Microsoft needs a real Chromebook alternative


My cheap Windows laptops are laggy and are lousy to use. I’ve determined that I won’t buy a Windows laptop unless it has at least an i5 processor and 8GB of RAM. My $250 Acer Chromebook is snappy and works well even though it has a Celeron processor. I have a family and I would prefer not buy a $1000 laptop for everyone when I am the only one that currently programs.

I don’t like Google’s disregard for user’s privacy. Although I like the performance on my Chromebook, I cringe when I use it. I wish Microsoft created a REAL Chromebook knockoff that truly runs well on low level hardware and that respects user privacy. I don’t want Windows S mode on cheap hardware. Since Linux is no longer a dirty word at Microsoft, why not make a true simplified experience for cheap devices?

Comments (85)

85 responses to “Microsoft needs a real Chromebook alternative”

  1. jimchamplin

    They could do it with Windows. But for some reason, they think locking the existing OS instead of rearchitecting the user-facing components is a better idea.

    Because they’re cheap.

    • Bob Shutts

      In reply to jimchamplin: A lot of users are cheap. So many post about poor performance, etc. Then you discover they allegedly "program." For God's sake, if especially if you're going to program, lay out some cash and buy a decent computer. I assume it's your effing livelihood you're talking about.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to jimchamplin:

      . . . Because they’re cheap.

      MSFT is a business. They have legal obligation to put their shareholders' interests first, and that entails not ignoring costs. MSFT is acting properly when deciding not to spend money on what could be described as unnecessary changes to Windows.

      That said, I think it'd be a mistake in the long-term to ignore the vulnerabilities of dumping EVERYTHING into a single read-write volume, which is a fair description of the standard Windows C: drive. However, it'd be a considerable short- to medium-term expense to redesign Windows to have most of itself on read-only partitions, registry hives on separate read-write partitions, and user files on yet other read-write partitions.

      Perhaps the biggest argument against MSFT ever making substantial changes to Windows would be that any changes which head in the Linux direction would be tacit admissions that MSFT got something wrong which the Linux crowd got right, and the immediate upshot would be speculation about all the other things MSFT got wrong. IOW, a potential PR disaster.


    I really think this is a market best left to companies that like small margins and providing crappy customer service. I was surprised to see Microsoft create the Surface Go product. I don't think that it will sell well in the end .. and they will eventually abandon it. Microsoft needs to be like Apple and focus on the high-end. They should be creating the aspirational devices for the Windows platform. Chromebook are for peasants that want all their personal information handed over to Google. I don't recommend them.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to TEAMSWITCHER:

      Nearly all the companies which make Chromebooks also make Windows laptops. Google itself is the only exception. Why could these OEM's customer service be any better for Windows laptops than Chromebooks?

      And you don't have to use Google services with Chromebooks. Yes, you do need a Google account, meaning a Gmail address and Google Drive, but you don't need to use them.

      I doubt the developers of Caret or Text would be performing text mining for Google for any documents stored in DropBox or OneDrive, certainly not without stating explicitly that they were doing so in their own licenses. Which they don't.

  3. wunderbar

    People won't buy a Windows computer that doesn't run Windows apps (and I mean Win32). Full stop. And a computer running this kind of OS almost 100% certainly won't run the actual apps that people want to run on windows. And, increasingly, the *only* app people actually care about is Chrome, which compounds the problem.

    If you don't need windows apps, a chromebook is 100% fine. If you do, you'll buy a Windows computer that can run them. I just don't see a place for this kind of computer from Microsoft.

  4. christian.hvid

    Microsoft has already proven themselves capable of making operating systems that run on low-end hardware. After all, Windows 10 IoT Core can be run on a Raspberry Pi with just 512 MB of RAM, and Windows 10 Mobile performed admirably on dirt-cheap phones like the Lumia 550. I totally believe they could pull off something similar with a Chromebook knockoff if they wanted. The crucial thing - judging from previous failures like Windows RT - is to keep customer expectations in check and make it really, really obvious that it's not full, classic Windows.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to christian.hvid:

      Does Windows 10 IoT Core run full-featured browsers able to handle lots of concurrent tabs each for script-intensive web sites? Can Windows 10 Mobile handle multiple overlapping windows on screen? Do either play well with DropBox?

      • christian.hvid

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        I assume those questions are rhetorical, but you do point out something important, which is that browsers (regardless of brand) tend to be much worse resource hogs than the underlying operating systems. And that’s really not the browsers’ fault either- it’s the web itself that gets more taxing for every passing year. Low end computers are often said to be “good enough for web browsing”, but in reality we’re rapidly approaching a point where web browsing requires at least a Core i5 and 8 GB.

        • hrlngrv

          In reply to christian.hvid:


          My main point is that the mythological Edgebook would need to run a browser with PC-like capabilities, or at least Chromebook-like capabilities, including window management. Do Windows 10 IoT Core or Mobile provide much in the way of windows management? Serious question. I don't know and am mildly curios.

          And the ability to run Windows 10 IoT Core on a Raspberry PI with just 512MB RAM is simply not worth stating as a plus when there are GUI-capable Linux distributions for Raspberry PI which can run in half that much RAM.

