Wall Street ratings firm casts doubt on NPD's early Windows 8 sales data

Last month, a report by NPD suggested that Windows 8 was off to a disappointing start. But a leading credit-rating agency has publicly disputed that report, with an analysis that suggests external factors, including Hurricane Sandy, strongly affected early sales.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

At the end of November, NPD garnered a few headlines with data suggesting that Windows 8 was struggling in the marketplace. (Sample from right here at ZDNet: "Windows 8 off to a slow start with consumers in month one, says NPD.")

Now a leading credit-rating agency has taken issue with those numbers.

Fitch Ratings, which is headquartered in New York and London, took the unusual step of publicly disputing the NPD data in a research report:

NPD PC Data May Not be Indicative of Windows 8 Demand

Fitch Ratings-New York-05 December 2012: Data indicating that U.S. retail sales of Microsoft-based PCs declined 21% year over year in the four weeks ended Nov. 17, 2012 does not provide an accurate view of demand for Windows 8, according to Fitch Ratings. The NPD Group data period actually starts five days before the launch of Windows 8 and includes one-off constraints, such as Hurricane Sandy and significant discounts on existing Windows 7 inventory, both of which reduced demand for PCs, particularly those with Windows 8.

The research report noted that Hurricane Sandy had an "adverse effect on PC demand" during the study period, noting that other retail sectors were hard hit as well:

Retail consumer spending overall, particularly for discretionary items such as PCs, was materially affected for at least several days following the storm, which hit just three days after the introduction of Windows 8. Aggregate same-store sales growth of only 1.6% for 17 large retailers in November, nearly 52% below analyst growth expectations, shows the storm's effects continued through the month.

The folks at Fitch should be painfully aware of Sandy's impact, as their New York City headquarters office was closed for a month in the wake of the storm and only reopened on November 29.

NPD's report suggested consumers were snapping up "excess inventory" of Windows 7 PCs, the Fitch report said, with many of those PCs containing "an older Intel processor (Sandy Bridge) and lower graphics capabilities."

There might be a silver lining for anyone watching Microsoft's Windows 8 performance, says Fitch. The ratings firm notes that the PC industry has "a strong pipeline of announced, but yet to be released PC products, particularly those with touchscreens."

If that analysis sounds familiar, well, perhaps it's because you read something very similar here earlier this week.

How are Windows 8 sales? It's still too early to tell.

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