With Windows 8, Microsoft recast Windows as a touchscreen interface, and bet the farm that people would flock to it. Now users have spoken: They hate the devices. New research from IDC shows that as few as 10% of all laptops sold this year will sport a touchscreen.
IDC analyst Bob O'Donnell told Computerworld's Gregg Keizer that only between 10% and 15% of all laptops sold during 2013 will sport touchscreens. That's down from IDC's original 17% to 18% estimate.
Keep in mind that number doesn't refer to all Windows 8 devices, but only Windows 8 laptops. Desktops rarely have touchscreens, so when you take them into account, far fewer than 10% of all Windows 8 traditional computers sold this year will have touchscreens on them.
IDC's numbers reflect what others have said. Computerworld notes that NPD DisplaySearch said in April that 12% of notebooks sold this year would have touch.
A look at the current laptop best-seller list on Amazon bears out that people aren't buying touchscreen laptops. None of the top ten laptops have touchscreens. The top ten include Chromebooks as well as Macs. But if you look at the top ten best-selling Windows notebooks, none have touchscreens, either.
O'Donnell notes that touchscreen laptops are typically far more expensive than non-touch ones, with prices at $700 to $800, up to double the price of non touchscreen laptops. The problem goes beyond price. He told Computerworld:
"Touch is just not that compelling for most. There are not that many touch-required apps that people feel they must have."
As a general rule, apps written for Windows 8 are underpowered compared to desktop apps. In addition, there's a dearth of good Windows 8 apps. Recent research shows that Windows 8 has barely half of the most popular iOS apps.
But there's an even bigger problem with touch -- in many ways, for traditional computers, it's less convenient than a traditional keyboard-and-mouse interface. As I argued in a debate with Computerworld features editor Barbara Krasnoff earlier this year, it often takes more time to use touch than a traditional interface, it's generally harder to navigate, and it can be a productivity killer. There's also the problem of gunking up your screen.
There is some hope for Microsoft and touch. The NPD Group in May said that it expects touchscreen notebooks to grow 48% in 2014. But that's a long time away, and plenty can happen between now and then. For now, it appears that poor sales of Windows 8 touch-enabled laptops show that Microsoft made the wrong bet when it designed Windows 8 for a touch interface rather than a traditional one.