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12/7/2012
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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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melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
12/10/2012 | 6:50:31 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Plagued By Tablet Delays
Comparing RT tablets to the iPad is useless. The two are very different. Apple doesn't promote the iPad as requiring a keyboard, whereas all we see in Microsoft's Ads for the RT is people dancing while clacking their keyboards on. A big question is whether people want a keyboard for their tablet, or whether that concept turns them off. If they don't get an expensive keyboard cover, do they really want to have to use a stylus for Office?

These things are important questions, but few people are addressing them. As you know Paul, millions of iPads have been bought directly by business and government agencies. Apple says that iPad sales are "being driven by business". An independent estimate from someone who wrote for one of the similar journals to this one, or possibly this one, has stated that about half of all iPad purchases have been made by business and government.

If true, and there is no reason to not believe it when reports from large companies as well as government agencies are reporting massive purchases, then this is telling us something profound. Several government agencies, Halliburton, SAP, and other large organizations have been replacing most of their notebooks with iPads, and have reported that the employees are more efficient, and even happier. It's being said that a properly software equipped iPad can replace 80% of what is done on a notebook. Apparently, for many organizations, that 20% isn't as important as is thought.

In addition, with Office not being directly available, we have to wonder if it's all that important after all. There are some excellent apps available for the iPad that take care of that problem with varying success, but it seems to be enough. If it's more widely understood, this is a major headache for Microsoft.

As for other legacy software, well, no one expects the iPad to run any of that, and it's a reason for its success. But Microsoft has the problem of people expecting to run that legacy software, even if its not a good idea on a tablet. They are stuck between two worlds.

While I think there is a place for RT and the Pro, I just don't see a very large market for either. We know about the problems with RT, but the Pro will have it's own. We're already seeing them with other manufacturer's tablets. People are forgetting the disaster that was the old Microsoft tablet, I.e., the Convertible. The problem there that concerns us is the difficulty of using Windows with a stylus on a small screen. Those old machines had screens between 13-15.4" in size, and if you ever used one, you will remember the frustration over tapping with a stylus on those small selection areas.

Now, with screens that measure between 10.6-11.6" in size, it will be much more difficult to use the classic desktop and its software than ever before.

This will become apparent next year. Good luck to them!
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
12/10/2012 | 6:31:27 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Plagued By Tablet Delays
It's not inexplicable, when the hardware isn't ready. It's estimated that intel will be ready in early 2013. So it's waiting on them. But more conventional machines are available, and they aren't selling well either. There's that old problem of "gorilla arm". Perhaps people aren't eager to give that a try, and touch equipped machines cost so much more now. The two monitors that have it are both well above $1,000, close to $2,000 in the case of Hp's model. Both are well above what Windows PC buyers will spend.

And perhaps, people just don't want expensive touch, or more likely, stylus equipped Windows computers.
toothie007
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toothie007,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/10/2012 | 12:13:33 AM
re: Windows 8 Sales Plagued By Tablet Delays
You need to read your own post. Hopefully you will see why. "The client liked windows 8 ...Then can't endure upgrades for the sake of upgrade ... loss of productivity." Make up your mind about your point of attack.
SamRay
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SamRay,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/10/2012 | 12:01:19 AM
re: Windows 8 Sales Plagued By Tablet Delays
Is the shortage causing reduced sales or is reduced sales causing the shortage? It seems strange that Intel might be having trouble producing chips. It is not surprising however that most companies do not want to invest in a mistake.If this article is accurate then the shortage certainly seems to be causing reduced sales but personally I do not trust what this article is saying.
Andrew Hornback
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Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/9/2012 | 9:34:05 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Plagued By Tablet Delays
I'm actually somewhat disappointed in not just the unavailability of Windows 8 on tablets, but having gone through and demo'd Windows 8 for a client that was looking to order a new PC - they liked it, so we ordered a new, brand-name system from one of the big 3... and it showed up with Windows 7, even though the order was placed right as Win 8 launched and was a custom order with deliver in mid November. Smaller organizations can't endure upgrades for the sake of upgrades when it results in loss of productivity - moral of the story, this system will be running Windows 7 for the next 5 years. Good thing, bad thing? Who knows at this point...

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
toothie007
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toothie007,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/9/2012 | 4:48:04 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Plagued By Tablet Delays
Many have upgraded including me, and I know a few others as well. I am loving it. I am so happy I am able to think for myself, and did not listen to others. To each their own. Next!
dbtinc
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dbtinc,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/9/2012 | 2:30:13 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Plagued By Tablet Delays
Is it also possible that no one wants the upgrade to the existing user base because it offers nothing worth the price?
awebb199
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awebb199,
User Rank: Strategist
12/9/2012 | 2:48:14 AM
re: Windows 8 Sales Plagued By Tablet Delays
You can read a review of the Samsung ATIV Clover-Trail class Windows 8 tablet by searching for
review-samsung-ativ-smart-pc on winsupersite It is available at Amazon today.

It probably will take a few more months to clear the Windows 7 inventory before the Windows 8 systems get competitive pricing, and Surface Pro (Intel i5 ) is available in volume with the initial problems fixed. Just be a bit patient.
PMcDougall
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PMcDougall,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2012 | 8:28:10 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Plagued By Tablet Delays
that's just Microsoft hooking its service into Facebook/Twitter APIs so you can see new updates, feeds, etc, but it's of limited functionality. For instance, you can't manage your profiles. There are no official Facebook or Twitter apps for Windows 8.
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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