Though the findings are not surprising, given the embattled OS's sluggish adoption, they offer Microsoft a few silver linings, such as the fact that Win8 is far less reviled than Windows Vista. Nevertheless, the studies reassert the pressure Redmond faces as it readies Windows 8.1, a much-anticipated update expected to debut next month.
On Wednesday, Soluto, a PC management company based in Tel Aviv, published a study of Metro users' app activity. Derived from a sample of 10,848 Windows 8 machines Soluto monitors, the report states that users with touchscreens launched 47% more Metro apps than those with traditional hardware, a conclusion that jives with an earlier report that claimed the OS's tablet adoption has outpaced its desktop and laptop adoption.
Still, even among the study's tablet users, 44% launched a Metro app less than once daily. That number predictably jumped to 60% among desktop and laptop users, for whom the UI's touch-centric Live Tiles do not offer obvious benefits. Indeed, the study found that Metro failed to impress even those with touch-equipped laptops; 58.10% of these users launch a Metro app less than once daily.
[ What does our "touch skeptic" think after spending two weeks with Windows 8? Read Windows 8: 4 Things I've Learned. ]
Across the entire study, users of all types launched Metro apps 1.52 times a day. Tablet users launched 2.71 apps per day. Without similar metrics for Android and iOS apps -- Soluto said it might release this data in the future -- it is difficult to put these numbers in any concrete context. Even so, it's hard to imagine that such low figures indicate consumer approval.
The study found that Microsoft's native Mail, People, Messaging and Calendar apps were the most popular. 86% of users used at least one of the apps. No other apps were used by more than half of the sampled population.
Soluto noted that while fewer users than not have installed the Yahoo! Mail app, those who have are particularly engaged, launching it an average of 26.91 times per week. The most frequently accessed of any Metro app, regardless of form factor, Yahoo! Mail is curiously popular, the study notes, because Windows 8's native Mail app supports Yahoo accounts out of the box. Soluto blames Metro's confusing UI for this outcome, speculating that it's easier to install Yahoo! Mail than to add a new account within Win8's Mail app.
"If you're pragmatic about using the Windows operating system with a keyboard and mouse -- there’s no rush. Wait and see what Windows Blue has in store for us before you upgrade," the report advises.
Released on Tuesday, a new study from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), a survey founded by the University of Michigan, also came to ho-hum conclusions about Windows 8.
Microsoft earned an ASCI customer satisfaction score of 74 and was the only software company substantial enough to warrant its own statistical breakout. All other software companies in the study were lumped together and aggregately achieved a score of 76. The national average for all industries in the study, which spanned a variety of consumer-oriented categories, was 76.6.
Redmond's score was down one point from last year, and down four points from its all-time high of 78 in 2011, when Windows 7 was the company's most prominent product. The current mark is comfortably above Microsoft's all-time low of 69, however, which the company earned in 2008, the second year Windows Vista was on the market. The study concludes that Windows 8 has neither helped nor hurt Microsoft's overall reputation, a contention made in at least one other recent report.
With Windows 8.1, Microsoft hopes to show that it can make the Metro UI more user-friendly and engaging. Given that OEMs will soon launch faster, cheaper and lighter Win8 tablets, a successful OS update could position Redmond for meaningful market share gains. If the company posts disappointing back-to-school and holiday sales for the second consecutive year, however, its dedication to the Metro UI will become increasingly difficult to defend.
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