Acer is rolling out Windows 10-based alternatives to the increasingly popular Chromebooks.
The PC vendor, which has its own portfolio of Chromebooks, this month will start selling what officials are calling Aspire One Cloudbooks, low-cost, thin and light systems designed for mobile users who are looking for easy Internet and cloud access. It will come with Microsoft's new Windows 10 operating system rather than Google's Chrome.
"The Aspire One Cloudbook series is the perfect answer for those looking for an online-oriented and portable notebook with a full Windows experience," Jerry Kao, president of Acer's Notebook Business Group, said in a statement.
Acer, the world's fifth-largest PC vendor, will start selling the systems in North America this month, with pricing starting at $169. It will start selling in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) in September.
The company initially will sell two models, the Cloudbook 11 and 14 systems. They will run Windows 10, be powered by Intel Celeron mobile chips with 2GB of memory and offer 802.11ac wireless connectivity. The systems also will come with a one-year subscription to Microsoft's Office 365 Personal software and up to 1TB of OneDrive online storage.
Acer is contributing its own build-your-own-cloud (BYOC) applications for greater synchronization across devices so users can create their own personal clouds. Acer's cloud-enabled abApps include abPhoto, abMusic, abDocs and abFiles. Acer officials in late 2013 introduced the company's BYOC strategy to enable users to synchronize the growing number of devices they use, from notebooks to smartphones to tablets. It has been the cornerstone of Acer's effort to push beyond its PC heritage and into cloud software and services.
The Cloudbooks are fanless and are 17.9mm thin. The 11-inch model weighs about 3.3 pounds, while the 14-inch version weighs in at 3.5 pounds. They both come with HDMI, USB 3.0, USB 2.0 and SD Card ports; a full-sized keyboard; and a touchpad for Windows 10 use. The 11-inch system comes with 16GB or 32GB of storage, while the 14-inch model offers 32GB or 64GB.
Chromebooks have been faring relatively well in a PC market that has seen steady shipment declines since 2011. According to Gartner analysts, Chromebook sales worldwide should reach 7.3 million devices this year, a 27 percent jump over the 5.7 million that sold last year. Most—about 72 percent last year—are being sold into the education market, the analysts said. Google is trying to push devices into enterprises with its Chromebooks for Work office applications. The company also is making it easier for users to access applications and services while they are offline.
"Chromebook is a device that can be considered by SMBs [small and midsize businesses] or new startup companies that do not have the resources to invest too much in IT infrastructure," Gartner analyst Isabelle Durand said in a statement in May. "Chromebooks will become a valid device choice for employees as enterprises seek to provide simple, secure, low-cost and easy-to-manage access to new Web applications and legacy systems, unless a specific application forces a Windows decision."
Acer officials noted the business-class capabilities of their Cloudbooks, including access to Windows 10 features and Microsoft applications, dual digital microphones with enhance digital signal processing (DSP) for better clarity on calls and use of Microsoft's Cortana personal digital assistant, and the 802.11ac connectivity.