Last week, I picked up a cheap $249 Chromebook at the local office supply store.

As I think back over my purchase decision, the magnitude of Microsoft's RT marketing blunders has become even more tangibly clear -- and even more sad.
What follows is a short story of what might have been.
Here's a quick bit of background

I use a monster laptop every day for work. It's big, heavy, and incredibly expensive. It has 32 gig of RAM, two monster SSDs, and the fastest processor available as of about 15 months ago. It eats power and is mounted on my desk connected to two 24-inch monitors. I don't like to move this machine and it's designed as a desktop replacement, not a portable machine.
Consider the Officebook

The selling premise for the Chromebook (excepting the very expensive, uber-display Pixel, of course), is incredibly simple: it's Chrome, and Chrome only, on a laptop, for $249. That's the entire premise. Sure, there's a bare-bones desktop and file manager, but that's just to make the Chromebook workable. Really, it's just Chrome and only Chrome, in a portable $249 device.
Now, imagine if there were an Officebook. And imagine if the premise for it was as clear: it's Microsoft Office, and Office only, on a laptop, for $249.
As a product, Microsoft probably wouldn't have taken a $900 million write-down. Ask a typical buyer if they understand "It runs Office and only Office, but fer cheap" and they'll understand.
Then there's RT

But, if you compare that to Microsoft's pitch for the original Surface RT and the new, even less clearly named Surface 2, you see serious problems: "Well, it runs new Windows apps, but not all the Windows you're used to running, and it runs Office, but if you use Office for work, you have to buy Office again. And it's almost $500."
Seriously. That's still Microsoft's pitch. Worse, the original Surface RT didn't even run Outlook. It was a mobile device without decent email. It's almost as if Microsoft was taking a page from BlackBerry's Playbook (which, bafflingly, was also introduced without email).
The excuses

When the RT was introduced, one of the excuses for the lack of Outlook was the time it took to port the program over to the Arm processor. And, a year ago, that might have been true.
But now, Acer has introduced a $249 Chromebook, with 4GB RAM, running Intel's Celeron using Haswell silicon. That bad boy could even run full Windows 8, so it certainly could run Office.
Acer has proven that a Wintel machine can be built and sold for under $250. But Microsoft is selling its base machine for almost twice the price while confusing and misleading customers.
And boy, Microsoft is offering a confusing marketing message! In fact, it's even more confusing. Now there's a Surface and a Surface Pro -- and they're completely, totally different beasts, running completely, totally different software, with completely, totally different capabilities.
The Surface 2 (it no longer carries the RT branding) is a Windows RT machine, will run Office in desktop mode, but nothing else, and is limited to Metro apps. The Surface 2 Pro is a full Windows 8.1 machine that will run any Windows application, desktop or Metro. Even more confusing, the Surface 2 comes with Office (but not licensed for office use), but the Surface 2 Pro does not.
So, the so-called professional system doesn't include the professional's Office product, while the entry level machine does, but only sort of.
Does any of this make any sense? Especially compared to the Chrombook's message: it's Chrome, and Chrome only, on a laptop, for $249.
The Chromebook, Windows RT, and the Officebook that might have been | ZDNet