The key components of low price point of Chromebook is because of cloud solution. There is no office application in the harddrive of Chromebook. Rather, users have to run the application in the cloud. Google seemingly is in upper hand.
MSOffice is extremely powerful. You can do a lot of mathematical analysis just using excel alone. In the old days, scientists have to write a program using either Fortran/ Pascal/ C. Life becomes easy with MSOffice. I haven't tried the cloud version of MSOffice - Office 365. I can't comment how good/bad it is compared to the "regular" version. Nonetheless, I think it would be as good as Google Spreadsheet, if not better. With this said, I believe Microsoft "whatever"book might get ahead of Chromebook.
But, wait a minute! If MS has Office 365 and is ready, why would they need developers to build more applications for the product? Given the size of harddrive is going to be small, more variety of applications may not do any good, would it? Last but not least, I thought Chromebook was created to counter the dominating position of Windows based notebook. Now, MS has to build something to counter the Chromebook?
"would they need developers to build more applications for the product?" I expect that they are looking for free, advertising supported apps that Google users now tolerate. The capability of such apps are typically much less. App store counts are part of it.
My wife is replaceing an old Mac and today's Fry's ad features a $225 15.6" laptop with a 320Gb drive and 2Gb dram. Of coures, it's Windows 8.1. That's less than I paid for my nexus tablet.
I'm happy with my windows 8.1 but I must admit, I usually use it in "classic shell" mode.
I'm worried about the 2core celeron processer though. But the price is right.
I'd love to see numbers on Chromebooks. It got huge hype when announced 3-4 years ago but didn't get much market traction, then went quiet for awhile and now seems to be having a minor comeback. Samsung opoints to it as a design win for Exynos and Nvidia as a design win for Tegra.
It does seem like the future of cloud centric computing, getting rid of the "Windows tax" of a ~$50 OS royalty. But it still seems like a far future when you can buy a machine with a half terabyte disk for another ~$100.
Yes you can buy a traditional laptop and get the traditional short laptop battery life, a loud fan and the cheap slow HDD... Or you can get a Chromebook with better battery life - there are now versions that last 13 hours!
As for numbers, see eg. http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2819917 As you can see ARM based Chromebooks are by far the most popular. The wave of 64-bit ARMs coming soon will provide an even better alternative to x86 based laptops. Chromebook growth rate for 2014 is estimated at 79%.
There's a big opportunity in this market for a low-end laptop with neither Apple, Google or Microsoft on it. Mine has LinuxMint, but I had to pay the Microsoft tax first. Yes, I do my taxes on it, plus edit video and a few other things, usually off-line.
Because no one wants Linux on a desktop/notebook computer. Ubuntu and Mint have been trying for years and every year is touted as the "year of Linux on desktop" but it never materialises.
Linux seems to be confined to the enthusiasts, hobbyists and hackers; mainstream business/consumers don't want to know. Why? It's too complex and fragmented.
Regardless of how you might look at Windows (in all its iterations) it's still king and seems, it will continue to be. Hardware always needs an OS and Windows is leading the business market, despite having lost a great deal of its lead in the consumer market to tablets and smartphones (not Linux or Mac though!)
Also, because for Linux to get on a desktop or a notebook, it has to uninstall Windows first; no major PC vendor sells Linux pre-installed on their machines very much, because it's not popular.
And to be fair to Microsoft, they're exploring new territories and seeing how they can (a) keep up with the new crop of 'web' companies and (b) finding new markets for their Windows vision.
Microsoft has to expand and compete, in order to survive; you have to 'have a go' at a new product segment, even if it's just to see whether things will succeed or not.
Tablet market (with Surface) was not really "worth" Microsoft's efforts either. If you think about it, they could've just OEM'd RT and Pro to the usual crop of hardware partners, but they decided to get in their themselves (and now through Nokia) as well.
This kind of 'exercise' is good for Microsoft; it keeps them fresh, in competition with the 'web' crop of companies, like Google and ups their marketshare, making them more investable.
IBM does the exact same thing. It's all about marketing and shareholders but being successul in a new segment won't hurt either!