Windows laptop sales sink -- but that's just part of the problem

Windows 8 laptop sales are hardly on fire. Maybe the absence of the dirt-cheap netbook has something to do with that.

Will businesses and consumers spring for a Windows 8 hybrid priced at $849 that's powered by a relatively pokey Atom processor?
Will businesses and consumers spring for a Windows 8 hybrid priced at $849 that's powered by a relatively pokey Atom processor? Hewlett-Packard

Windows 8 PC sales aren't trending well, according to a new report. And consumers' addiction to low cost may be a factor.

A blurb on Friday from the NPD Group said Windows 8 holiday sales continue to not impress.

"The launch of Windows 8...did little to boost holiday sales or improve the yearlong Windows notebook sales decline," NPD said.

More specifically, Windows laptop "holiday unit sales" were down 11 percent year-to-year, the market researcher said.

Want more deets? The average selling price of a Windows laptop rose a hair -- $2 to $420, according to NPD.

Meanwhile, the average selling price of a MacBook rose almost $100 to $1,419 on a sales drop of 6 percent.

Upshot: Both Windows lappies and MacBooks saw sales decrease, but Apple made a $100 average selling price gain versus a couple of bucks for Windows.

Maybe a bigger part of the Windows sales problem is that the mix of systems has changed compared with the glory days of Windows 7.

That is, Windows 7 was accompanied by a crush of ultracheap netbooks, according to an analysis at the Supersite for Windows -- which had some harsh words for netbooks.

"Many of those 20 million Windows 7 licenses each month -- too many, I think -- went to machines that are basically throwaway, plastic crap. Netbooks didn't just rejuvenate the market just as Windows 7 appeared, they also destroyed it from within," Paul Thurrott wrote.

"Now consumers expect to pay next to nothing for a Windows PC. Most of them simply refuse to pay for more expensive Windows PCs."

And, by the way, shipments of systems powered by Intel's power-efficient-yet-lower-performance Atom chip -- the same class of processors used in netbooks -- are barely a trickle at this point. And to make matters worse, some, like the $849 HP Envy x2, are priced way above the $399 netbooks of holiday seasons past.

There is a counterpoint to the NPD report, however. Analysts have told CNET that demand for touch-screen Windows 8 PCs in the U.S. is strong. Rhoda Alexander, an analyst at IHS iSuppli, told CNET last month that some vendors can't keep touch-screen PCs on the shelf.

So, if supply of touch-screen displays eases and system prices drop a bit, that could drive more sales. And prove to be an advantage over Apple, which doesn't have any touch-screen MacBooks.

At $749, Samsung's Intel Atom chip-based ATIV Smart PC is about $300 more than a Windows 7 Netbook.
At $749, Samsung's Intel Atom chip-based ATIV Smart PC is about $300 more than a Windows 7 Netbook. Samsung
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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