Lightning-fast Windows notebook selloff shows plenty of demand for Windows 8

Windows 8 sales may continue to languish, but a lightning-fast sellout of ASUS notebooks on the Microsoft Store shows that as long as the price is right, people will flock to them.

Starting at 12 am Pacific time earlier today, the Microsoft Store had a one-day sale on the 11.6-inch Asus X200-MA notebook for $199, down from $299. For $199, it was a steal: a touchscreen notebook with 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB hard drive that weighs under three pounds. Powered by an Intel Celeron N2815, it certainly isn't a power machine, and may not be suitable as one's primary computer. But as a second one, at that price it was a steal.

The machines sold out within hours. When I tried to buy one, seven hours after they went on sale, all were gone. Microsoft isn't releasing information on how many it sold, but it's not likely that it only had a handful of them, because this isn't the kind of machine that draws big press coverage.

What's the upshot here? That if the price is right, people want Windows 8 machines. At $200, the Asus was cheaper than a good number of Chromebooks. Microsoft has spent a good deal of time and money denigrating Chromebooks, but the best way to compete against them is simple: Beat or match their prices. Most people will buy Windows notebooks instead of Chromebooks if they are priced similarly.

As I write this, eight of the top-selling laptops on Amazon are Chromebooks. Their prices are in the $200 to $300 range. Most of the other top-sellers are low-cost Windows machines typically in the $300 to $400 range. Imagine if Windows machines with the Asus specs were priced like Chromebooks -- they'd easily take over many of the top spots.

Will we see more good, low-cost Windows machines? Most likely we'll see a fair number of them on devices under nine inches because Microsoft is making Windows available for free to manufacturers who make devices of that size. But for Windows 8 to really take off, there needs to be more bargain-basement machines like the ASUS at larger screen sizes, notably 11.6 inches.

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