          • christian.hvid

            In reply to hrlngrv:

            There's no question that Linux is infinitely better than Windows at scaling down; it's no coincidence that Microsoft based its new Azure Sphere OS on Linux. But there's also a widespread conception that Windows cannot be downsized at all, and that's obviously not true. Sure, there's a lower limit - the IoT Core download still weighs in at 700+ MB - but ten years of decomposing and componentizing has at least made "lightweight Windows" somewhat less of an oxymoron.

            But again, if the true bottleneck isn't the operating system, but poorly written JavaScript, then maybe the entire question about OS effiency is somewhat moot.

            Since you're asking, IoT Core is single-window and even single-app (which is more or less the case with Chrome OS too, even if you can run apps within the browser). The final versions of Windows 10 Mobile provided a fair level of window management on hardware that supported Continuum, like the HP Elite x3.

            • hrlngrv

              In reply to christian.hvid:

              Sure Windows can be, er, slenderized. However, IoT Core isn't meant for general computing and running lots of concurrent foreground processes. It's meant for handling smart appliances which need to do at most 3 things at the same time, 2 of which would be background tasks.

              Chrome OS is multiple apps but only one major bundled app, the Chrome browser. However, text editors, calculators, VLC, DOSBox, run as separate processes in separate windows by default, and can run offline. The big difference between those Chrome apps and their Linux counterparts is that the Chome OS ones specifically use Chrome OS's window manager.

              It's also necessary to note that Chrome OS really is just a very specialized Linux distribution. Switch it to developer mode, and it obtains a terminal, shell, and command line tools (except for man). From that command line it's possible to install and launch a second windows manager, and then it's possible to run standard Linux GUI software which uses the facilities of the second window manager.

              Chrome OS is just a very specialized distribution with a window manager which only supports GUI software which calls that window manager's functions, mounts all user-writable partitions noexec, and has an extremely restricted shell which provides access only to ~/Downloads on the internal drive.

              Could MSFT match that? Probably, but why would they want to design a restrictive window manager? Could C: be mounted read-only? Mostly, but not registry hives, which would have to live on a separate partition; I can't see MSFT changing that any time soon. As for mounting entire partitions noexec, sure it'd be useful, but again I can't see MSFT pursuing this any time soon. Finally, a file manager which restricts file system browsing may be the simplest of all of these to implement, but could generate the most ill will if MSFT used the word Windows in the OS's name.

          • skane2600

            In reply to hrlngrv:

            The question whether one is talking about a minimal Windows or a minimal Linux, is at what point does it become the OS in name only. Ultimately it only matters what you can do with an OS, not what kernel it uses that gives it its name.

            Once you can beyond tiny embedded systems with tiny power sources, trying to design a product with RAM less than 1GB is mostly just a time-waster. Like insisting that all code be written in assembly language.

            • hrlngrv

              In reply to skane2600:

              Agreed the naming matters a lot. One of MSFT biggest mistakes of its entire corporate life was including the word Windows in Windows RT. I don't see MSFT expending resources creating a restricted OS for which it'd need to create a new brand identity. Way too much payout for the expected payback.

  5. jrswarr

    First off - I am pretty sure that if Microsoft did make such a "knockoff" device it would not run any Win32 programs - ever - and the first thing the reviewers would bitch about. Not being able to install Win32 programs would be a no go.

    Then there is the issue of creating a "knockoff" OS (possibly from the Free Android source) - setting up a place in the MS store to find required software - and once again the massive task of getting developers to port programs to this new OS.

    Frankly, Microsoft already has this covered in Windows S mode. If you can forgo Win32 then most light tasks run fine on Windows 10 in S mode.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to jrswarr:

      There's A LOT of FOSS which MSFT itself could port to such a new MSFT OS. However, by doing so MSFT would undercut commercial ISVs as well as Windows itself.

      More simply, there may still be money to be made from Win32 software, there may be a little money to be made from UWP software (but I doubt it), but there's no money to be made developing software for a MSFT OS meant to have feature comparability with Chrome OS. Actually, I admit ignorance on an important point: are there any ISVs making appreciable money on PWAs?

  6. Tony Barrett

    MS value your data just as much as Google do and are data mining for all their worth to try and keep up with Google, Facebook and Amazon. Privacy is important though - and it just depends who you trust more (or less), and I don't trust MS at all these days. They're a different company now, and data as well as monetizing the user is everything to them these days as they move to a cloud and services company, and Windows 10 is just a conduit for them to extract all the information they need.

  7. BigM72

    Let's just say Microsoft did make an Edgebook (like ChromeOS, running nothing but Edge).

    Let's say some people even bought it.

    How would it benefit Microsoft?

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to BigM72:

      . . . How would it benefit Microsoft?

      Financially? Not at all.

      But think of the sympathy it could generate within MSFT for the plight of its OEMs!

      Then again, sympathy for OEMs ain't exactly in MSFT's corporate DNA.

  8. Daekar

    I will never buy a new laptop again when refurbs are available. It's incredible what you get for your money. I got a 15" touchscreen business-class ultrabook with 8GB of RAM, 128GB SSD, and a 5th-gen i5 for $200. At that kind of price I could buy a replacement machine for each member of a family four every two years and spend the same amount on laptops for the whole family as it costs to get a single flagship phone every two years... and always have more than enough power for enjoyable productivity work no matter what OS it's running.

    Here's what you do: buy a cheap refurb and put Ubuntu, ElementaryOS, or Mint on it if you don't want Windows. Use Chromium or Firefox and run the O365 web apps or the Google Office web apps. I have the latest edition of Ubuntu running alongside Windows 10 on mine just for kicks and I really enjoy being able to switch back and forth while still being able access a good bit of the Office functionality I need when not in Windows. Linux makes me appreciate Windows and vice-versa.

