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Joanna Stern on the $200 HP Stream 11

Joanna Stern:

The HP Stream 11 runs a full version of Windows 8.1 yet costs only $200. But wait, there’s more: It also comes with a free year of Office 365 and 1 terabyte of Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage — a $70 value. Buyers even get a $25 gift certificate for the Microsoft Windows Store. Do the math and this laptop costs $105.

It really does sound like one of those too-good-to-be-true, TV-shopping network deals, minus, of course, the “four easy installments” plan and “Call right now!” instructions. But this isn’t even a holiday special or a clearance deal. It’s Microsoft’s new strategy to try to destroy Google’s low-cost, cloud-based Chromebooks.

So are Chromebooks gaining traction because they’re so cheap? Or is it because in some contexts people want simple devices running Chrome OS? I suspect it’s a little bit of Column A and a little bit of Column B — and so something like this HP Stream 11 isn’t going have much of an effect on Chromebooks.

At what point would it be feasible for Microsoft to give away cheap laptops for “free” in exchange for a two-year Office 365 subscription?

Tuesday, 2 December 2014