Consumers not waiting for Windows 8?

Analysts say shipments of traditional PCs are flat because people are waiting for Windows 8 to appear. But what if they're simply buying tablets and other stuff instead?

Blame it on Windows 8.

Analysts this week cited "waiting for Windows 8" as one reason for flat shipments of traditional PCs.

But I would submit that's an excuse rather than a reason. Instead of waiting, consumers are buying MacBooks, iPads, Google's Nexus 7, and large-screen Android phones.

In other words, what Intel CEO Paul Otellini likes to optimistically call -- in the case of tablets -- "additive" devices, or machines people buy in addition to a PC. But I think they're what consumers actually buy instead of a PC.

Does that portend an apocalyptic end-of-days scenario for the traditional PC? No, but it means things won't necessarily improve much.

And, by the way, Microsoft is doing the right thing. In order to stay relevant, it had no choice but to dive into PC hardware, i.e., the Surface tablet.

It bears repeating that Surface -- if it lives up to its billing, and that's still a big if -- is one of the most exciting PC products in a long time.

Which brings us back to the Windows 8 upgrade. The world's not holding its collective breath for the next version of Windows like it used to.

There are too many serious distractions like Android and Apple now. Both of which, by the way, already do what Windows 8 proposes to do.

Microsoft Surface, Windows 8 Pro model.
Microsoft Surface, Windows 8 Pro model. Microsoft

So where have the multitudes gone who used to wait for Windows? My very unscientific but reliable indicator is a shopping mall in Century City, Los Angeles. There you have a Microsoft store and Apple store very near each other.

On Friday, in the Microsoft store there was a small crowd checking out ultrabooks (on display were half a dozen new Vizio ultrabooks -- and note that a couple of the ultrabooks were plagued by a freezing mouse cursor). A few "customers" were using available PCs to play games.

Around the corner, the Apple store was packed -- many huddled at the front of the store around the Retina MacBook Pros (the store had just sold the last one in stock when I walked in) and iPads.

Can Microsoft bring that not-waiting-for-Windows-8 crowd back? I think its stores are an excellent start, but it needs a really cool new product -- not just a Windows upgrade -- to get people's attention.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.


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