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12/7/2012
02:24 PM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
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Windows 8 Sales Plagued By Tablet Delays

Windows 8 tablets powered by Intel's Atom "Clover Trail" chip were supposed to hit the price-performance sweet spot -- but just try finding one.

6 Reasons To Want Windows 8 Ultrabooks
6 Reasons To Want Windows 8 Ultrabooks
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Opinions are split over Windows 8. Some love it, some hate it. But even the former group isn't buying much simply because many of the most promising Win8 systems just can't be had -- a fact that, more than any technical or esthetic consideration, threatens to derail Microsoft's new OS.

Windows 8 and related hardware launched Oct. 26. To date, Microsoft has been mum on sales data, with the exception of Windows unit co-chief Tami Reller's claim last month that 40 million licenses have been sold. The number is meaningless, given that Microsoft has refused to say how many of those copies are preinstalled on systems that have yet to find a buyer.

Estimates from more objective sources paint a dismal picture of Windows 8 hardware and software sales. Market researcher NPD last week said that sales of Windows-based systems are down 21% since Windows 8 debuted on Oct. 26, compared to the same period a year ago.

[ Check out 10 Great Windows 8 Apps. ]

That's surely disappointing for Microsoft and its partners, but the operating system's relative merits are only one part of the story. The fact is, many of the most promising Windows 8 systems haven't made it to market yet. Some have been delayed until next year.

I've written before about Microsoft's inexplicable decision to hold back Surface Pro, which runs Windows 8 Pro and supports legacy applications, until after the holidays. That means buyers who want a Surface right now are stuck with Surface RT, a $499-and-up device that can run apps only preinstalled by Microsoft or downloaded from the somewhat limited Windows Store -- no Facebook, no Twitter, no LinkedIn.

Small wonder Surface RT unit sales are projected to come in at well under a million in the current quarter, according to analysts at brokerage Detwiler Fenton. (By contrast, Apple sold three million iPads in three days following November's launch of the iPad Mini.

But it gets worse. Windows 8 tablets and convertibles built around the platform that was supposed to put Win8 on an even footing with the iPad and Android are scarce. That platform is the Clover Trail version of Intel's Atom architecture. The chip is designed to deliver energy efficiency and battery life on par or better than ARM chips, and the power and legacy compatible of x86 systems. Vendors pitched their Clover Trail-based products as devices with no tradeoffs.

Is that really true? Hard to tell, because you're about as likely to find Clover Trail tablets and convertibles on store shelves or online as you are to find Sandra Fluke at a Tea Party convention.

Here's the current availability of Clover Trail systems from the top five PC vendors, in no specific order. The ASUS Vivo Tab Smart? No launch date specified. The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 is "coming soon" according to the company's website. As of Friday, an order placed on Hewlett-Packard's website for the Envy X2 Windows 8 hybrid tablet/PC will be fulfilled on Jan. 7. It was supposed to launch Nov. 14. Dell's estimated ship date for the standard version of its Clover Trail-powered Latitude 10 tablet is Dec. 28; for the enhanced version it's Jan 4.

The only Clover Trail system I could find that's available for immediate purchase is Acer's Iconia W510 tablet. A Microsoft rep confirmed that it can be had directly from Redmond's online store, but purchase quantities are limited to one. As of Friday, Amazon had exactly 18 units left of the $749 version that comes with keyboard, and was sold out of the standard, $599 version.

This situation has to be absolutely killing Windows 8 sales. To be sure, there are some nifty Intel Core-based Windows 8 convertibles and tablets out there, like the Dell XPS 12 and the Acer Iconia W500, but they're typically priced $800 and above -- unlikely to make them big holiday sellers. Windows RT systems, such as the Surface RT and ASUS Vivo Tab RT, are price competitive with the iPad, but don't offer nearly as many quality apps to choose from.

Clover Trail systems, on the other hand, seem to hit the sweet spot in price, performance, application availability and compatibility. "At a retail price of $500, this device is a better value than most other tablets since it can run x86 programs and still last as long," read an Iconia W510 customer review posted on the Microsoft Store. But supplies of Clover Trail systems are short or non-existent.

Sources tell me the delay rests with Intel, which is having trouble producing production-quality Clover Trail chips in high volumes. No doubt hardware makers who built holiday marketing campaigns around Win8-on-Clover Trail systems are seething. Is it any wonder Intel CEO Paul Otellini is stepping down? Is it any wonder that Microsoft has suddenly gotten serious about building its own hardware?

Upgrading isn't the easy decision that Win 7 was. We take a close look at Server 2012, changes to mobility and security, and more in the new Here Comes Windows 8 issue of InformationWeek. Also in this issue: Why you should have the difficult conversations about the value of OS and PC upgrades before discussing Windows 8. (Free registration required.)

