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Microsoft says super-cheap Windows devices are on the way

It used to be that if you only wanted to pay $199 for a brand-new laptop, you'd have to try your luck on Black Friday or pick up a Chromebook. Not so anymore. Microsoft COO Kevin Turner outed a $199 HP Windows laptop called the Stream at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference this morning, and it should see the light of day in time for the holiday season. Fine, it doesn't sound like the biggest deal ever. There are already a few solid Windows laptops floating around there for less than $100 more, after all, and at this point no one's sure what $199 will actually get you. That's a fair point, but c'mon: on some level this move is all about symbolism. Microsoft is telling the industry -- and the consumers that fuel that immaculate machine -- that it's not giving up low-end computing to Google without a fight.

Nadella and his crew are banking on the fact that Windows provides greater functionality and extensibility than ChromeOS right out of the box. When computer shoppers can own the full Windows experience (for better or worse) for the same price as committing to a Chrome-y connected lifestyle, they'll have to mull that choice over. That's exactly what Microsoft wants. Turner also confirmed that the next few months would bring at least a few full-blown Windows tablets priced to move at $99. That announcement wasn't as much of a surprise since the folks in Redmond revealed that the OS would be free to manufacturers when its installed on device's with screens under 9 inches. It was only a matter of time, but hey -- that doesn't make the gesture any less meaningful.