Will Windows 8 Succeed In The Market?

With barely a week away from the official launch of Windows 8, some critics of the new operating system from Microsoft are still skeptical about the success of the new OS among the users.

Intel, which makes the processors at the heart of 80 per cent of personal computers, doubts that Windows 8 will have a big impact on sales. CEO Paul Otellini said this week that he’s “very excited” about the new operating system but expects the usual holiday bounce in PC sales to be half of what it usually is. Otellini suggested that PC makers are being cautious about building big stocks of Windows 8 PCs.

Research firm IHS iSuppli expects the industry to ship 349 million PCs this year, down 1 percent from last year’s all-time high. Although small, the decline would be the first since 2001.

In the US, a mature market where consumers are gobbling up tablets, PC sales have already been declining for two years.

Meanwhile, Apple has been doubling sales of iPad tablets every year since the first model was introduced in 2010. In the April to June period, Apple shipped 17 million iPads, while Hewlett-Packard Co., then the world’s largest maker of PCs, shipped 13.6 million PCs, according to Gartner analysts.

Smartphones, which were a niche market before the 2007 launch of the iPhone, outsold PCs last year, even though PC sales were at a record high. Some 488 million smartphones were sold in 2011, according to research firm Canalys.

Windows 8 is a response to the popularity of tablets. It tosses out many Windows conventions in favor of a radical new look that’s designed to be easy to use on a touch screen. With Windows 8, PC makers are releasing a slew of laptops that double as tablets, either with detachable screens or with screens that fold down over the keyboard.

Analyst Mary Jo Foley at UBS is “leery” of Windows 8, noting that it has an entirely new look and feel. It could either be a big success, she said, or it could confuse customers and turn them off.

PC makers began the year with the hope that a new wave of lightweight laptops called ultrabooks would provide a sales lift. But ultrabooks are still expensive, with most models around $1,000, and they haven’t been compelling enough to overcome the growing popularity of smartphones and tablets.

Now, PC makers are in a tough spot when it comes to taking advantage of Windows 8, said Patrick Moorhead, a former chief executive who now runs research firm Moor Insight. Adding a touchscreen into a PC is expensive, and they’re competing with tablets that are much cheaper.

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