD A4 Micro-6400T quad-core processor clocked at 1.0 GHz and a Radeon R3 integrated graphics chip.

[Windows 8's struggled, but Microsoft might be primed to rebound. Read Windows 'Threshold': 7 Things to Expect.]

InformationWeek asked HP to confirm the specs listed in the guide and reveal when the device would be available. An HP spokesperson told us the company currently has nothing to share about the device, other than that it is working on a family of Stream products that run Windows.

According to the guide, the Stream will feature a 14-inch non-touch display with 1366 x 768-pixel resolution. It will come with either 32 GB or 64 GB of flash storage, 2 GB of RAM, a 720p webcam, two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, and a HDMI connector. The guide also indicates that Microsoft will offer Stream owners 100 GB of free OneDrive storage for two years.

When the device hits the market, it will be cheaper than most Chromebooks, which have become enormously popular in the education sector and are starting to show mainstream traction. Earlier this month, Gartner predicted Chromebook shipments will reach 5.2 million units this year, and almost triple that number by 2017. As InformationWeek's Thomas Claburn pointed out, that total -- 14.4 million units -- would be only around 2 million less than the number of Macs Apple sold last year.

Still, not everyone is persuaded that Chromebooks are poised to break out. Earlier this summer, Techaisle analyst Anurag Agrawal told InformationWeek contributor Kevin Casey that Chromebooks' ultimate popularity depends on a range of unanswered questions, including whether IT will embrace the devices as thin clients and how Google and its partners advance the "cheap-and-simple" ethos under which Chromebooks launched. HP's rep stated that the company is dedicated to providing customers a range of operating system choices.

Agrawal also said Microsoft could shake things up with a "Bing book"-- more or less what the Stream is expected to be. But that doesn't mean manufacturers will abandon blossoming Chrome-based lineups while they try out Microsoft's new offering. HP, for instance, produces a range of Chromebooks.

Last October, HP CEO Meg Whitman characterized Microsoft as a rival, and began hyping Windows 7 PCs once it became clear Windows 8 devices were not in high demand. Given this backdrop, if the Stream doesn't sell well, HP might continue to invest more resources in Google platforms.

Then again, HP has already invested in one other budget-oriented Windows 8.1 device -- the $250, touch-equipped Pavilion 10z notebook, which launched in July. It's likely HP and other PC OEMs are simply playing the field until the market for budget computers shakes out.

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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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Readon
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Readon,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/31/2014 | 4:22:24 PM
Re: $199 magic
This new HP could be a nice browsing/light workload device.  But the comment below about display costs is dead on and gives me pause.  I picked up a second hand HP 14 Chromebook for a song, used it for a few days, and returned it.   The OS was fine and snappy and the overall build was great, but putting the displays next to each other with my old $300 Windows lappy, it was night and day. The HP looked harsh, fuzzy and washed out.  A good display check is how lines look--they should be somewhat "lineish" and fluid, not pixelated like on the HP. That makes reading a chore.  If these inexpensive W8 machines come out with similar displays, that's an issue for me.

Reports are that the display manufacturers are having a hard time keeping up with demand as a result of people replacing XP machines and unexpected demand for Chromebooks, so they are raising prices. Time to keep track of display technology advances on the low end before jumping in again--Give me a 12 or 13 inch IPS-ish screen on one of these low price devices and I'm in.

Also, maybe wait for Threshold.

 

 
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2014 | 1:15:13 PM
Re: Sounds great, but........
@ashu001> "Android Users don't think twice before changing their Brand if the Other Phone clicks for them;Apple fans just stick on."

If they do that because they reach respectively like the OS they're using, then that makes sense doesn't it? There's no alternative for iOS fans.

I'll say I'm not a fan of Windows Phone (though I have one), and I have found Android to be confusing - perhaps because of the manufacturers customizing it to their own way of thinking. As such, I do personally lean towards an iOS device. But then there's more to it than that; I also have Mac at work and at home, so I have the additional benefit of an ecosystem that exists across multiple devices, so just as Apple planned, I'm tempted to stay within the iOS/OSX family just to maintain the native syncing features. That doesn't mean I wouldn't like a larger screen though, nor that it irritates me that Apple has locked their keyboard down for so long, etc. I'm glad to see some of these things appear to be changing over time.

 

"If you are Happy with a Phone that you just plan to use for Calling ,Texting ,Messaging,Alarm Clock and Calendar then an iPhone works well."

*lol* I suspect there are several million iPhone users who would argue that your characterization of their device is a tiny bit one-sided. Not everybody wants to carry around a phablet, and find the iPhone a reasonable compromise between functionality and size. I guess it's all about what's important to you.
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2014 | 11:51:41 AM
Re: Sounds great, but........
Herbert,

I actually am a Windows Mobile User-Lumia 1520 currently(My Last phone was an Android phone) & I am enjoying it thoroughly.

I respect all your Other basic Arguments here-there is a definite Herd Mentality when it comes to Apple iPhone users.While Android Users don't think twice before changing their Brand if the Other Phone clicks for them;Apple fans just stick on.

Its nice to watch just don't feel it will fly with Cost-Conscious and Penny Pinching folks for much longer.

Have already seen trends around this in Asia ,South America and Africa(where iPhones are'nt subsidized by their Carriers) their sales have failed to pick up primarily because of their Prohibitive costs and closed Ecosystem.

It really depends on what all you want to do with your Phone.

If you are Happy with a Phone that you just plan to use for Calling ,Texting ,Messaging,Alarm Clock and Calendar then an iPhone works well.

