Windows 8 sales are sluggish, not booming, say analysts and Asian PC makers

Microsoft has been touting its claim of 40 million Windows 8 licenses sold as evidence of a booming launch. But analysts and Asian PC makers beg to disagree, and say sales of the new operating system have been sluggish.

Tami Reller, the new business head of the Windows division told the Credit Suisse Annual Technology Conference:

"We have sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses so far. The 40 million is roughly in line with Windows 7."

That sounds like a successful launch, and not all like the gloom and doom that's been claimed by some since the release of the new operating system. But analysts and Asian PC makers have a decidedly different view of things than does Microsoft.

First there's the issue of what "sold" means. Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategies, told Computerworld that all those copies of Windows 8 haven't actually been sold to users. Instead, they've been delivered by PC makers to sales outlets. He said:

"Microsoft recognizes licensing revenue as an OEM builds and ships [PCs] to a distribution point or to end customers."

So millions of those "sold" copies of Windows 8 may still await actually being sold to customers.

The NPD Group reports that since the launch of Windows 8 on October 26, sales of Windows devices have plunged 21% compared to last year. Notebook sales have dropped 24%, while desktop sales have dropped 9%. Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD, says that the sales drop may not be entirely due to Windows 8, but says that Windows 8 has not helped boost PC sales:

"After just four weeks on the market, it’s still early to place blame on Windows 8 for the ongoing weakness in the PC market. We still have the whole holiday selling season ahead of us, but clearly Windows 8 did not prove to be the impetus for a sales turnaround some had hoped for."

NPD cites other evidence of a sluggish Windows 8 start. It claims that since the Windows 8 launch, Windows 8 accounts for only 58% of Windows device sales, compared to the 83% of Windows device sales that Windows 7 had its first four weeks after launch.

Hoever, NPD said that there was some good news for Windows 8. Touchscreen notebooks have sold well. Baker said:

"The strong performance of Windows 8 notebooks with touchscreens, where Windows 8 truly shines, offers some reason for optimism. These products accounted for 6 percent of Windows 8 notebook sales at an average price of $867 helping to re-establish a premium segment to the Windows consumer notebook market."

However, not everyone agrees that touchscreen notebooks have been a bright spot. Several Asian PC makers say sales of the devices have been sluggish. Asustek Computer Inc. Chief Financial Officer David Chang told the Wall Street Journal that demand for its touchscreen PCs was low, and said, "Demand for Windows 8 is not that good right now." The Journal also reports that an internal memo from a manager from Acer notes that its touchscreen notebooks account for only 20% of the company's shelf space due to their high prices.

So are Windows 8 sales a boom or a bust? It's likely somewhere in between, but on the sluggish end.

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