The netbook may have gone out of style with the advent of tablets, but the once-popular form factor may be getting some spiritual successors. As The Verge reports, a number of Microsoft's OEM partners are readying low-cost laptops running Windows 8 to compete with Chromebooks. The resurgence of these low-cost systems was touted at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference, which kicked off today.
Microsoft's COO, Kevin Turner, talked about one such laptop that's already on sale, the Acer Aspire ES1. Retailing for $249, the ES1 features a 2.16GHz Intel Celeron CPU, 4GB of memory, 500GB of storage, and a 15.6" screen, which doesn't sound like a bad deal for a basic laptop.
The real competition is yet to come, though. Turner reportedly says that Toshiba and HP are both set to release their own entries in this price range around the holidays. Toshiba's low-cost laptop doesn't have a name, but it's similar to a Chromebook, with an 11.6" screen and 32GB of storage for $249. For its part, HP will introduce three models under the Stream moniker. Two of these will be seven- or eight-inch PCs priced at just $99, while a third, presumably larger Stream will cost $199. I'm curious what a $99 PC looks like, but "limited" is likely a safe descriptor.
I haven't been able to independently verify these reports, since Microsoft's videos of the event aren't up yet. If they're true, though, it's clear that Microsoft has it out for Chromebooks. The company is offering aggressive pricing for Windows licenses on sub-$250 PCs, and the WIMBoot install method introduced with Windows 8.1 should allow for practical installations on Chromebook-like systems. Whether native Windows apps and Office are enough to pull buyers away from Chromebooks remains to be seen, but the competition should be fun to watch.