Windows 8 notebooks aren't selling partly due to price

Touchscreen notebooks average about $700 and accounted for only 4.5 percent of Windows 8 sales

Windows 8 notebooks apparently didn't create a lot of cheer around the Christmas tree this holiday season.

Market research firm NPD says while shoppers started off strong, their purchasing dropped off throughout the rest of the season for an overall sales decline of 7 percent compared with 2011. The firm blames Windows 8, in part.

"Despite the hype, and hope, around the launch of Windows 8, the new operating system did little to boost holiday sales or improve the year-long Windows notebook sales decline," NPD said in a statement Friday.

The Port Washington, N.Y.-based firm said Windows notebook holiday unit sales dropped 11 percent, on par with Black Friday, and similar to the yearly trend, but revenue trends weakened since Black Friday to end the holiday period down 10.5 percent.

The average sale price of touchscreen notebooks was about $700 and accounted for only 4.5 percent of Windows 8 sales -- a disappointment for Microsoft and its partners, considering the operating system is optimized for touch.

"It's not pat to say that the Windows PC market went for volume over quality, because it did: Many of those 20 million Windows 7 licenses each month -- too many, I think -- went to machines that are basically throwaway, plastic crap. Netbooks didn't just rejuvenate the market just as Windows 7 appeared, they also destroyed it from within: Now consumers expect to pay next to nothing for a Windows PC. Most of them simply refuse to pay for more expensive Windows PCs," Thurrot writes.

One thing that's working against this trend is that people are willing to pay a bit more for a decent full-sized tablet, namely the iPad and its competitors, including Microsoft's own Surface. But that's a different form factor.

As for laptops themselves, ideally people who want to get the most out of Windows 8 will ante up for a more expensive touch-capable machine. But will they?

"Years of relying on cheap netbook sales to bolster the shaky PC market have colored our perception of both Windows and the hardware on which it runs. For Windows 8 to succeed -- reach or exceed that 20 million licenses per month figure -- the average selling price of touch-based PCs and devices is going to have to come down," Thurrott writes.

More numbers may support this view.

At the end of December, web measurement company Net Applications released numbers that showed Windows 8's usage uptake had slipped behind Vista'sat the same point in its release.

Even so, expect to see Windows 8 devices everywhere at CES this week .

Perhaps all the visibility and press that comes from the huge electronics trade show in Las Vegas will chip away at what appears to be an entrenched budget-minded consumer mentality.

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Christina DesMarais

PC World (US online)
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