    • Orin

      In reply to Daekar:

      What model laptop do you have? Where did you find it? I'm curious :-)

    • Minke

      In reply to Daekar:

      I agree that repurposing an old laptop or desktop with some flavor of Linux can be a great way to go. Frankly, I usually just get the computers for free when someone else gives up on a buggy, failed Windows installation and instead goes to Best Buy and spends a lot to get something that is way more computer than they need. Then that one fails eventually, and I get another computer to play with! Or ask at almost any business that uses computers and see if they have some older machines in the back room they want to give to someone. Where I used to work we shipped dozens of 2-year old laptops to Africa every couple of years for use in schools, after the best ones were raffled off to staff that wanted them. My dad's fairly decent Toshiba began to get the Windoze slowz and I gave up fiddling with it and instead just installed Endless OS (another Linux distro) and it works perfectly for him with almost no intervention on my part. Plus, it is faster and easier for him to use.

  9. wright_is

    Chromebooks are too overpriced to be serious over here.

    For a Celeron based Chromebook you can get an i3, 8GB Windows laptop with an SSD.

  10. Illusive_Man

    Open source Windows

  11. jdmp10

    Not that I am a proponent of Steve Jobs or his Nostradamus predictions of the future but I think his post-PC era statement years back I think is slowly getting some footing. Chrome OS is becoming a more viable alternative computing device for a good majority of people and something legacy like Windows and even MacOS is for a very small subset of people, mostly professionals that need the horsepower or particular software that have to have those platforms.

    Whatever Andromeda is internally at Microsoft, it has to be something completely different to how Windows operates now. We can think of it as the next iteration of Windows Phone OS or the evolution of Windows 8.1, both of which were more than decent on a touch oriented device. If they try to shrink Windows 10, making concessions everywhere they see fit to accommodate touch, it won't be any better than using Windows 10 now in Touch Mode. It has to be a complete rework with almost no hint of legacy Windows if it has any chance of surviving in the future where today's young kids who will likely not use a keyboard/mouse legacy setup and use touch on any computing device they use.

    • skane2600

      In reply to jdmp10:

      I would say that the evidence suggests that Jobs' post-PC prediction was wrong given that tablet sales have declined in recent years. I also don't think Chromebooks really fit in to Jobs' vision which was about touch-based devices used for productivity without keyboard or mouse. Even the iPad Mini and the iPad Pro are somewhat outside of it, the former because it's too small for productivity and the latter because it leaning toward a laptop format.

      Chromebooks are fine for some people but it's hard to make the case that is a "viable alternative computing device for a good majority of people" given the tiny minority of people who use one. Technical people and enthusiasts sometimes believe they know people's needs better than the people do themselves, but you can't sustain a product based on what people "should" buy.

      • Minke

        In reply to skane2600:

        I would argue that the "tiny minority" of people who use Chromebooks is growing rapidly, and with their strong showing in schools they are developing the next generation. Plus, businesses tend to be very traditional and averse to change, despite there being an obviously better way. The last two places I worked did use PCs, but most job titles would have been better off with Chromebooks running G Suite. Many businesses need nothing that isn't available in the cloud or as SaaS. Instead, we went through the ongoing painful updates, bugs, performance issues, etc. that are part of the accepted norm with Windows. As for consumers, many are abandoning traditional computers and use nothing but smartphones for everything. A Chromebook would be the perfect supplement for those times you must have a keyboard or use a spreadsheet at home.

    • VancouverNinja

      In reply to jdmp10:

      Chrome OS is a completely dead platform. It is a symbol only of an epic failure - Windows Mobile was a better success; think about that for a moment.

      Windows 10 is solid and is only getting better right now. I don't see any need to supplant it with a new OS. And if you look at how many consumers, businesses, students (above K-5) are still selecting Windows 10 over anything else the whole "MS gotta fix Windows" is woefully wrong. I do support advocating improvements; MS like any other company has much they can improve upon. I have only seen MS moving hard to become a better tech provider than in the past and I would place them on the top of the heap when it comes to the top 4 players.

  12. cayo

    This makes no sense. Saying that Microsoft needs a real Chromebook the same as saying that Google needs a real Windows Phone alternative.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to cayo:

      No one is making Windows Phones today, but some OEMs are making Chromebooks.

      Better analogy would be Ferrari needing to make economy cars because of all the money Kia is making.

  13. Lauren Glenn

    Go on eBay and find an older laptop. I have 2 of them. One is my Acer Aspire Timeline X 1830T. Takes up to 8GB of RAM, 2TB of drive space (SATA port 9.5mm max)... cost me $125. I had to buy Windows 10 license for it, but if you look hard enough, you can find a license for it for about $20 for full install key.

    One thing Windows has going for it is that the machines last for maybe 10 years so even if you get a second hand machine, it's still good for a few years at that cost. It runs Win10 fine as long as you use O&O Shut Up 10 to turn off Cortana..... which I seriously hate using.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to alissa914:

      If you want to be really cheap, install the latest Insider build on a 'new' refurbished PC then opt to switch out of the Insider program when new 'versions' RTM.

