Dell plans on rolling out a Chromebook in January 2014, aimed at the education market and priced below $300.
The Dell Chromebook 11 will feature an 11.6-inch screen (1366 x 768 resolution) and weigh 2.9 pounds; the company claims 10-hour battery life, which is more than sufficient for the typical school day. On the software side of things, the device will include Google Apps for Education (which features all the usual cloud-based tools in the Google productivity portfolio, including Calendar, Drive, and Sheets).
Chromebooks run Chrome OS, Google’s PC operating system that’s largely dependent on a Web connection and built around Google services such as Gmail. While the first generation of Chromebooks retailed for a bit under $500, Google and its manufacturing partners have worked over the past few quarters to lower the price of subsequent device generations. Over the summer, Acer introduced a Chromebook for $199, while Samsung’s most basic-model Chromebook retails for $249 and up. The Dell Chromebook 11 is clearly part of that cost-cutting trend.
But are Chromebooks (and Chrome OS) a threat to Windows’ longtime dominance of desktops and laptops? Despite the fact that Chromebooks possess relatively little share of the overall OS market, Microsoft has launched a series of vicious attack ads that denigrate Chrome OS as ineffectual for daily needs.
It’s easy to see why Microsoft is a little freaked out. Dell isn’t the first longtime partner to jump aboard the Chromebooks bandwagon: earlier this year, for example, Hewlett-Packard not only announced it would produce laptops running Chrome OS, but that it now sees Microsoft as something of a competitor.
If Microsoft’s manufacturing partners begin churning out more devices loaded with alternative operating systems, it could weaken Windows’ longtime hold on the PC market—and that would prove spectacularly bad news for Microsoft, which can’t afford to see its core business weaken before it can establish a more substantial presence in the burgeoning mobile-devices market (where Google Android and Apple’s iOS enjoy a duopoly). That’s why Microsoft’s reacting so strongly to Chromebooks, which aren’t much of a competitive threat at the moment—it’s the future prospects of Chrome OS, and its impact on the various hardware manufacturers, that worries executives in Redmond.