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Microsoft takes on Chromebook with low-cost Windows laptops

Redmond's chief salesman: We're taking 'hard' decisions

David and Goliath in the Valley of Elah

WPC Microsoft’s chief salesman Kevin Turner has tried to turn his company’s crushing lateness on devices into a positive for the sake of partners and employees.

Speaking at the company’s annual partner conference, chief operating officer Turner cast mighty Microsoft as the plucky challenger with nowhere to go but grow as the world shifts from PCs to devices.

He said Microsoft is making hard decisions – highlighting April’s decision to let partners have Windows for free on devices smaller than nine inches.

Turner also revealed three low-priced laptops that MS hopes will take on Google’s Chromebooks.

The trio are an HP Stream priced at $199 and an Acer Apsire ES1 and a Toshiba unit – both priced at less than $249.

He also promised a 7-inch and 8-inch tablet running Windows priced at just $99 that will come out in time for Christmas.

A low-priced version of Windows 8.1 dubbed "Windows 8.1 with Bing" was revealed in May, supposedly to unleash a wave of low-priced Chromebook-like devices.

Trying to rally Microsoft’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Washington DC, Turner spoke in the wake of estimates from Gartner last week that the Windows operating system was running on just 13.96 per cent of shipments of the world’s estimated 2.33 billion devices in 2013.

That covers PCs, smartphones, tablets and Ultrabooks.

With one eye on Wall St, Turner told WPC:

We are beyond the ‘attach and license’ world, where we had a 90 per cent penetration of PCs… the world has shifted and evolved and we now have to measure ourselves in the total device space.

That “attach and license” business, by the way, is the business Turner has championed, as he has promoted the PC over the tablet and fatter, premium editions of Windows over slimmed-down, cheapo versions of the OS.

Regardless, Turner continued:

We have a much bigger chance to grow business, but also a new reality in which to grow.

In a world of 14 per cent device share, we have a new mindset: you have to have a challenger mindset. Everyone has to have a challenger mindset.

He called the new, cheap Windows machines “a great value proposition against Chromebooks.”

Otherwise, it was the standard Turner performance at WPC – a shopping list that talked up his company’s strengths and the claimed weaknesses of rivals.

Without naming names, Turner tried to pull Microsoft clear of the Snowden-NSA train wreck that has tarnished his company’s reputation on data and privacy.

Microsoft was one of several tech companies listed on National Security Agency slides leaked by rogue sysadmin Edward Snowden. The firms were alleged to have provided customer data to the NSA, though all denied having handed any over without a warrant.

Turner said Microsoft would “not provide any government with direct and unfettered access to customers’ data,” provide access to its encryption keys, or engineer backdoors into its product. He also said it would contest any government attempts to disclose customer content “stored exclusively in another place".

Turner claimed 785 customers had been “rescued” from Google in the last 18 months, that Microsoft is “eating VMware’s lunch” with Hyper-V, that Windows Azure added 42,000 customers during the last year and that SharePoint is a $2bn-a-year business. ®

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