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Starting a regular feature here, following trends.

#150bucklaptop — Walt Mossberg reviews a Lenovo laptop that retails for under $ 150 and runs Windows 10. His bet? A two-sided market:

I predict that, over time, the Windows laptop market, which has long clustered in the $ 400-700 range, will gradually fragment into very low-end and very high-end segments — the former to take on Google and the latter to take on Apple. I expect the middle to thin out, as customers on a budget go for the cheaper models and those who want and can afford the latest and greatest go higher.

Microsoft, eager to push Windows 10 and presumably concerned about Chromebooks, also appears to be giving companies like Lenovo a hand with deals like the free year of Office with hefty cloud storage. Lenovo wasn’t the first big PC maker to sell a Chromebook-priced Windows PC. HP last year started selling a $ 200 Windows laptop with an 11.6″ screen called the Stream. Asus has one, too.

While the Lenovo is the only non-refurbished Windows laptop I could find on the Best Buy website for $ 150 or less, there’s reason to think that more and more PC laptops will find their way into Chromebook price territory, typically $ 295 or under. That’s mainly because Microsoft is on a core corporate mission to convert the masses to Windows 10. And its hardware partners, who have been struggling for years, need good relations with the software giant to sell more of the machines they really want to push: the $ 1,000 class of laptops long dominated by their common adversary, Apple.

Also, let’s face it: the basic PC laptop, the one that doesn’t try to act as a tablet as well, has become commoditized. And Windows 10 can run acceptably on a surprisingly wide range of hardware.

The deeper trend may be toward zero-cost laptop, where Microsoft may decide that underwriting the hardware and software for a laptop is worth it if someone signs up for a few years of Office, or some other web service (Adobe? Google?).

#DTBacklash — Gartner continues the deluge of apocalyptic preaching about digital transformation that has started to cause a backlash (see The Inevitable ‘Digital Transformation’ Backlash).

#BigBreakUp — The breaking apart of established enterprise software companies — and the mergers bucking the trend — remains in the foreground of the news with the results for the two sides of the HP break up. HP Inc and HP Enterprise closed the quarter with combined sales down 7%. HPE is projecting 37 to 41 cents per share for the quarter ending February. We’ll see. But HP Inc — which is the half selling PCs and printers — witnessed a drop in desktop PCs of 17% and in laptops of 5%. With the price pressures of the #15bucklaptop, I would short HP Inc.



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