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?

What it is

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.

The OEM Problem

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.


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.

The Ads

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”.


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”.

The Bottom Line

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:

Alan Buckingham

Alan is an avid fan of all things technology, including Microsoft, Android, Google, and more. When not writing about or using gadgets and software, he can be found on the trails hiking or mountain biking. More of his work can be read at Making Windows Easy.


  1. I have a Chromebook, so I believe I can speak about its capabilities and limitations. The one I happen to own is a Chromebook Cr-48, which is a Google prototype model they were handing out in limited quantities back in 2010.

    What is fantastic about this system is:
    1. It uses a SSD to house the operating system.
    2. it boots from a cold start in about ten seconds.
    3. When you close the lid it hibernates in about a second, and it wakes up from hibernation in 1-2 seconds.
    4. The keyboard has a feel that is near the top in its class.
    5. The display is also very good for such a low priced system.

    Keep in mind that I have a nearly four year old prototype. Google has also made much higher end systems available, and they equal or surpass mid to high end laptops of similar size, price, and capability. There are also now a number of different vendors to provide these Chromebooks; at first there was only Asus, then when they were first produced, Asus and Samsung. The number of vendors who now carry at least one model of Chromebook suggests that there is, in fact, a market for these systems.

    I won’t be holding my breath waiting for these systems to somehow “take over”, but when you look at the total landscape and see the number of Chromebooks, combined with Samsung Galaxy line smart phones and various brands of Android tablets, all three of those spaces taken together ought to be a great concern. Google seems to be attacking consumers, business, and is looking at car technology away from the home, TV, entertainment, information, home management, you name it. Companies like Microsoft better have a salient strategy, or Google will try to grab it all. That’s not a given, but it is a possibility. Not only Microsoft should be on the watch; all technology companies ought to be assessing this technology and deciding where, when, and to what extent they should compete in these spaces. Ignoring it completely would not be a good idea.

  2. In young generation we are nõder with microsoft os,now need new type of os like carole and linux,thats why we elule like to buy chrome book,my childrens also like chrome book

  3. I own a couple of laptops running Windows 7, the Chromebooks do not interest me as replacements for those laptops. Over the last year I purchased a laptop for my wife running Windows 8 and I would gladly trade that laptop for a Chromebook. My wife wants to surf the web, play a few games and store and upload pictures. This is much harder then it should be since she started using a Windows 8 laptop.

    I also purchased a Windows 8 laptop for my 19 year old son who is Autistic impaired. My biggest concern for him is keeping him out of pornography and violent web sites. Even though I have locked his account down, he still seems to find ways out to whatever sites he wants to look at. If Chromebook allowed me to truly control what he is accessing on the internet I would gladly give him one of those to replace his Windows 8 laptop.

    1. Chromebooks are not meant to be a replacement for laptops, they are the next iteration of netbooks. Although it is possible to do meaningful work with them, they are designed to be a tool of content consumption, not content creation. From your description, a Chromebook would be just the thing for your wife. For your son, if you don’t mind the religious slant, I would agree with Jim Clark and recommend that you replace Win 8 with Ubuntu Christian Edition.

    2. Well, there are Linux distros with interfaces that are easier to use than Windows 8- there are also some easy applications that can help you block certain websites based on filters, words, and reported content.

  4. “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”.”


    I don’t like Win 8.1 either.

    It sucks

  5. Concerning limiting access to pornography:

    There is the free linux operating system from

    It is a Christian Edition of Ubuntu, free and uses Dan’sGuardian out of the box to limit access to nasty sites.


  6. I recently purchased an Acer Chromebook. With 4 meg of flies when opening pages. I never have trouble streaming anything. I still own a Windows-Toshiba laptop. It has plenty of space to save programs and I still enjoy having access to some of my favorites, I am, however, finding more and more apps and ways to do many of the same things online with the Chromebook. There is a learning curve…for this 60 year old.. but I don’t regret at all my purchase. I find myself using the Chromebook and the Windows laptop as a backup rather than the other way around.