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toothie007
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toothie007,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2012 | 2:25:07 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Plagued By Tablet Delays
What legacy application does the ipad run? None. Have you ever criticized the ipad for not running any legacy applications? If so, give me the link to the article. I do not expect a response, for the mere fact that you are quoting such a limited study (less than three week after the release of windows 8) says it all. You took a position prior to the release of windows 8, and so you will hang on to anything no matter how meaningless to support it. The last time I check, one can use twitter and facebook through the people's hub. However, I suppose the only way that those applications can be done on a tablet is the way Apple does it. Go and enjoy your paycheck.
toothie007
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toothie007,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2012 | 2:37:14 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Plagued By Tablet Delays
By the way Paul, I am in a position (based on my training and what I do for a living) to say that the NPD study is meaningless. The time frame is definitely not sufficient to indicate any trend that can be attributed to windows 8. Correlation is not causation by the way. Any other numerous factors could be responsible for what NPD is attributing to windows 8, such economic conditions and availability of windows 8 machines. Only in hit journalism can people sell these sort of bogus studies.
newyorkcitymale
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newyorkcitymale,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2012 | 3:33:17 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Plagued By Tablet Delays
Great points! There's a total double standard when it comes to comparing anything released by Microsoft (or that runs Windows) and anything that comes from Apple.

Here's a few areas where the iPad falls short:
- No USB port
- No expandable storage slot
- Doesn't run MS Office (which is required in the enterprise)
- Can't connect to peripherals

The reality is that the iPad is a flat netbook... but even less powerful. Most people use them to surf the web & play games... so why do they need a millions apps? Answer: They don't.

The reality is that Windows 8 is a HUGE threat to Apple & Android because Windows 8 is the first desktop OS that was designed specifically for mobile. It runs on desktops, laptops, hybrids, tablets & phones. In a year, it will likely be installed on 200-300 million devices--more than the new Android & iOS devices sold in the same time period. Do these analysts really believe that developers will ignore a market that large? Get real. It's just a bunch of wishful thinking by a bunch of Apple-loving hipster wannabes who hate anything the Microsoft does. Pfft!
PMcDougall
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PMcDougall,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2012 | 3:47:11 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Plagued By Tablet Delays
Toothie, from my column of 10/16/12: "OSX Mountain Lion? Despite some new fit and finish, it remains a traditional PC operating system that is a bridge too far from Apple's iOS-based mobile products."

As requested, here's the link:
http://www.informationweek.com...
PMcDougall
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PMcDougall,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2012 | 3:49:34 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Plagued By Tablet Delays
Toothie, from column of 10/16/12

"OSX Mountain Lion? Despite some new fit and finish, it remains a traditional PC operating system that is a bridge too far from Apple's iOS-based mobile products."

(I would provide a link but it would be delayed by our spam filter, but it's easily enough Googled)
toothie007
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toothie007,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2012 | 5:48:32 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Plagued By Tablet Delays
In the article you provided you are not criticizing the iPad for not being able to run legacy applications. I never asked if you have ever written an article critical of Apple. I asked if you have ever criticized the iPad for not being able to run legacy applications.
PMcDougall
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PMcDougall,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2012 | 6:05:20 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Plagued By Tablet Delays
that's exactly what I'm doing. Criticizing the fact that iPad won't run Mac applications and vice versa, while pointing out that Windows 8 PCs and tablets are cross-compatible (except for RT)
bobm44
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bobm44,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2012 | 6:10:28 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Plagued By Tablet Delays
Paul, I don't have much Apple prods experience to compare it to, but tend to agree with your overall position. Microsoft seems to have followed their typical approach to marketing Win 8 and surface - which is to get something out and put people in a wait mode for something better. Problem is, that is not what THIS market expects. I am disappointed in MS for not changing strategies.

On the technical side, Visual Studio 2012 is very nice. But with Win 8 the permutations of APIs, dev environments, and target environments is almost overwhelming. Been trying to learn how to make a Win Store app and it is a journey (even for us experiences Win folks).

One note about your piece ... "no Facebook, no twitter ..." can't you run a browser in Win 8 RT? (I really do not know).
PMcDougall
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PMcDougall,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2012 | 6:48:37 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Plagued By Tablet Delays
you can run Explorer in RT and get to Facebook, Twitter, etc that way. But not the same as having a tablet-optimized app
toothie007
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toothie007,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2012 | 7:50:22 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Plagued By Tablet Delays
There are optimized facebook and twitter apps in windows 8. They are just not stand-alone apps. They are all integrated in what MS calls peoples hub. Stop telling lies. You are dishonest.
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