Leading notebook vendors are preparing to launch Windows notebooks priced from $199 to $249 in the second half of the year.
The report comes from Digitimes, which has a track record chequered enough to end up on the Croatian flag. Digitimes cites upstream supply chain sources, but the report is in line with previous reports on matter. Earlier this month it emerged that Microsoft and several PC vendors are pushing cheap Windows 8.1 notebooks. HP is rumoured to be working on a $199 notebook for the holiday season.
Thanks to Digitimes, we now know what to expect in terms of specs. The Chromebook killers will be available in 10.1- to 15.6-inch sizes. They won't feature touchscreens and they will be based on Bay Trail M silicon. Upcoming Braswell parts will eventually replace Bay Trail in the second quarter of 2015.
The designs are under 25mm thick (roughly an inch). They will ship with anywhere from 1GB to 4GB of RAM and some SKUs will pack small SSDs, 16GB to 32GB. The former does not sound like a very practical option on a Windows 8.1 system. While it is possible to install Windows 8.1 on a 16GB or 20GB drive, any system with no additional storage on the side would be utterly pointless. Of course, SKUs with traditional hard drives of up to 500GB will be available, too. Battery life of at least five hours is expected.
It all resembles netbook craze of 2008, but this time around Microsoft's hardware limitations sound relatively lax and there will be a number of sizes to choose from, i.e. bigger screens will make a lot more sense in some niches.
2-in-1s and more
Intel already has reference designs for affordable $294-$399 notebooks, along with pricier $399-$599 designs. The chipmaker is also pushing 2-in-1 devices, ranging in size from 10.1 to 14 inches. However, 2-in-1s are still too pricey to take on Chromebooks.
For the time being Chromebooks are doing quite well in several niches. Schools and businesses are picking them up in increasing numbers. According to research firm NDP, Chromebooks accounted for about 35 percent of all US channel notebooks sales during the first five months of the year.
They are light, cheap and cool - which usually isn't the case with cheap Windows notebooks. However, that may be about to change soon. We're not sure about the cool factor, but at least the price is bound to go down.