The HP Chromebook: RIP Microsoft

Tickers in this article: AAPL CRM GOOG HPQ MSFT SNE
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Among PC hardware manufacturers, Microsoft (MSFT) is becoming about as popular as living in Eastern Europe under USSR occupation in November 1989. One by one, the dominoes are starting to fall.

First, it was Samsung. It's got the $249 Chromebook which looks like a copy of a MacBook Air.

Second, it was Acer. It's got the $199 Chromebook that looks like a copy of a regular Windows laptop.

Third, it was Lenovo. It's got a ThinkPad Chromebook that is sold to the education market.

And now, HP(HPQ) . Perhaps this is Meg Whitman's turnaround plan?

According to this document on HP's Web site , HP is set to launch its first Chromebook on Feb. 17. It's a 14-inch laptop, price yet to be set, but something close to $299 to $349 sounds reasonable.

Why would HP want to stick its knife in the back of Microsoft this way? Perhaps it has seen how Chromebooks saved Acer from posting even worse results than it did anyway. In a recent Bloomberg interview , Acer's CEO stated Chromebooks quickly (one quarter) became 5% to 10% of the total for Acer.

Five percent to 10%, even if it's a quick one-time jolt for a quarter, isn't going to change the trajectory of mankind. But it could help fill a hole in the income statement. And Lord knows, HP has some holes to fill, partially thanks to the poor performance of Windows 8 so far.

Whitman and HP do not need to hold any ideological love for Google(GOOG) and Chrome OS. All they need to see is that it has saved Acer, and perhaps in 2013 it will save Lenovo as well. So why can't HP use Google's Chrome OS to save HP too?

Windows 8 -- and perhaps Windows 9 too, some day -- looks to become a long, hard slog. The leakage to Apple's (AAPL) Mac and iOS and Google's Android was already tough enough. With Samsung, Acer and Lenovo now feasting on the dramatic and sudden sales increases of Chromebooks and Chromeboxes, HP would have looked like a stubborn stalwart continuing to pin its hopes on a declining market -- Windows PCs.

HP had already embraced the cloud internally with the switch to Salesforce.com (CRM) in what may have been Salesforce's largest deal ever. It was one of Meg Whitman's first acts as CEO.

Having embraced the cloud for CRM and related services, why not embrace the cloud for the next-generation PC architecture as well? This was probably what Meg figured out, ditching Redmond in favor of its corporate neighbor in Silicon Valley, Google.

Ask yourself the question: How many people do you know in the last few years who got a new Hotmail address instead of a Gmail address?

None, of course.

Then, once people get a Gmail address, they start using Google Docs, which is a free competitor to Microsoft Office. It requires no complicated installs, configuration, and everything is saved automatically across all devices.

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