Should Microsoft Be Scared of Chromebooks?

Over the past year or so, Microsoft has been on the attack against Google, doing such things as accusing the search giant of capitalizing on its users by “reading” their email to generate ads. Since then, there have a number of various attacks against the search giant. The campaign is named Scroogled.

Most recently, the target has been Chrome OS, a Linux-based operating system that is powering an ever-growing number of notebook computers. These devices, known as Chromebooks, are gaining some traction in the market. Should Microsoft, whith more than 90-percent of the operating system ecosystem, be worried?

First, a brief word on what you get when you buy a Chromebook. Many have likened them to Netbooks, a once-popular device that has since disappeared. It’s arguably a fair comparison, given that some devices fall in the size range, such as the HP 11. But Netbooks ran Windows, and these do not.

Chrome OS is essentially a browser, but there is more to it than that. In fact, it does have a desktop, complete with taskbar and system tray – you can even set a wallpaper. There are also off-line apps that allow you to use parts of it even when you are out of range of an internet connection.

As I just pointed out, the software giant still dominates the desktop, but recently a report surfaced that caused a stir around the internet. It claimed that Chromebooks now represented 19-percent of the notebooks sales. It led to some confusion, many thought this was an end-user figure, but in fact, it was actually b2b.

That sounds better until you realize that it is the very core of Microsoft’s market. So the survey actually should be something that does in fact scare Microsoft.

The devices are also the top-selling notebooks on Amazon, which tracks these figures and makes them readily available on its website. In fact, the Chromebook currently occupies three of the top five positions.

Microsoft has many companies in its pocket to build computers for Windows – most recently version 8.1. But gradually, those once-faithful OEMs are beginning to branch out into the Chromebook arena. We’ve seen Dell, HP, Samsung, Acer, Toshiba and more releases these notebooks.

scroogled-chromebook

That creates an interesting problem for Microsoft. The attack ads, which we’ll get to next, could be seen as the company going after the very manufacturers that bring it revenue. It’s almost a lose-lose proposition.

Microsoft has, fairly recently released two anti-Chromebooks ads. One featured the guys from the TV show Pawn Stars taking a look at a Chromebook brought in for sale by a young lady. They refused to take the item, referring to it as a “brick”.

scroogled-video

The next one featured Microsoft’s own Ben Rudolph stomping the streets of Venice, California with a Chromebook in hand, asking various people if they would like a computer such as this. Needless say that those the camera showed all said “no”.

Should Microsoft be worried enough about Chromebooks to warrant these ads? Probably so, yes. We’ve covered the reasons that should give the company notice. The sales that eat into its core business model and its hardware partners now branching out into this field.

Are the Scroogled ads the way to take control of the situation? Likely not. They serve as little more than a joke with the tech press, and prove to be disingenuous. Rudolph pointed that you couldn’t use Docs without a connection, which is untrue, as there is an offline mode. In fact, it is Microsoft’s own Office Web Apps which don’t work without a connection.

Microsoft and Windows aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but there is certainly reason for the company to show early signs of worry.

What do you think?

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gtmcknight/158431481/