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8 of 10 customers choose Windows 7, says PC builder

Given the choice, Puget Systems' customers ignore Windows 8 and buy Windows 7 machines instead

December 7, 2012 06:43 AM ET

Computerworld - Given a choice, customers of a Pacific Northwest PC system builder overwhelming pick Windows 7 over the newer Windows 8, the company's president said Thursday.

"Windows 7 is known, it has years of solid reputation behind it, but Windows 8 has gotten a mixed reaction in the press and social media, and the lack of a Start menu is a hot-button issue among our customers," said Jon Bach, president of Puget Systems, an Auburn, Wash. independent PC builder.

Puget Systems is no Dell or Hewlett-Packard, but instead sells high-performance, built-to-order PCs. The average price: $2,500 to $2,600, said Bach. Most are desktops.

Since Windows 8's launch, between 80% and 90% of the systems sold by Puget were pre-installed with the three-year-old Windows 7.

Bach was surprised by the sales numbers. "I'm not down on the production line every day," he said in an interview yesterday. "Before we looked at the data, I would have guessed that Windows 8 was 30% to 40%, but it's just 10% to 20%."

Puget's customers are admittedly not representative of the mass market -- some are hard core gamers, the bulk are professionals and businesses that demand the most from their PCs -- but it does show that, given a choice, they pick Windows 7.

"Our sales are demand-driven," Bach said of Puget's custom PC business model.

That's different than larger OEMs, who in late October quickly shifted to selling Windows 8 systems almost exclusively. Finding a Windows 7 PC on some of their websites can be like looking for hen's teeth. It's even tougher at retail, where Windows 7 has essentially vanished.

Todd Bishop of GeekWire first reported on Puget Systems' lean toward Windows 7 after Brett Nordquist, a company customer service representative, blogged about sales comparisons.

And it's not like Puget hasn't given Windows 8 a shot. "We started running Windows 8 here as soon as Microsoft offered previews," said Bach. "All our sales reps are running Windows 8, and many of them have upgraded their own home PCs to Windows 8. We like to think we're being objective and fair."

But customers spoke. And while Puget Systems doesn't carry the weight of a multinational OEM, the cold shoulder its customers have given Windows 8 should still give Microsoft pause. Three years ago, Puget saw no such hesitation to adopt Windows 7, in large part because of the dissatisfaction with Vista and pent-up demand for a workable OS to replace the even-then-aging Windows XP.

Others have reported similar Windows 8 apathy among PC buyers.

Last week, the NPD Group said that in a four-week-period surrounding Windows 8's Oct. 26 debut, U.S. consumer PC sales dropped 21% compared to the same period in 2011. The research firm's conclusion: Windows 8's introduction failed to turn around sluggish PC sales, killing the industry's hopes of earlier this year.

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