  14. nfeed2000t

    I wouldn't need Microsoft for what I am looking for. A Firefoxbook, Duckduckgobook, or Bravebook would be attractive. I suspect the government would also like an option that has better privacy options.

  15. PeterC

    Microsoft doesn’t need a chromebook alternative - it needs a new software identity. It has to leave hardware competing to Apple, google, Samsung, Lenovo, hp, dell and Huawei etc etc.

    It it needs to stop squeezing windows into “everything” and let it stand as a mature os in a couple of flavours with the surface line demonstrating its combi OS & productivity prowess.

    And to survive - it needs to get down and dirty and produce new cutting edge software products/ services. It needs to reinvent being known as the windows company. It is attempting to do this in my opinion.

    But to most people the visible part of MS business is new surface hardware or windows office productivity version. It looks pretty stagnant apart from the surface Go and a new office version.

    Not many are aware of the latest azure xyz development etc or other technologically marvellous other work being done, and let’s face it its not exactly a riveting read.

    So a chromebook competitor .....No. Something new and shiny and not windows based that we all need and not just the enterprise can use.... Yes. What is it? Hmmm probably ask google.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to PeterC:

      Agreed that MSFT is coming out with new, advanced software such as Azure. However, it's software for its enterprise customers, not consumers. MSFT future in consumer software is acquiring other software development companies with products MSFT believes it could make appealing to enterprises.

      Not that MSFT new software isn't exciting, more that it's priced out of range of most individuals' interest.

      Also, consumers are no longer willing to pay for software. MSFT realizes this so well that Office 365 Home is priced very aggressively for the 1TB cloud storage and they throw in a productivity suite at no extra cost. A few software packages may be able to command 3-digit (US$) prices, e.g., Adobe stuff, some may be able to justify 2-digit prices, but most are going to have to accept US$5.00 or lower per-user pricing. Does MSFT really want to play in that segment?

  16. VancouverNinja

    So you are saying Microsoft needs to chase a product that has achieved a grand total of about 1% marketshare in 8 years time? That is a big no go. Windows 10 does it all and it is currently the nicest OS for the PC available today. You want to surf and watch Videos no problem. You want to do heavy lifting, that's no problem as well.

    Asking for Microsoft to go after a non material market when their product is simply the best makes no sense. For the average non technical user Windows is the best choice as it is used virtually by everyone and is kid simple today. It also helps that Edge is much nicer than Chrome to browse in.

  17. skane2600

    What are your family members doing for which an i5 processor and 8GB RAM is the minimum necessary for Windows?

    Of course it's hard to compare the performance between two systems with different capabilities. Are third-party native (not Android) programs faster on the Chromebook than on a Windows laptop? It's an impossible benchmark to run because that's not a capability the Chromebook supports.

    If all your family members need to do is use web apps (and Android apps for some reason), by all means get them a cheap Chromebook and consider the loss of privacy Google's "cut" to support an OS and web apps that nobody is paying them for directly.

    • wright_is

      In reply to skane2600:

      For my own use, I would personally not drop below that i5 and 8GB RAM (and 250GB SSD for laptop); but for most of the people at work, a Pentium or i3 wit 4GB is more than enough for what they do. The use of an SSD instead of spinning rust is the dominant factor these days, as to whether a PC is "fast enough" for general office and internet applications.

      The use Outlook, Excel and an ERP client and that is about all they use, plus the odd web page, for things like delivery tracking. For those uses, there is no need for an i5. For me, testing VMs, before rolling them out to our ESX cluster, an i5 or i7 (or Ryzen*) is very useful.

      * my home rig is a Ryzen 1700, 32GB RAM and 3x 520GB SSDs plus 2TB spinning rust to synchronise VM backups to an external service.

  18. john.boufford

    I purchased a Chromebook yesterday (Asus) . First thing I thought of after turning it on is that Microsoft really missed the boat. (nice way of saying it) This could of been the new Windows Home, same front-end shell as Win10 with Web back-end. If you wanted more than you'd purchase a machine with Pro.

    • skane2600

      In reply to john.boufford:

      The problem with the system you've described is the value proposition. If you could buy such a system for 30-50% less than the cheapest Windows laptop, it would probably make sense. If you look at low-end Chromebooks vs low-end Windows laptops, the price is about the same, but the capabilities of the Chromebook are more limited. It's the hardware, not the OS that primarily sets the price.

  19. hrlngrv

    Part of what makes Chrome OS safe are features Unix-derived OSes have had for decades and Windows has never had. Specifically, running with most of the OS on partitions mounted read-only. MSFT has shown no interest in reengineering Windows to make it possible to run it from read-only media.

    As for MSFT making a consumer version of Linux, that could be a marketing disaster for Windows and MSFT generally. No clearer form of validation that Windows just ain't necessary for one subset of consumers, and it'd take a fraction of a New York minute for commentators to begin asking whether Linux could be better for many other groups of users.

    Linux has become a neutral word for MSFT with respect to servers (where Linux has maintained a usage share lead over Windows for long enough that MSFT may have realized that the Year of Windows Server Domination may come after the Year of the Linux Desktop) and Azure VMs. That does NOT mean MSFT has any plans to cannibalize remaining client machine Windows licensing revenues with its own Linux derivative. Also, what browser would MSFT put on it MS-Linux? Edge? So MSFT would need to port Edge to Linux? Perhaps much of that work has already been done porting Edge to Android, but it could risk sacrificing the presumed advantage of Edge being available only for Windows and not macOS or Linux.

