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Google, Microsoft battle drives down prices for PCs, tablets

San Francisco: Google is releasing its cheapest Chromebook laptops yet, two versions priced at USD 149 aimed at undercutting Microsoft's Windows franchise and gaining ground in even more classrooms.

Various PC manufacturers have been working with Google to design lightweight laptops running on the Chrome operating system since 2011. The newest versions are made by Hisense and Haier. Hisense's Chromebook can be ordered beginning on Tuesday at Walmart.com and Haier's version can be bought at Amazon.com.

Google and Microsoft

Their arrival coincides with Microsoft's rollout of a lower-priced Surface tablet in an effort to reach students and budget-conscious families. Pre-orders for that device began on Tuesday, too.

As the prices for tablets and smartphones have been declining, it has forced on PC makers to lower their prices, said International Data Corp analyst Jay Chou. The success of the Chromebook line is intensifying the PC pricing pressure.

"It has been good news for consumers, but not so good for vendors," Chou said.

The cheaper version of the Surface Pro 3 sells for USD 499, compared with USD 799 to USD 1,949 for the higher-end models. The discounted version has a slightly smaller screen 10.8 inches rather than 12 a slower processor, and less flexible kickstand just three angles rather than unlimited positions.

The Chromebook has served a dual purpose for Google. Like the company's Android software for mobile devices, the Chrome system is set up so users will automatically begin using Google's search engine and other services, such as Gmail and YouTube.

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