Late last year, when Windows 8 made its debut amidst a worrying decline over PC sales, Microsoft bet heavily on being able to lure consumers with a fancy new range of touch-enabled laptops that it hoped would sweep over the market and rejuvenate the industry. Alongside Microsoft’s much-vaunted Surface Pro and RT ultrabooks, most major PC makers threw their own touchscreeen Windows 8 PCs into the mix, but sadly for them consumers just aren’t that interested. According to a report in Computerworld out today, the research firm IDC has just lowered its forecast sales for touchscreen notebooks, and even its new prediction is said to be somewhat “optimistic”.
Bob O’Donnell, an analyst with IDC, said in an interview:
“We forecast that 17% to 18% of all notebooks would have touch this year, but that now looks to be too high, to be honest. We’ll likely drop our estimates to between 10% and 15% of all laptops.”
That’s quite a reduced figure from those that were being bandied around a few months ago. Last May, Acer’s President Jim Wang confidently predicted that by the end of the year, around 30-35% of all notebooks sold by the company would be touch-enabled machines. But now Wang’s talking a different tune – in an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week he admitted that his earlier prediction was overly optimistic, saying that “we’re now trying to grow our non-Windows business as soon as possible.” In line with that, Acer is attempting to focus more on Android and Chromebook devices at the expense of those running Windows.
Why are consumers turning their noses up at Windows 8 PCs? Well, for one thing these machines are pretty damn pricey for something that runs one of the most heavily criticized Windows operating systems of all time. The average touchscreen notebook sells for around $700 to $800 in the US, while non-touch versions can be had for half that price.
The other major concern is Windows 8 itself, and particularly the lack of decent apps available for it. While Microsoft has been making some headway in getting big name services to make apps for it, the majority of the Windows Store’s offerings are still pretty damn awful, and that’s a pretty big problem. After all, one of the main reasons for using a touchscreen computer that can be flipped into a tablet is so you can use apps instead of the main desktop, but the experience just doesn’t really compare to that of the iPad or any number of Android tablets.
Another problem of course is that Windows 8′s design is so radically different from previous operating systems that many users just don’t want to use it. Admittedly it doesn’t take that long for experienced computer users to get to grips with the new interface, but for anyone who uses their machine just to browse the web and download music and such, the new interface could be pretty daunting – and why bother learning it when you can just use an older Windows 7 machine, or your Android tablet?
Microsoft knows this and is trying to make amends – its long-awaited Windows 8.1 update is now just around the corner and should be a little more familiar with the Start button and boot to desktop option being re-introduced, but whether these changes will win over skeptical consumers remains to be seen.