    If you want to avoid Chrome OS's ties to Google, install CloudReady on an older PC and make OneDrive and MS Office web apps the default productivity tools. (Or Zoho Office to be different.)

    • skane2600

      In reply to hrlngrv:

      IMO there'd be no business case for reengineering Windows to adopt a Unix approach even if they could achieve 100% compatibility (an unlikely scenario). The difference in "safety" between the two is much too subtle for the average customer to understand.

      Likewise, a Microsoft-branded desktop Linux would suffer from the same issues that holds back all the other Linux distros. Linux development is too chaotic to support a general purpose consumer-based OS (beyond enthusiast use). A desktop vendor needs to own the OS in order to keep it stable.

      IMO, it's less about worrying that Linux would show up Windows and the (apparently) highly influential commentators would point it out, but rather the realization that creating their own Linux would be a waste of time and money.

      • Ron Diaz

        In reply to skane2600:

        While I agree with everything you have said here I find it ironic that with Windows 10 Microsoft has introduced the very instability and constantly changing UI and overall chaos that you criticize Linux for...

        • skane2600

          In reply to Hypnotoad:

          I'm not really a fan of Windows 10, but the chaos I spoke with respect to Linux is deeper and more profound than what's happening with Windows 10. It's not because of any particular technical limitation of Linux but rather the direct result of its open source nature. With the possible exception of Linus and the kernel, there's really nobody in charge. That's great if you want to "roll your own" OS, but not if you want a stable system to be used by ordinary people.

          • hrlngrv

            In reply to skane2600:

            If Linux beyond the kernel is such chaos, why is it used on more servers than any other OS?

            Because servers come with dedicated and knowledgeable IT staff? OK, what prevents a distribution from providing a relatively locked-down Linux desktop?

            From a different perspective, how different would core-utils, Xorg, and Cinnamon be on Ubuntu, Fedora, Arch, etc? Re stability, where are the complaints about Debian stretch being unstable? For that matter, LTS Ubuntu versions?

            The claim 'there's really nobody in charge' misses the point of choosing a single distribution and sticking with it. Could, say, Linux Mint make changes in core-utils? Sure, it's FOSS, but more likely they'd submit proposed changes to the core-utils maintainers. It's not that Linux and FOSS more generally are chaos, rather they're distributed and nonhierarchical and rely on collaboration amongst independent developers, and many people find that scary.

            • skane2600

              In reply to hrlngrv:

              Servers are the low-hanging fruit. Remember this discussion is about a "Chromebook alternative" and my comments are within that context.

              Perhaps you're thinking of "stable" in a different way than I am. I don't mean "stable" is in "not crashing" I mean stable as in consistent capabilities, consistent program complement, backward compatibility etc.

              I suspect you know the problems with desktop Linux, but for the benefit of others:

              • hrlngrv

                In reply to skane2600:

                . . . as in consistent capabilities, consistent program complement, backward compatibility etc. . .

                Granted systems with only Qt/KDE libraries installed won't be able to run Gtk/Gnome software and vice versa. That could contribute to the perception of inconsistent program complement if one believed, say, that none of Nautilus, Nemo, Caja, Thunar, PCManFM etc were alternatives to Dolphin.

                Backwards compatibility is a legitimate complaint against Linux, though more so against KDE and Gnome software than more generic software. Then again, Linux + wine runs more 20-year-old and older Windows software than Windows 10 does. Still, I do keep a Peppermint OS ver 3 VM to run some older Gnome-based games which haven't run since Ubuntu 1004 (Lucid). OTOH, I have some terminal/character mode software using ncurses I developed in the late 1990s which still runs on current distributions.

                As for the linked article, it seems the author is more interested in adding new criticisms than removing outdated ones. Example: A recent example is Google Chrome on RHEL 6/CentOS 6 [emphasis added]. RHEL6 was released in November 2010.

                • skane2600

                  In reply to hrlngrv:

                  "Then again, Linux + wine runs more 20-year-old and older Windows software than Windows 10 does"

                  Not really relevant to the issue of Linux's own backward compatibility. I do note that wine isn't 100% compatible with any version of Windows.

                  Yes, there are still parts of the article that could be updated but there's a mountain of information there.

                  Since you mention Chrome, I had the experience of trying to install Chrome on a recent LTS version of Ubuntu and the process failed without any error message. Searching on the Internet I found out what the magic CLI incantation was that allowed the installation to proceed. Kind of crazy that an OS wouldn't be tested for the ability to install the most popular web browser.

                • hrlngrv

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  . . . trying to install Chrome on a recent LTS version of Ubuntu and the process failed without any error message. . . .

                  Were you trying to install Chrome from Ubuntu's own repositories or from Google's PPA or directly from .deb or .tar.gz files? If the first, that may prove Ubuntu's repository management is broken. Dunno, I don't use Ubuntu. As for either of the latter, you go those routes, you assume the risk and extra work. Also, for either of the latter routes, better to use command line tools to install anyway.

                  As for incantations, used DISM.EXE in Windows recently?

                • skane2600

                  In reply to hrlngrv:

                  As someone who doesn't use Ubuntu, you really aren't in a position to give advice on what the best way is to install applications. Of course, the "best" way might vary depending on application. I used the same method to successfully install Chrome on Linux Mint without any issues.

                  If you're using dism.exe as your primary method to install Chrome that explains your dislike for Windows.

