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Windows 8 sales woes: are netbooks to blame?

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SuperSite for Windows' Paul Thurrott thinks new PCs can't compete on price

pile of netbooks
pile of netbooks

The latest numbers indicate that Windows 8 isn't boosting the weak PC notebook market, causing some manufacturers to blame Microsoft for poor sales. But Paul Thurrott, longtime Microsoft enthusiast and founder of SuperSite for Windows, argues that Windows 8 isn't dragging down manufacturers — it's the other way around. "Many of [Microsoft's] 20 million Windows 7 licenses each month," Thurrott writes, "went to machines that are basically throwaway, plastic crap." Blaming netbooks particularly, he says that cheap notebook sales conditioned customers to "expect to pay next to nothing" for Windows machines, a strategy that backfired when Microsoft started optimizing Windows 8 for more expensive touch-based displays. His sentiment echoes that of NPD, which concluded in a private report that netbooks did "an incalculable amount of damage" to the PC market.

We've written before about the potential of touch displays, as well as the problems they pose for current-gen hardware. Thurrott's suggestions for solving the touchscreen conundrum are largely cost-based: prices, he says, need to come down enough to occupy a place between cheap Android tablets and higher-priced iPads. For that to happen, though, manufacturers would have to shave several hundred dollars off the prices of touch-enabled machines, shifting focus from high-specced ultrabooks to cheaper notebooks and ARM devices. And considering the problems both netbooks and the ARM-based Surface have seen, that introduces a whole new set of issues.