In a bid to address emerging and educational markets with inexpensive laptops, Microsoft Corp. is reportedly working with two companies on ultra-cheap personal computers due this summer. The systems are projected to hit record-low $149 price-point per unit, which is on-par with low-end media tablets from renowned brands.
The two personal computers will feature 11.6” displays and will be based on Intel Atom “Bay Trail-T CR” system-on-chip, reports DigiTimes. Other specifications are unknown, but expect 4GB of DDR3 random access memory, low-end solid-state storage device, support for Wi-Fi, Ethernet, USB and so on. It is not clear whether the laptops will feature Microsoft Windows 8.1 or Windows 10, but the latter option seems more likely as the operating system is set to become available this summer.
One of the PCs will be made by Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS) and will be sold mainly through the education channel that Intel and ECS built for their Classmate PC products. The final price for the notebook is expected to be $179.
3Nod Group, a China-based PC maker, plans to produce consumer versions of ultra-low-cost personal computers designed by Microsoft and sell it for around $149. The report says that the systems will be “sold via brand vendors”. It is unclear whether such systems will be available in China only, or will be sold in different parts of the world.
Last year Microsoft came up with initiative to offer end-users Windows 8.1-based laptops for $199 – $249, but only a few vendors supported the plan. Hewlett-Packard, Acer and Toshiba offered ULCPCs in the U.S. retail, but it is unknown whether the companies are interested in such business now.
By offering ultra-low-cost personal computers, Microsoft wants to ensure that Google cannot capture a significant share of the PC market with its Chrome OS. While in general the plan works, it should be noted that by offering cheap PCs the software giant erodes profit margins of its partners, which is not a good thing.
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KitGuru Says: ULCPCs are nothing new to the market. In 2008 – 2010 a number of PC makers offered underpowered netbook computers based on Intel Atom processors. While initially such systems got popular, eventually their popularity vanished because of poor user experience. Thanks to advances of microprocessors and operating systems, the new netbooks can be more responsive and capable. However, when compared to mainstream PCs or tablets, ULCPCs will hardly look good…