Leaked Microsoft document confirms Windows 10 Cloud and a Chromebook competitor

Called "Cloudbooks" by industry watchers, the specs mirror what a Chromebook offers.

A Microsoft document detailing the minimum hardware specs for Microsoft Windows 10 Cloud-powered laptops seems to be the best evidence yet that Microsoft plans to launch a Chromebook competitor on May 2.

Windows Central obtained a “recommended minimum spec” document, presumably handed out to Microsoft’s partners.

The document outlines what Microsoft hopes to achieve with what the document calls an “Edu Cloud device” (and industry watchers have dubbed "Cloudbooks"): all-day battery life, a quick boot and resume cycle, and at least a quad-core Intel Celeron processor powering it all.

It’s also titled “Windows 10 Cloud Performance Targets,” confirming the name of the new OS.

A Microsoft representative declined to comment.

Microsoft’s invitation to an education-focused launch event in New York on May 2 hinted strongly that a Chromebook competitor was in the cards. Though Windows PCs dominate the workplace, Google’s Chrome OS-powered Chromebooks have quickly insinuated themselves into American classrooms.

Google and its partners have pitched Chromebooks as affordable, simple to use and manage, and rugged enough to survive student use. Windows 10 Cloud appears to be Microsoft's attempt to go back to school.

The impact on you: One key advantage of a Chromebook, from Google’s perspective, is that it contributes to a virtuous cycle: Kids use the popular Android tablets and phones at home, then access something similar in the classroom.

To help break that chain, Microsoft needs to get kids used to Windows. While this may have little impact on you personally, you might say that this is a fight for the hearts and minds of your children.

What Cloudbooks will contain

Windows 10 Cloud reportedly will restrict apps to the Windows Store, forbidding the use of non-Store apps like Google Chrome. Microsoft’s document also notes that its performance benchmarks assume the use of Intune device management policies specifically designed for the classroom.

The spec document plainly states that Microsoft considers Chromebooks its chief competition. In a comparison of “performance benchmarks,” Microsoft’s target is 10-plus hours of “all day” battery life, with cold-boot times of 20 seconds and resume times of under 2 seconds. The document does not list suggested pricing.

Likewise, Microsoft lays out what hardware the new devices should include: a quad-core chip, like a Celeron, or higher; 4GB of RAM, and at least 32GB of eMMC or SSD storage.

Interestingly, pen and touchscreen capabilities are listed as “optional,” which would discard one of the chief advantages that a typical Windows PC has over a Chromebook.

Who will make these devices remains a mystery at the moment. PC companies like Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and Lenovo have all already built Chromebooks, meaning they’ll have to choose between platforms, or support both.

It’s telling, though, that Microsoft itself admits at least internally that it Windows 10 Cloud-based laptops won’t quite measure up to the competition.

In its comparison of the two platforms, the document notes that Chromebooks are faster to cold-boot to a login screen (20 seconds to 15 seconds) as well as from the sign-in screen to the desktop (15 seconds versus 10 seconds).

We’ll have to see how Microsoft spins this: Selling something that's almost-as-good as the competition doesn’t sound like much of a pitch.

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Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
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