Why Windows 10 notebooks won’t kill Chromebooks

Acer recently announced new notebooks powered by Microsoft's Windows10, and some bloggers were quick to call it the end of Google Chromebooks. Is it?

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Credit: Todd Anderson/Flickr

Before we discuss why Windows 10 devices won’t kill Chromebooks, we need a little background. This is not the first time Microsoft is launching an assault on Linux. I have seen Microsoft's reactionary attack on Linux every time someone tried to compete with its cash cow: Windows OS market.

Microsoft flooded the market with 'cheap' netbooks to destroy any prospects of Ubuntu-powered netbooks taking over the market. Microsoft actually gave Windows XP extra life so it could be slapped on cheap netbooks to compete with inexpensive Linux devices. That strategy worked and Ubuntu netbooks lost.

What's different this time?

This time, Microsoft is not up against a small company trying to find its way in the consumer space; this time they are competing with Google.

And Google has been gradually stealing away Microsoft's market. While Windows market share continues to shrink, Google Android and Chrome OS are taking a bigger share of the pie.

Add to that the fact that Acer's sub-$200 laptop is not the only laptop in the market; there are many such Windows powered devices in the market and they have not been able to kill Chromebooks yet.

Why 'cheap' Windows 10 laptops won't kill Chromebooks

Cheap vs inexpensive. Microsoft's strategy seems to be throwing cheap hardware in the market to knock Google off. The problem is it is cheap hardware that ruins user experience. I bought a cheap (it was still over $270) Windows laptop for my niece a few weeks ago and I could clearly see how bad it was. In fact, the trackpad was so bad that I ended up buying a mouse for her.

My less expensive and older Samsung Chromebook looked like a premium device next to this laptop and its trackpad is flawless. And as for my brand new, $179 Chromebook flip with aluminum casing, top-notch trackpad, touchscreen and dual function as a tablet... it wouldn't be a fair fight to compare my niece's Windows 10 laptop to it.

From the hardware standpoint, Acer Cloudbook doesn’t come with powerful chips, its heart beats with 1.6Ghz Celeron processor and has 2GB of RAM. By comparison my Toshiba laptop has 4GB of RAM and AMD E1-2100 Accelerated Processor with AMD Radeon HD 8210 graphics. What’s ironic is that bloggers are calling it a Chromebook killer even when they have not seen the laptop in real life; there is no killer hardware in that Cloudbook. I bought my Samsung Chromebook back in 2011 and it has mere 2GB of RAM and Samsung Exynos 5 Dual core processor and it still beats low end Windows laptops.

Performance

Windows 10 is a massive improvement over Windows 8, but it is still Windows. Chrome OS, on the other hand, is a modern OS that uses an extremely lightweight Linux base to offer an optimized experience.

The moment you load two or three CPU-intensive or RAM-intensive apps on ‘cheap’ Windows laptops, it falls on its knees and starts to crawl (as I experienced on a virtual machine with 2GB of RAM). I could not even think of running Photoshop or LightRoom on it (which recommend 8GB of RAM). Chromebook on the other hand flies (all it runs is the Chrome browser fully optimized for the hardware); no matter how many tabs you have opened (for me it's usually over 50) or how many image editing apps you are running on it. There is no affect on performance.

Pricing

You may get Windows 10 for free with the purchase of a laptop, but you could have to pay a licensing fee to upgrade to the next version of Windows. With Chromebooks you get free OS updates for life.

Virus vs security

Just check the cyberattacks in 2015 and tell me in how many cases it was Microsoft software at the center of the attack. In almost every case, some security holes in Microsoft products were exploited. I would be interested in a report to see how many trillions of dollars are lost every year due to attacks on Microsoft products.

The icing on the cake is that Microsoft is notorious for not fixing these holes, immediately. There are reported cases that Microsoft didn’t release fixes for critical holes for more than three months.

Linux-based Chrome OS is extremely secure by design. And unlike Microsoft, Google is quick to release patches for any security hole. It also encourages researchers to find holes in its products -- and rewards them for it.

Losing work

I despise rebooting my Windows system (which you have to do every time you install some software); you never know whether Windows will boot normally or in ‘blue screen of update’ mode.

There have been many cases where people experienced serious loses because Windows chose to update the system at a critical time. And Windows updates can take hours. It happened to me a few days ago. We were staying at a friend's place and we needed to print some tickets. We asked him if he could do so. He opened his laptop and Windows booted into the update mode. It wasted our valuable 20 minutes before we could print the tickets. Can you afford that downtime?

This is non-existent problem on Chromebooks because it uses a modern update mechanism: there are two versions of Chrome OS installed on a Chromebook. If there is an update the inactive version gets the update while you continue to use the active version. When you reboot your system, the Chromebook switches the OS and runs the updated one. This cycle continues, forever.

App ecosystem

Not much comes free in Windows land; not even the DVD player software, although there are free third-party alternatives. For Microsoft Office, you'll have to pay around $100 per year. In ten years you would have paid $1000 just for the office suite. Google Docs, on the other hand, is free. You don't have to spend a dime, and it runs smoothly on Chromebook. Yes, you can also run it on a Windows PC inside a browser and Chrome is known for being resource hungry, so I wonder what kind of experience would that be on cheap Windows machines.

There are dozens of good quality apps which are available for free on ChromeOS. One may argue there are ‘freeware’ apps for Windows as well, and that is true, but it's also a haven for viruses, malware and adware. I would never trust a third-party free Windows app, unless it’s open source. As far as Windows Store is concerned, it’s a big mess. And don’t forget every new app you open on low end Windows hardware will take a bite out of your 2GB of RAM and slow your system down even more.

And don't forget you may also have to cough up some money to get antivirus software for your Windows machine.

Windows 10 is Adware

Ads are at the heart of Windows 10 and other Microsoft products. They are baked into the OS itself and there is no way a user can get rid of them without breaking the system. It also creates privacy issues as Windows 10 has many built in ‘features’ that send user data to the company.  

There is no such baked in feature in Chromebook. Yes, it is a cloud-based OS and what you store on Google Drive is stored on Google servers, but it's not as intrusive as Windows 10 is. There are no ads popping up on Hangouts the way they show on Skype; there are no ads on Google Docs or Google+.

When I look at Google's ad-supported services, I see clear benefit for users - ads in return for free services. But when I look at Microsoft I find myself scroogled: I paid heavily for the OS, then I pay for the service and still I get to see ads?

Closing remarks

I don’t see Windows 10 laptops destroying Chromebooks. And I think I've made the case for the clear advantages of Chrome OS over Windows 10. What do you think? Will you be buying a cheap Windows 10 laptop? Let me know in the comments.

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