2012
11.23

There’s been a story floating about since Paul Thurrott reported that Microsoft are unhappy with the sales of Windows 8.  Paul does goes on to offer some possible explanations which I found to be quite reasonable.  In the story that’s been floating about since on several sites, the facts have been twisted somewhat.  Tom’s Hardware’s headline goes like:

Windows 8 Criticized for its Part in Ailing PC Growth

They quote an “expert”:

In a research note from analyst Chris Whitmore, the first reason Deutsche Bank attributed for decreasing its PC estimates this quarter was a "lackluster initial uptake of Windows 8."

Real Reason #1 – Supply

Consumers want tablets.  PC and laptop sales have dropped.  All that people want is tablets, tablets, tablets.  If Windows 8 is to succeed in the consumer market then there needs to be tablets to sell.  I was in stores on the day of the launch and there were plenty of people there …. at 09:00 on a Friday!  They wanted tablets … they circled the tablet desks … and some asked sales about Windows 8 devices.

Maybe Chris Whitmore should go to a shop and try to buy a new touch device, like a tablet, running Windows 8.  How many tablets has he seen on shelves running Windows 8 or Windows RT?  The largest chain in the UK/Ireland has no Windows 8 tablets.  Talking with a fellow MVP this week who had travelled to several of that chains stores in the last few weeks, he didn’t even see any touch laptops.  Personally, all I’ve seen are the expensive AiOs (Lenovo), the AiOs that look like they’re 1950’s TVs, a Sonly T13 touch ultrabook, and an Asus ultrabook clone with a PENTIUM processor … welcome to the 1990s folks!  Can’t blame a distributor for this chain, because this chain is their own distributor, and they often sign exclusive deals for models.  They are big and almost unopposed in retail; if they can’t get them, then how can any other retailer?

It’s not much different worldwide.  In Germany’s second largest chain (in the largest retail family), they had a small number of Asus Windows RT tablets on a Saturday a few weekends ago – and they sold out of those by midday.

I work in the channel (although I have almost nothing to do with retail supply).  I know what supplies of touch Windows 8 devices are like.  There is almost nothing around.  There were plenty of announcements by the hardware manufacturers but no few or no devices made it to the channel.  Our supply has been minimal so we’ve little to sell to retailers.  And retailers want Windows 8 touch devices.  I overhear “Surface” on a regular basis from the sales folks on the floor when they’re talking to our customers.

I wanted a tablet and searched high and low.  I pre-ordered from an online retailer, paid 41% more than the USA retail price, and had to wait nearly 2 weeks.  That online outlets supply is obviously very small.  So far, they’re the only place I’ve found in the UK/Ireland (60-70 million people) markets.

Everything I hear says that manufacturers won’t start to have a stable supply until Q1 2013.

Real Reason #2 – Selling

I’ve toured several of the big 2 in Ireland, and the biggest store of the second largest chain in Germany.  They haven’t a clue how to sell to people.  Windows has always had lots of device options.  Windows 8 makes the selection options almost mind boggling; people who I respect in this business are confused by the options.

Microsoft gets some blame here: they’ve fragmented and confused the market with Windows RT.  A desktop with Office RT (that requires purchase of an Office Pro license for commercial use) but doesn’t allow you to install/run traditional programs (because of ARM) is going to confuse customers.  I wonder how many Surface RT customers knew that?  I wonder how many sales people who do have 2rd party Windows RT devices know that?

Take some time at the weekend.  Go into a large store selling computers and tablets.  Walk over to the Apple section.  There you’ll find clean wood tables, that are clearly signed, lit up using Apple signage, with iPads in one place, MacBooks in another, and Macs in another.  All clean, well laid out, logically placed, and no confusion.  Apple understands retail.  And here’s the thing: if you want to sell Apple (with the tiny tiny margins that they allow you) you must comply with their display rules.

Now take a wander over to the section where you’ll find Windows devices.  I bet it’s like every place I’ve been to: a great big mess of machines scattered all over the place.  The stores that didn’t plan have mixed Windows 7 and Windows 8 machines together … ultrabooks, 17” laptops, convertibles, hybrids, maybe some Win7 slate PCs (almost a tablet but not quite), some with touch (maybe), some with gesture pads, some with no touch at all.  all mixed in a confusing collage of computing.  The sales person here doesn’t know anything about the hardware.  And imagine the poor customer, walking into this and trying to figure out what’s what.  Buying an Apple would be easier …

So why isn’t that all nice and clean like the Apple stuff?  I split the blame on this one.  The retailers are told what the rules are by Apple to be allowed to sell Apple gear.  However, anyone can “sell” Windows because there’s a bazillion of Windows device manufacturers.  Instead of being told how to display/sell, the retailers do as they please.  Want a retailer to display your Windows device a certain way?  You have to pay them to do it.  Yeah – the store owners expect the manufacturer to pay them so that the store owners can make a profit on display product that they will make a profit on if they sell it.  Madness!  Personally, I think Microsoft should start to enforce rules on the manufacturers that forces them to put rules on display at the point of sale.  A universal rule on the most sold category of product will force the retailers to cop on and sort their act out.

Summary

You can’t sell something you don’t have.  Blaming Windows 8 for poor sales is stupid because the devices aren’t there to be sold.  And when they are, they need to be sold in a way that doesn’t confuse the customer.

That’s my personal opinion anyway.

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2 comments so far

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  1. Spot on. Three rules of selling tech products.
    Easy to Buy
    Easy to Install
    Easy to Use

    Apple understands. all those Taiwanese and Korean vendors dont.

  2. Yep, I am willing to go Windows 8 on my newer hardware that is designed for it. But to take hardware that is not tablet-ish by design, I would rather stick with Windows 7. As far as hardware that is on the market built to support touch, what is being offered is way too limited at this time and what I have seen (which is not much at any local retail place and you have pointed out in previous blogs), none of the products have made me spend my ca$h. I hate the fact finders on the success of something in less than 60 days to be so lame as far as the release of Windows 8 and many other things in the tech world.

    Touch is here to stay and as manufactures take note of their personal success or failures with the current run of hardware and they then use that data, I expect the hardware to become better and then we will see Windows 8 fitting into the world as a better fitting glove. Check the number of units sold after the second wave of hardware with Windows 8 on them, I think it will only get better and the number of units sold will follow.

    I have and know several people that have sold their Google and iOS phones and have gone with new Windows 8 phones. Those that dropped their Apple hardware, they did it to get away from the Apples ecosystem that prevented the Kindle software from selling a book directly in the application. I think that was the stupidest move that Apple could have done and I look forward to Microsoft being the answer for those to bypass poor decisions of Apples past. http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9218629/Amazon_caves_to_Apple_drops_Kindle_s_in_app_button

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