NYT: Windows 8 Sales Disappoint in Shaky PC Market
Weak PC sales this holiday season suggest that the struggles of Microsoft and other companies that depend heavily on the computer business will not abate soon. Plenty of consumers already own PCs and seem content to make do with what they have, especially in a shaky economy in which less expensive mobile devices are bidding for a share of their wallets.
Emmanuel Fromont, president of the Americas division of Acer, the world’s No. 4 PC maker, said sales of the company’s Windows 8 PCs had been lower than expected. He said one factor was the system’s unfamiliar design, which appeared to be making consumers cautious.
The clearest evidence of Windows 8’s disappointing introduction comes from the research firm NPD, which estimates that sales of Windows machines have actually dropped from a year ago.
According to NPD, stores in the United States sold 13 percent fewer Windows devices from late October, when Windows 8 made its debut, through the first week in December, than in the same period last year.
While most people are not getting rid of their PCs altogether in favor of mobile devices, analysts believe they are postponing purchases of new ones.
“What you’re seeing is not a retirement of PCs, but a push-out in the replacement cycle,” said A. M. Sacconaghi, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein. “If people used to buy PCs every four years and are now buying them every five years, that could lower PC sales by 20 percent over time. That’s substantial.”
Mr. Sacconaghi predicted that global PC shipments would be down 3 percent in 2012.
The shift in spending to tablets is one reason that Windows 8 is so critical for Microsoft’s future. The company overhauled its operating system with a radically different, tile-based interface that is easier to navigate on touch-screen devices. Microsoft intends the software to be flexible enough that it can still be used on conventional laptops and desktops, including newer models with touch screens.
But the changes have disappointed a lot of reviewers and interface design experts, who have focused in particular on the potentially confusing coexistence of the new tile interface alongside the old desktop one.