  7. Well folks, I have a Win 8.1 portable and love it. Granted, the computer has lots of memory and an SSD to make booting up a concern of the past. As well, I can run all my virtual machines without a hitch. I rather think those that consider the chromebooks, iPads and the like are a real threat probably refer to the home market with very limited functionality. To the rest of us who need a full function system, these devices don’t come close.
    Will their impact the felt by Microsoft, perhaps yes as many folks do not need more than a web browser and perhaps document editor.

    1. Certainly a Win 8.1 portable is much more powerful than any Chromebook. Oh, by the way, how much did you pay for that Win laptop? As you said, two entirely different customer bases and price points.

      I like the idea of a Chromebook, especially when traveling. The size and price of a tablet but with a real keyboard. And I don’t have to worry about viruses with one either. That in itself makes them a standout, under any circumstances. Limited off line apps are really not that big of a deal for me. I bet 95% of my home computer use is web connected stuff. On the Job it is a different story. Even there, the push is on for web based applications.

  8. Microsoft SHOULD be worried about Chromebooks and tablets but, for the most part, there is nothing MS can do about their proliferation. Chromebooks and tablets are being purchased by people who never needed a full-featured desktop or laptop with a full-featured O/S but had to buy one because that’s what was available. As Lindsay says, Chromebooks and tablets are for “folks who do not need more than a web browser and perhaps a document editor.” MS will never get these customers back. Microsoft’s core customer base is the corporate world and maybe the gamer, not the casual PC user.

  9. I’m assuming by ‘b2b’ (in the article) the author meant ‘business-to-business’. If this is the case – that MS’s bread-and-butter clients are moving away from Windows-based systems to find solutions elsewhere, then indeed there is a concern.
    For MS… not for the businesses, definitely. :D
    I’ve struggled with MS-based OSes since the DOS days. I still use Windows now – the software I use runs best in that environment – but in virtual machines, with Mint as the host. I have set up a number (getting close to 50 or more) machines in recent times with some flavour of Linux on them, and none of these have come back with issues, unlike all the systems I’d set up in the past with Windows.
    I think people – and SMBs – are just sick of the “anti-virus/anti-malware/PC-slowdown/yadayada” MS treadmill and with the options available and the imminent demise of XP are realising they aren’t limited to one or two vendors or solutions as they were in the past, and are choosing with their pocketbooks.
    Delighted to see this happening!!!

    1. Well, businesses and enterprises have been leaving MSFT for Linux in a steady stream for quite a while now, so this isn’t new-news. Just happy news~

  10. Some arguments stated here in the advantage of Google don’t hold at all
    Like the anti virus issue from Robin; Google’s Android is now under heavy attack from hackers. It will not be long before we need anti virus programs there as well.

    Then the hardware based issues.
    Whenever one company comes with some new design like using a nice keyboard ore using SSD then others come with the same design soon after. In fact the keyboard is kind of borrowed from the MAC as they still have the best feeling.
    And just look at the Google Glasses. Samsung already has there version ready to market.

    What some have said about the use, I think, is true. If you don’t have needs for power, i.e. like when working with 3D design, then you don’t need a full grown PC on the corner of you desk.
    I gladly would buy a Chromebook, tablet or an inbetweener that can be used as a tablet but can be extended with a keyboard for looking at my recipe collection in the kitchen and having a powerful PC for when I need it. Next to it I will have a storage device that can be accessed from my PC, tablet, my TV and so on.

    Microsoft surely must pay attention to this development but i don’t think there is a real threat right now.

    1. Anti-virus is after-the-fact… IOW: useless as a preventative and almost useless as a cure for infection. Besides, there already is an antivirus for Linux: ClamAV. I use it for files I share with Windows users. I have done scans on my system (Mint 64-bit) and found the odd bug I picked up on dodgy torrent sites. Of course, they could never *DO* anything to my system. They weren’t permitted to ‘run’ so they just sat there, waiting to be cleaned up. :D
      I have never, ever been affected or had my Linux system compromised by a virus, and I’ve been using various distros since 2005. I’ve finally settled on Mint because it’s reasonably easy to use and I’m fairly lazy. :-/
      Safety by obscurity is not how Linux protects itself… common misconception, though. :)

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