Fewer than half of U.S. consumers have heard of Windows 8, hinting that Microsoft faces a tough task convincing buyers that they need to jump on the bandwagon.
According to a telephone survey of almost 1,200 U.S. adults conducted by the Associated Press, 52% had not heard of Windows 8, the new operating system Microsoft launched last Friday.
But one expert downplayed the significance of the survey. "This poll doesn't say much, other than within a few days of launch, awareness is low," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, in an email reply to questions.
The poor showing by Windows 8 may be due to the timing of the poll, which was done in the days leading up to the Oct. 26 launch. Microsoft only began running national television ads for the OS two weeks ago, with the first debuting Oct. 15 on Monday Night Football.
Microsoft will spend a reported $1 billion or more on its Windows 8 marketing blitz.
Of those polled who had heard of Windows 8, almost two out of three -- 61% -- said they had little or no interest in buying a new desktop or notebook computer running the operating system, said the AP.
That number fits with analysts' impressions of the upgrade. Last week, several said that Windows 8 probably won't turn around sluggish PC sales.
Just over a third, or 35%, of those surveyed who said they were aware of Windows 8 believe the operating system will be an improvement over past editions.
They should know: 80% of the respondents who have personal computers in their homes said that they were running earlier versions of Windows, with just 12% noting they were using a Mac, which relies on a different operating system, Apple's OS X. The 12% confirms industry estimates, which put the Mac's share of the U.S. personal computer market at between 10% and 13%.
Most experts expect that Windows 8 will appeal more to consumers than to businesses because of the upgrade's focus on touch and tablets. Research firm Forrester, in fact, said recently that 2013 "is going to be ugly" for Microsoft because corporations will ignore Windows 8 at least for the next year, and stick with Windows 7 instead.
Microsoft's first-ever tablet, the Surface RT, also appears to be a hard sell for the Redmond, Wash. giant: 69% of the consumers surveyed had little or no interest in buying a Surface.
The Surface RT is Microsoft's attempt to showcase Windows RT, a spin-off of Windows 8 that forgoes the millions of existing Windows programs.
Microsoft kicked off Surface RT sales last week at prices starting at $499, and will follow the innovative tablet-with-a-keyboard design in late January 2013 with a model running Windows 8 itself.
"Given that this is a new product category, [the poll results] make perfect sense to me," said Moorhead. "What will be more telling are [the results] after a month of barrages of Microsoft advertisements and point-of-sale stands. It has no place to go but up, right?"
Windows 8 Pro upgrades launched last Friday, with the $39.99 representing the steepest-ever discount for an update. The company's computer-making partners also started selling their wares on Oct. 26.
Microsoft declined to comment on the AP poll and its results.
See more Computerworld Windows 8 launch coverage including news, reviews and blogs.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is email@example.com.