From what I can tell (based on my readings in the tech blogosphere), a bit of both. Provide some competition for MS (as MS does with Bing in the search engine sector) as well as push the "PC as consumer device" (or "it just works") envelope in new(-ish) directions. And we get more options as a result of the competition.
I agree, I think Microsoft is not just sitting around twiddling their thumbs. I think they are moving in stealth. Still, in my dreams Google topples Microsoft and then we all dance and sing, "Ding ding the witch is dead!"
Hahaha, I like that image modder. If we can all remember, during Google's official announcement about the Chromebook launch, there seemed to be a reference to,'no more rolling hills' that is popular with Windows.
I am just looking forward to seeing Windows' response to this.
I don't think it is as simple as "chromebooks will kill windows". I'm replacing a big laptop with a CB and a desktop, so MS are not losing out on a licence from me. Chromebooks will convince some people to give up a windows machine, and this effect just might be big enough to detect but MS have an enormous server business too and a CB can hardly replace an xbox. MS will not go out of business from chromebooks.
They are not my favourite company but they do do some good stuff.
I don't think Windows is ever going to go away, even if they aren't trying to keep up with the newer tech advances (I think they are trying to keep up, by the way. They're just slow for some reason). I also think Chromebooks have a LONG way to go before they're on the same public recognition level as Windows/Mac OS X.