                • hrlngrv

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  I use 3 other distributions which use Debian packages, dpkg and apt. I figure I know how those pacakages are installed, and I know how to handle downloaded .deb or .tar.gz files.

                  There's a bit more commonality between distributions that you seem to appreciate.

                  Where have I said I dislike Windows?

                  My point about DISM and a number of other Windows command line tools is that as command line tools, they're no easier or approachable than Linux or old style mainframe command line tools. With respect to Linux and installing software directly using package files rather than through repositories is that command line tools display any error messages and the terminal usually remains open so there's a chance to read those messages; GUI installers aren't guaranteed to cache and display error messages. That's true for pretty much all distributions using packaging systems more complicated than using tarballs.

                • skane2600

                  In reply to hrlngrv:

                  I'm not denying some commonality, but you were giving generic advice to work-around a specific problem you've never encountered.

                  As far as DISM concerned you just cherry-picked a random example that had nothing to do with the discussion. The fact is Windows users can go years without using a command line. From the start Unix developers preferred cute, clever names for commands over descriptive names - it's in their DNA.

                  As you should know by now, no behavior by software is "guaranteed". To the typical user or even those with some technical knowledge, an obscure error message resulting from a simple, frequently invoked operation is really not much more informative than a BSOD.

                • hrlngrv

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  . . . but you were giving generic advice to work-around a specific problem you've never encountered . . .

                  Did the command line incantation to which you referred use any tools beyond sudo, apt, wget, dpkg, and perhaps rm? If not, the set of commands almost certainly could have been used in any & all Linux distributions using Debian packages.

                  Typical users shouldn't be trying to install downloaded software packages ad hoc. They should stick to what's in their distribution's repositories. That may mean they'd have to wait a week or two for the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox or LibreOffice. It's the unbridled desire to run the latest versions ASAP which can cause problems, self-made problems.

                • skane2600

                  In reply to hrlngrv:

                  "It's the unbridled desire to run the latest versions ASAP which can cause problems, self-made problems."

                  The excuses are getting a little too thick in here for me. I'm done.

                • hrlngrv

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  What excuses?

                  Install software only from disrtibution repositories, no problems. Install software from elsewhere, any problems are the user's to fix. Distributions are not responsible for 3rd party packages not from the distribution's repositories.

                  Face it, you simply don't understand how Linux package management works and are apparently militantly opposed to learning anything more about it. Then there's your inability to admit mistakes.

                • wright_is

                  In reply to hrlngrv:

                  And that is part of the problem, there are so many disparate ways of accomplishing the same thing, there is no "standard" way. If you use openSUSE, it has different directory layouts than Debian or Ubuntu, which is different to CentOS or Fedora, which is different to Gentoo etc.

                  Heck, there isn't even a standard way to get updates.

                  Do I need to type "apt-get distribution-upgrade" or "zypper dup" or "yum update" or do I need to install the patches from source code?

                  What about the location of configuration files? They vary. Is the application / service part of the distribution in one case, it will be under /var/lib, but on another distribution, it is in an external repository or has to be manually installed, so is probably under /usr/lib.

                  I was admin for a company that used a mixture of Debian and Gentoo. The admin that had set everything up knew instinctively which server ran which OS, but I had to learn. I then had to learn what apps were installed on which server, whether they were standard or third party, which meant that the configuration files were in different locations on different machines.

                  It all ran smoothly, but it was a headache at first getting to know it.

                  And that is just the command line. If you have a typical end user, who has been using, say "Dellbuntu" with Gnome for the last couple of years and they buy an HP, which is running "HPdora" with IceWM, and at work, they switch to Fujitsu running SLED with KDE. It is going to be very confusing for them. Yes, theoretically they can customize to their hearts content, but they have to KNOW they can, they have know HOW they can - and on the company machine, they won't be able to, because it will be locked down, so they will have to stick with it. Do they then try and customize their HPdora to run the same desktop and applications as their work machine, or do they have to learn to use 2 different systems?

                  With Windows, ChromeOS and macOS, you have consistency If you have used Windows XP or Windows 7, you can use Windows 10 without much difficulty, the things the average user needs are still in the same place, they might look a bit different, but they are more-or-less the same. The Start/Windows menu is in the same place, the list of applications is still alphabetical, with the most used at the top, with Windows 7 and Windows 10, if you start typing, you get a list of matching applications and documents. The same goes for ChromeOS and macOS, if there is a new version, it might look a little different, as the current windows "chrome" gets changed to the current style, but the underlying functionality doesn't change drastically.

                  That can't be said for jumping between Gnome, KDE, IceWM, xfce, Mate, Enlightement, or at my last company, the preferred desktop was Awesome, which is basically just tiled terminal sessions and, when an X-Windows application is started, it opens in a new tiled window, which can be snapped into position, but not really resized or moved around "as needed".


                • hrlngrv

                  In reply to wright_is:

                  Without a doubt it's best to pick a distribution family (by which I mean package manager), then stick with distributions within that group. Best to avoid PPAs (specific to distributions using .deb packages) and tarballs.

                  I'd add that Google has succeeded with Chrome OS in showing that it is possible to come up with a relatively trouble-free consumer OS based on Linux. Maybe it doesn't have many users, and it certainly doesn't try to handle many peripherals.

