Windows 8 slow sales: Yes it's the hardware

Windows 8 slow sales: Yes it's the hardware

Summary: Pundits are proclaiming a slow adoption for Windows 8 and blaming the lackluster reception to the hardware. The problem is the buying public has never demanded different PC hardware.


You may have seen stories online that detail the slow adoption of Microsoft's latest OS, Windows 8. Blame for the slump is cast far and wide with some claiming that Microsoft's competing with partners for the first time with its own PC hardware is rocking the Windows 8 boat.

That push by Microsoft with the Surface tablet is indeed making partners nervous and the result is a rash of tablets and hybrid notebooks aimed at exciting mainstream consumers. The problem is the buying public has never demanded radical hardware changes.

ZDNet's Larry Dignan has a reasoned look at why Windows 8 PCs are not flying off the shelf. He believes that Windows 8 is not polished enough to excite buyers (version 1.0 quality), plus the new PC hardware doesn't excite buyers.

See related: Why you should be skeptical of Chitika's market-share reports | Price and 'lukewarm critical reviews' put a damper on Microsoft Surface | Everything you need to know about Windows 8 upgrades (FAQ part 2)

Consumers have never demanded tablet/ laptops so there is no reason to believe these hybrid PCs will fly off the shelf.

I believe Larry is right to a certain degree but there is a simpler reason for the lackluster reception to this new Windows 8 hardware. Mainstream consumers, the ones I believe Windows 8 is designed to excite, have never asked for radical changes in PC hardware.

There are quite a few thin hybrid PCs aimed at bridging the gap between the popular tablet form and the laptop. These are intended to excite the buying public while providing full advantage of the touch capabilities of Windows 8. The problem is that is hard to do properly, perhaps even impossible.

I've tried a number of these hybrids and they don't make good tablets. They are too heavy and bulky and don't properly bridge the intended tablet/laptop gap. There is nothing there to excite consumers even if they had demanded such capability. More importantly, consumers have never demanded the feature, so there is no reason to believe these hybrid PCs will fly off the shelf even if they handled tablet functions well. Which they don't.

See also: Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 hands on: Flexible laptop for flexible Windows 8 | Why I can't recommend the Surface RT for tablet shoppers | Surface RT hands-on: Not a good tablet, not a good laptop

Microsoft is obviously aiming Windows 8 at the mainstream market. That's the only market segment large enough to justify gambling on a total redesign of Windows 8. The enterprise market and tech-savvy segment were already entrenched in the Windows world so this redesign doesn't get Microsoft new customers in these groups. They would update to Windows 8 no matter what it looked like.

I agree with Larry that the hardware is playing a big role in the slow adoption of Windows 8, but not because it's too new and unpolished. I don't think the consumer on the street wants these innovative hardware designs. I think Microsoft has tried to do too much with Windows 8 in an attempt to reach new customers. 

Existing Windows users will continue to buy Windows 8 products. It doesn't require radical new hardware to accomplish that goal. The attempt to grab new customers due to this new Windows 8 hardware will fail. Nobody has asked for this hardware so it solves no problem. That makes for a sticky situation for Microsoft and its partners with Windows 8 no matter how quickly the OS gets polished.

Topics: Windows 8, Laptops, Microsoft

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  • Windows 8 slow sales: Yes it's the hardware

    Please read Ed Bott's article about slow Microsoft Windows 8 sales and how he debunked this theory. Analysts claimed slow sales for every version of Microsoft Windows over the last 2 decades. It really has nothing to do with the hardware. Microsoft Windows 8 has been running fine on my laptop since it was released. Its running fine on the Microsoft Surface. Its running fine for the 4 million+ and growing.

    Consumers are going to adapt to Microsoft Windows 8. Hopefully the OEMs will too and if they don't Microsoft will step up and create their own hardware much like they did for Surface. I just don't believe these slow sales reports and even more so because of hardware.
    • nope!

      it's the software, namely the proprietary software.
      LlNUX Geek
      • People have no problem with proprietary on their desktop

        That's why the majority argument is "Mac or Windows?"
        Michael Alan Goff
      • Oh puuuuulllleeeaaase....

