UTSanDiego.com

The Lenovo Chromebook: Another Nail in Microsoft's Coffin

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Many of us have had one. In fact, for those working for corporate America, we have been issued one every three or so years for the better part of the last 20 years.

I'm talking about a ThinkPad laptop, of course. It was first made by IBM (IBM) and in the last decade Lenovo (LNVGY) . It was black, had a great keyboard, a matte screen, and it remains the most reliable Windows laptop around.

Each of those millions of Lenovo ThinkPads ran the latest version of Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows. One could argue that the Lenovo ThinkPad was Microsoft's face of corporate America on the road.

In other words, Microsoft and the ThinkPad laptop were locked in arms against all PC challengers of the past, from Sun to Linux to Apple's (AAPL) Mac. Brothers in arms, locked together in that sturdy black box residing on traveling corporate America's lap, it was Microsoft's Chinese defense wall.

This is about to change.

In 2013, Lenovo will break with its Microsoft Windows exclusivity and start offering PCs -- laptops and desktops alike -- based on Google's (GOOG) PC operating system, Chrome OS. Such laptops and desktops are commonly called "Chromebooks" and "Chromeboxes," respectively.

Why is Lenovo doing this?

Corporate America, as well as some branches of government, are trying to reduce their costs. IT is a growing part of their budgets, with pressures from the front office to deploy and pay for smartphones and tablets, in addition to PCs.

At the same time, the complexity of a Windows PC has grown beyond most users' capabilities to handle it. I'm told that as early as a dozen years ago, Microsoft asked Excel users for feedback on what features to add. Supposedly 95% of the suggested new features for Excel were...already in Excel. A Windows PC is simply too complex for most regular users.

Once you have used your Windows PC for the first few days, weeks and months, it no longer takes 30 seconds to boot it up, but perhaps one minute, then two minutes, then... My old Windows PC now takes at least five minutes to boot before it approaches usability.

Then you have the longest list of viruses and spyware. Many users have no idea whether they have them, or how they may get them. It's an eternal -- futile? -- cat and mouse game to fight these scourges.

A Windows PC may be only $500 or so to buy, even though software and warranties can often almost double that price. But that does not tell the whole story. Over a Windows laptop's three-year life cycle, it may cost thousands of dollars for a large enterprise to support this PC: $500 or $1,000 on Day 1 looks more like $3,000 or $4,000 cumulative spending over three to four years.

For this reason, CFOs, more than anyone, are looking primarily at cutting the cost that happens after the initial $500 or $1,000 purchase. It's okay if a laptop costs $500 or more if it doesn't require any maintenance, so the IT department can be fired or at least extremely significantly reduced.