                  Not sure about some of the details you mention, specifically your comparison of /var/lib and /usr/lib. /var must be read-write, and /usr (including /usr/lib) should be mountable read-only. Which distribution puts persistent configuration under /var and which tries to write status anywhere under /usr. Also. manually installed software would more likely wind up under /usr/local than /usr/lib. If you mean the distinction between /opt and /usr, yeah, that takes getting used to.

                  I'm not saying Linux can't be confusing, but confusing isn't chaotic.

                • wright_is

                  In reply to hrlngrv:

                  Sorry, yep, my error, /opt and /usr. That is what happens when you type when tired. ;-)

                • hrlngrv

                  In reply to wright_is:

                  The distinction between /opt and /usr is spelled out in the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard. Some 3rd party FOSS and most commercial (not cost-free) software are installed under /opt, e.g., Firefox, Chrome and LibreOffice downloaded directly from Mozilla, Google or Document Foundation, respectively. FWIW, MSFT's own Powershell for Linux installs under /opt, but VS Code installs under /usr. In a way, /opt is meant to work the same as C:\Program Files for Windows, to keep 3rd party software apart from other system software.

                • skane2600

                  In reply to hrlngrv:

                  "I'd add that Google has succeeded with Chrome OS in showing that it is possible to come up with a relatively trouble-free consumer OS based on Linux."

                  Perhaps someday Chrome OS will be a Linux OS in the same sense as Ubuntu, Mint etc. but not at this time. It avoids the all the problems of incompatible package managers because you can't install any applications on it. An effective but meaningless solution. And of course, I'm talking about "out-of-box" not special modes or third-party workarounds.

                • hrlngrv

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  You seem to misunderstand how Chrome OS works.

                  Do you believe the things labeled applications in the Chrome Store (these days they only appear for Chrome OS) are all just web pages? If so, you'd be wrong. For example, the Evernote app for Chrome OS. Right-click on its icon in the launcher, and you'd see the popup menu lacks an entry for open in window, meaning it always opens in a window and isn't a web app which could appear in a browser tab.

                  Such Chrome OS apps use UI calls specific to Chrome and Chrome OS's peculiar window manager. The Chrome Store functions as repository and package manager for Chrome OS, much like the Ubuntu Store for Ubuntu. However, unlike Linux distributions, it's simply not possible in standard mode (i.e., not developer mode) Chrome OS to install anything else. Tarballs could be expanded, but only into directories on partitions mounted noexec, so there's no way to execute anything. In contrast, the Chrome Store installs apps, extensions and themes under users' home directories into subdirectories, which through the magic of Linux mounting, map to partitions mounted exec.

                  IOW, Chrome OS has apps but lacks any means of installing anything not in the Chrome Store. This would be possible in theory with other Linux distributions, but few others aside from Chrome OS alternatives like CloudReady have tried to do so.

                • skane2600

                  In reply to hrlngrv:

                  In general whether something runs within the labeled browser or some other window really isn't the differentiating factor between a web-app or a non-web app. But If the application can fully run without a connection to the Internet, then it's not a web app and that might very well be the case for Evernote (I returned my 2 defective Chromebooks, so I couldn't test it).

                  But even if there are non-web apps, the installation process a user goes through on a Chromebook has little in common with how it is done on a typical Linux distro. No command lines, no surprise dependencies to derail the process. The apps, web or not, are delivered as an integrated unit, containing everything needed to run successfully (bugs, of course are always possible.)

                • hrlngrv

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  Yes, indeed, Evernote, several text editors (Caret for example), several calculators, several games all run without any network connections. Likewise DOSBox and some other exotica. FWIW, Stackedit and also run without network connections, but those are more like PWAs though I'm not sure they're actual PWAs.

                  Agreed app installation under Chrome OS differs from the typical Linux approach. The Chrome OS approach is closer to the Windows Store approach. Apps are installed per user into users' home directories. FWIW, Linux can do this too, installing software into users' home directories, but it's uncommon because it'd be wasteful for multiple users each to have the same software installed redundantly. Linux will never shed its multiple user history.

                  As for command lines, never necessary for installing software from one's own distribution's repositories, only problematic when adding 3rd party PPA or installing local packages directly. For that last task, there's a GUI tool named gdebi which can install local .deb files and automatically install additional dependencies. It used to be included in Ubuntu (definitely in 10.04), but when Ubuntu decided to push its Ubuntu Store, it dropped it as a default package.

    • F4IL

      In reply to hrlngrv:

      Couldn't agree more. Google saw the opportunity and managed to leverage leading edge features provided by the linux kernel such as CGROUPS, readonly partitions, noexec, etc. It took them some time but they can now leverage containerization to safely run applications in their own virtualized environments with full resource control.

      Edge on Android is effectively a wrapper around WebView and the same goes for iOS (edge... wraps around Safari). That said, they could port Edge to Linux, or use blink or ...something. Announcing a consumer, mass market PC platform based on Linux, will certainly put windows and its future in question.

      What i don't fully get is why can't / doesn't msft create a similar system, featuring a windows kernel and a thin userspace layer with Edge. They surely can do better than S-Mode?

      • skane2600

        In reply to F4IL:

        I don't expect PCs delivered in S-Mode to be all that successful, but due to the ability to upgrade to full Windows for free, I could easily imagine them outselling Chromebooks. I don't see much sense in Microsoft trying to compete in a market that hasn't yet proven itself to be viable.