        Saying people are shunning Windows 8 because of it's propriety nature is like saying people are shunning it because it's not themed in a fuzzy, pink "Hello Kitty" motif - your personal preference does not = everyone's personal preference.

        Second, the success of Windows, MacOS, iOS, BlackBerry (until the last few years), Palm before that, and countless other examples throughout computing history serve as painfully clear evidence that the majority of people don't care about the availability of source code. They absolutely, entirely, DO NOT CARE.

        And I say this as a Linux geek myself. I have various distros installed on hardware and in VM's, and my phone is running AOSP Android. I like Linux, I like hacking on it and I enjoy the process of, and it's ability to, adapt to my specific needs. I get it. But I also freely admit that in my actual work, there is zero realistic alternative to proprietary software for most, if not all of my daily tasks. I simply can't spend my time fighting with software, relying on the generosity of a faceless community for support, or implementing necessary features by programming them myself.

        Your stated position is a clear demonstration that you live in a very small, isolated, little world, and it's precisely that ignorance of the realities that exist outside your little world which will keep Linux from evolving into an OS truly useable by the general public and instead forever be plagued by glaring idiosyncrasies that only geeks like you and I will tolerate.
      • Both hardware and software...

        ... and what's interesting now is that Linux has less problems with hardware than Windows has.

        What i found during 2012 was that also hyped Windows 7 has been nightmare for great deal of Windows users. I have had to install Linux (Mint and Ubuntu) to surprisingly many W7-machines during the last 6 months.
    • Hardware... nop

      The hardware doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that new pc's aren't selling well. Neither does Windows 8. It's the PC itself that is not necessary as it used to be. Taking email and browsing the web does not need a full featured computed anymore and that is what most home users are doing. The PC will still find a place at the Office but at home, Tablets and Xboxes are doing the job ounce done by PCS.

      It's part of the evolution of the species
    • I agree.

      I have an Acer V5-571G, which is basically a thinner version of a standard 15" laptop (with an optical drive and nvidia 620M). Acer recently pushed out a refresh called the V5-571PG, which is virtually identical except it has a touchscreen and is a little thicker and expensive to accommodate it.

      However, I installed Windows 8 on my computer and it runs perfectly fine, and not once have i wished for a touchscreen.
    • The finger points back to Microsoft

      I represent one of the big OEMs on the Microsoft Campus. Its not about the OEM's adapting. Its about Microsoft partnering... Sinofsky all but killed the OEM program and limited our ability to contribute. They also like to be on their own schedule instead of trying to sync with the main hardware vendors as close as possible. I wouldn't bet on Microsoft building their own hardware. Its not really their bag. Outside of small devices, a tablet and phone, Xbox it wont happen.
  • The Surface RT is the "hybrid" done right

    Same thickness and weight and battery life as a regular tablet.

    Much much MUCH more productivity.

    You get the best of both worlds: content consumption / entertainment + productivity for when you need it.

    My Surface RT is better than my ipad was in EVERY single way.
    • Why are you so eager to promote the Surface RT all the time?

      Yes, we know from lots of posts here that for YOU the Surface is apparently a much better device than your iPad was. But why do you keep repeating this over and over and over in this forum? Just askin'
      • Why do you care?

        Just curious. After all, these forums are a place for us to comment on articles. I'm commenting on articles with my personal experience.

        But, I will answer your question. I believe that the Surface RT is actually the best tablet for everyone looking for a 10" tablet. Everything the ipad can do, the Surface RT can do better and there is a lot the Surface RT can do that the ipad will never ever be able to do. There is no one who would be better off buying a 10" ipad instead of a Surface RT. I am doing people a favor by trying to get them to buy the best device for their needs.

        Hopefully that answers your question.
        • Thank you for your answer

          I was just curious, and you are of course entitled to your opinion just as everybody else. Thank you for taking the time to answer my question.
          • Surface RT blows the iPad out of the water...