But if you want to do Heavy Duty Browsing and Video Watching as well as Reading and reviewing Documents on the Move constantly you need a  Bigger Screen which an iPhone Does'nt provide.

It also saves you from having to go around lugging multiple Devices-A Phone+Tab+Laptop???

Why not just have one Device instead?

Regards

Ashish.
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2014 | 11:36:37 AM
Re: Sounds great, but........
@Ashu001> "Disposable Incomes are down to;which obviously means that people want to make their hard-earned money Go the Extra Mile."

I worked in the mobile service provider industry for almost 5 years. My experience from that provider and from looking around me was that even though the economy had gone into the crapper, people of all income levels somehow miraculously could find the money to buy an iPhone or another expensive smart phone. The biggest financial change we say saw that lower income customers would generally end up with a phone on pre-pay rather than post-pay contracts. However, that didn't seem to slow the sales down.

I would posit that if somebody wants the iPhone - especially if they want it as a status symbol - they will find a way to pay for it despite any problems with the economy. That doesn't mean that it's the smart thing to do, but that's how these things seem to work. 

"The cutting edge stuff from Apple is never really that(especially since Jobs passed away) and you usually see better stuff(at much lesser prices) with most of their competitors today."

And yet somehow, Apple is still in business. That suggests to me that there's a flaw in your logic somewhere, or you're missing another factor that drives consumer behvaior.

"Once you get used to a Large Screen (5inch ++);I have no idea why would anyone want to squeeze and squint their eyes staring at a PUNY iPhone screen"

Let's play a game of "Spot the Android User." Oh, there you are; I win ;-) I like large screens, but to turn your argument around I could ask who wants a phone that you can't hold and use with one hand, that fits badly in your pocket and makes you look like you're holding an encylopedia up to your head when you're on a phone call. What is important to you might just not be what's important to everybody else. If it were otherwise, each company would only need to sell one phone, and everybody's phone would look the same.

 
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2014 | 10:58:06 AM
Re: Sounds great, but........
herbert,

You have to look at this issue in the context of the fact that Things have only gotten much worse Economically for most Ordinary Americans in the last 5-7 years(The Data I have seen says for the Poorest percentage of Americans ;their Incomes are down a WHOPPING 16% since its peak way back in 1999.

If incomes are falling you can bet (100 to 1) that Disposable Incomes are down to;which obviously means that people want to make their hard-earned money Go the Extra Mile.

This is where Apple's iSomethings rarely make any sense(unless they come either bundled with Data Plans or are older last Generation Phones which are sold for really cheap in Walmart).

The cutting edge stuff from Apple is never really that(especially since Jobs passed away) and you usually see better stuff(at much lesser prices) with most of their competitors today.

Think about the Phone Screens for instance.Once you get used to a Large Screen (5inch ++);I have no idea why would anyone want to squeeze and squint their eyes staring at a PUNY iPhone screen.

Regards

Ashish.

 
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2014 | 12:36:05 AM
Re: More Garbage from Microsoft
@asksqn> "A Win8 OS touted as a Chrome killer?  LOL highly unlikely.    I couldn't be paid to take a truckload of MS latest epic fail OS.  I'd rather just pay the extra $50.00 and a buy a Chromebook instead."

 

I don't doubt you, although you're probably enough of a nerd to care about the difference. I wouldn't underestimate the power of the familiar, and even though Windows 8 seems to have been tremendously unpopular, the Windows brand still holds a lot of sway with many consumers. Many may feel more comfortable with a Windows machine than an alternative.
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
User Rank: Ninja
8/31/2014 | 12:27:12 AM
Re: Sounds great, but........
@ashu01> "Does it really make any sense to Splurge so much more on an iSomething Gadget when you can always get another device that does basically the same thing for a much-much lower price?"

 

Presumably some people, at least, feel that the same thing is NOT available elsewhere, or you'd see a much higher  defection rate I'd think?
asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
8/30/2014 | 10:46:03 PM
More Garbage from Microsoft
A Win8 OS touted as a Chrome killer?  LOL highly unlikely.    I couldn't be paid to take a truckload of MS latest epic fail OS.  I'd rather just pay the extra $50.00 and a buy a Chromebook instead.
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
8/30/2014 | 5:12:26 PM
Re: Sounds great, but........
Chris,

You raise a fair point here.I would also like to look at it from a different perspective-That of a parent.

If your kid accidentally "breaks" a 200 dollar machine you are less inclined to get angry/upset with your kid as against if the Kid breaks a 700 Dollar isomething machine!

This is the kind of price which is perfect even in  Developing Markets.At this price-point you the New Emerging Middle-Class there would love to lap up this Machine!

If MSFT,Dell,HP and the rest play it right it will definitely be a win-win for all concerned.

Regards

Ashish.
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
8/30/2014 | 4:48:19 PM
Re: Chromebook Killer?
Sonic,

HP is making so many mistakes its almost as if they plan to Exit this Space entirely(by consistenly shooting themselves in the Foot).

You remember the uncertainty a few years back;when they Shockingly announced(when the PC business was doing okay and definitely much better than today) that they would exit the PC Business entirely-which was then finally rescinded?

But by then,the Damage(to their Brand-Name) already done.

It also helps the Likes of Dell and even Lenovo that they are'nt public Companies today.

The constant pressure of Analysts ,markets & General Public on Listed Companies today is very-very intense.

Which is why they are forced to fire so many employees today,leading to such a fall in Morale.

Regards

Ashish.

 
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