      • maethorechannen

        In reply to F4IL:

        Edge on Android is effectively a wrapper around WebView and the same goes for iOS (edge... wraps around Safari)

        That's only correct for iOS. On Android, it's similar to how Chrome works. So instead of using the system WebView, it's using its own build of the blink code from Chromium.

  20. ecumenical

    Does the Chromebook have eMMC or SSD while your cheap Windows machines have an HDD? That's the biggest part of any perceived performance difference, not CPU or RAM.

    • waethorn

      In reply to ecumenical:

      Low-end SoC Chromebooks use eMMC because eMMC controllers are built into the SoC already. Mainstream processor models using Core iX processors will use standard SSD's, but you won't always know if it's an M.2 or SATA SSD unless the PC maker has detailed specs, or someone does a detailed hardware teardown. Regardless, you won't notice much of a difference between them for standard tasks. Even a Core i5 processor is overkill. Remember that the highest-level applications available for Chrome OS are just Android apps, and even the best Android apps are still built to run on ARM tablets and phones, so there's no way you'd need the performance of a Core i5 Chromebook unless you're trying to do development through Linux support. The Linux support is NOT stable yet, nor is it even close to being ready for regular end-users. It's only meant for developers. If you're doing Linux development, you're better off using a real Linux system too.

      Every Chromebook boots up in 10 seconds or less (unless there's a firmware update, which are extremely rare). They generally have very good trackpads and speakers compared to an equal-priced Windows PC too. My advice is to get a Chromebook that has the right sized screen (touch or not), and whatever storage you need for apps and files (the OS only takes a few gigs, not 20-30+ like Windows). Any other decision on processor and such is superfluous, even memory. 8GB is even overkill for the majority of users. Chrome OS isn't a pig, like Windows.

  21. jules_wombat

    Its pretty simple

    a) Ditch Windows, its much too bloated to run on cheap hardware

    b) Fully adopt ARM hardware

    If Microsoft had gone All in with Windows RT, without the desktop confusion they may have actually got somewhere. As it is Google simply have to morph Chromebook OS into Android, and they have won the consumer, mobile, tablet war and soon the desktop productivity market. Microsoft Windows is simply for the few geeks, power users and Fan boys. Real users are moving on.

    • wright_is

      In reply to Jules_Wombat:

      I ran an Atom based Windows 8.1 / 10 tablet with 64GB eMMC for a couple of years. It was fine for its intended use. It certainly isn't useful for heavy lifting (benchmarks, video editing etc.), but that isn't what it is designed for. For note taking with a stylus in meetings, casual browsing and casual gaming, it was fine.

      I'd take notes in the meeting and they'd be synced back to my main machine by the time I was back in the office, ready for me to type up the minutes.

    • ecumenical

      In reply to Jules_Wombat:

      Completely false about "too bloated to run on cheap hardware", check out Rubino's video review of the Surface Go $399 model if you doubt this.

      • Bats

        In reply to ecumenical:

        Rubino is an IDIOT. The guy doesn't even know Notepad can be used for the erasure of text formatting. LOL...almost everybody in that Windows Central blog are moronic theorists. Every theory those guys lay out, thus giving "false hope" to their readers have been utterly WRONG. Not just that, but they irresponsible bloggers. Even though I disagree with Paul Thurrott a lot, those guys (especially Rubino) can't hold a candle to him.

        • ecumenical

          In reply to Bats:

          Nothing you said addresses the video evidence I posted showing that Windows runs completely smoothly on a 1.6GHz, 4GB RAM device.

          (What you say is true about Windows Central. But if you look, it's not Rubino writing that crap fanboi theory content. He's smart enough to farm the click bait out to minions and save his own time.)

        • Chris_Kez

          In reply to Bats:

          You need not be a Windows genius to use an entry level device for a few days to a week then talk about it's performance.

  22. longhorn

    Google would be able to make a kickass Linux OS if they wanted, but they don't want to. Instead you get Chrome OS with only one browser available and no native apps. No native printing. Often very limited storage and Google Drive as the only cloud storage solution. People still buy it because it is cheap and has massive backing from OEMs.

    Problem is that after 8 years with full OEM support usage share is less than 1 %. It would be foolish of Microsoft to create something similar. There is no market for "dumb" OSes. Just see what happened to "S", even less successful than the Chrome OS disaster.

    If you worry about Chrome OS privacy I hope you ain't using Android. Windows 10 with all the bloat removed runs fine on low-end machines. Winaero Tweaker can help you get there.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to longhorn:

      The limited storage isn't driven by the OS but by Google wanting Chrome OS users storing files on Google Drive. Thing is, there are subsystems in Google's Chrome Store for mounting DropBox and OneDrive, so it's not necessary to use Google Drive. It just takes a little work, which it seems even very few Chrome OS users are willing to do.

  23. waethorn

    I don't agree with this. The only thing that can redeem Microsoft in a post-Windows world is to figure out some way of making the full Win32 stack fully-containerized (is that a real word?) so that it will run on any operating system using a container platform like Docker, perhaps with an extra "Windows runtime" layer (to borrow a term) that translates low-level calls at a kernel-independent level. Once you get to that point, it doesn't matter what the client computer is, and they can safely exit the PC OS market without much regard to their business. This is the eventual future for Microsoft, or else they'll lose traction and the computer industry will collapse along with them. Creating another computer operating system platform just doesn't seem to be in the company's best interest at this point.