            You can hook up a portable hard drive, Standard USB stick, SD card, and all sorts of other accessories to Surface RT. You can copy files to and from the Surface with ease. You can edit Excel spreadsheets and Word documents without blocking the display with the on-screen keyboard, and carry that keyboard without sacrificing portability. Try that with an iPad.
          • Does an RT really "blow an iPad out of the water"?

            "You can edit Excel spreadsheets and Word documents without blocking the display with the on-screen keyboard, and carry that keyboard without sacrificing portability. Try that with an iPad."

            You can use a $99 Logitech bluetooth case/keyboard and edit Excel spreadsheets and Word documents with Apple's Numbers and Pages apps "without blocking the display with the on-screen keyboard" and without "sacrificing portability."

            Of course, if you're doing more more creative work - work that requires more reading, thinking and note-taking than cranking out pages of text - then you can leave the keyboard/cover off.

            "You can hook up a portable hard drive, Standard USB stick, SD card, and all sorts of other accessories to Surface RT. You can copy files to and from the Surface with ease."

            You can read and copy standard "USB stick" and "SD card" from an iPad with a simple adapter.

            There are endless other accessories for the iPad as well, but not all are USB based. For example, you can display a film, a presentation or anything else that will fit on an iPad's retina display on any HDTV with just a cable - or wirelessly with AirPlay.

            I've tried all these things on an iPad and they work very nicely.

            Unlike the Surface RT, iPads come with optional 4G/LTE cellular networking so you can access documents anywhere you can get a mobile signal (e.g. via iCloud) so iPads don't rely so heavily on SD cards and USB sticks.

            When you consider the chronically bad VPN support on Surface RTs, the pathetic camera, the small number of apps and the fact that Surface RTs are no cheaper than iPads, I personally see little value in Microsoft's offering.
    • I would agree. The Surface RT is better than the iPad 2

      The iPad 4 has a better display, longer battery life, better camera subsystems and is faster at launching and running apps.

      Rumor has it, in three months, the iPad 5 will debut.

      The trouble with a first gen device trying to compete against an established hardware and software ecosystem is that the target it is aiming at is always moving forward.

      My only question with Microsoft's efforts at manufacturing their own brand of hardware is just how fast they will update that hardware to reflect current tech progress. And, no one knows that answer except Steve Ballmer and a few other Microsoft and associated third party manufacturing executives.
      • That is quite the spec sheet you just listed

        "The iPad 4 has a better display, longer battery life, better camera subsystems and is faster at launching and running apps."

        It reminds me of the old:
        "The Dell xyz is better than the mac abc because it has better resolution, more USB ports, and is faster at launching and running apps."

        Weird how those didn't matter before. Weird how before, it was all about what could be accomplished with the device. The Surface RT can accomplish far more than the ipad 2 and the ipad 4.

        Now, where did I put my ipad keyboard? It is so frustrating having to use apple's frankenstein solution. Sorry, flashback. Ugh.
        • I understand. But you did state that your Surface was better than your iPad

          In order to make that claim, you needed specs to back it up.
          • No, just the reverse

            I listed everything I could DO on the Surface RT that I either couldn't do, or couldn't do easily on the ipad.
          • Actually, Gutless todd...

            you didn't list a single thing, so what are you talking about?
          • Or feature sets. I forgot that part.

            To be fair, and you know this, I've stated previously that the Surface RT (and Pro) models both have superior case designs. (Especially when one considers durability factors) The kickstand is a nice integral design feature and the detachable (and optional - for the most part) keyboards are a design innovation.

            But if one includes optional subsystems than the iPad's cover case can also act as a "kickstand" with the added ability to function in not one but two angular aspects.

            But your right, though Todd, if speed and specs don't matter for you and millions of other users (and quite frankly, if any user applications can only be performed on one hardware platform) than you and I are in agreement. Specs don't matter.

            But if you wish to compare the launching and running of common applications on two different hardware platforms than the only objective way to make the statement "my Surface RT is better than my iPad" is to resort to objective specs like launch speed and operational system speed or to compare display attributes.

            Besides, you know me, I never like to make absolute statements when it comes to individual tastes.