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3/11/2013
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Windows 8 Sales Stall: 3 Strategies

Microsoft appears to have a plan for revitalizing Windows 8. But will it be enough to overcome the OS's disappointing launch?

Windows 8 has been commercially available for more than four months, and though its progress has been analyzed and debated every step of the way, the touch-oriented OS remains a divisive topic, its prospects just as contestable today as they were in October.

Even Microsoft's partners don't agree. After unfavorably comparing Windows 8 devices to Chromebooks, Acer president Jim Wong has since reversed course, not only stating that Microsoft is providing more support for OEMs but also predicting that sales will pick up over the second half of the year. Samsung executive Jun Dong-soo evidently isn't so optimistic, having reportedly compared Redmond's newest effort to the much-maligned Windows Vista.

Samsung is arguably less invested than Acer in Windows 8's future, and one can argue whether such industry chatter is meaningful. Nonetheless, Windows 8 sales failed to impress over the holidays and have subsequently shown signs of diminishing momentum.

It's still early in the game, but Redmond won't see much of a boost from the enterprise until at least 2014, as most companies are still too invested in Windows 7 to deal with a new OS, let alone budget for the new hardware necessary to maximize the upgrade. Consumer enthusiasm has thus become central to Windows 8 forecasts; these buyers not only dictate near-term progress but also, due to BYOD, inform how large eventual Windows 8 deployments will be.

The broad strokes of Microsoft's strategy are slowly becoming discernible, and though success is not assured, the software giant has cause to be optimistic. Here are three steps Redmond appears to be taking to boost Windows 8.

Inspire the OEMs.

Windows 8 has been a point of contention between Microsoft and many of its partners. Some, such as Dell, have unambiguously praised the OS's tactile experience. But several have implied weak confidence in Windows 8's future, investing in Chromebooks and Android-based tablets as an ostensible hedge against the OS's uncertain potential. Some OEMs also reportedly took umbrage when Microsoft's Surface line began encroaching on their territory.

[ Are you puzzled by the plethora of hardware devices when it comes to Windows 8? Read Windows 8 Device Choices Baffle Buyers. ]

According to recent reports, Redmond is aggressively working to make Windows 8 more appealing to its partners. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, claimed on March 5 that Microsoft is charging OEMs only $30 for Windows 8 bundled with Office 2013. The WSJ claimed this package previously cost $120. Taiwanese tech site DigiTimes received slightly different news; citing Asian vendors and ODMs, it reported that Windows 8 licenses had been slashed from around $90 to just $20. The site also claimed that discounts are limited to devices with 11.6-inch and smaller displays, and that free copies of Office are being added only for sub-10.8-inch models.

Many have attributed Windows 8's disappointing holiday sales to a lack of touch-oriented models, and to the fact that these few options were too expensive. By incentivizing OEMs to build smaller, less expensive form factors, Microsoft addresses both concerns. Redmond hasn't confirmed the discounts, and even if the reports are true, it's unclear if customers are warming to the Windows 8 user experience. But if price points are truly stifling consumer adoption, OEM discounts make sense. While the move runs the risk of looking desperate, it encourages Microsoft partners to produce innovative form factors tailored to the OS's hybrid identity as both tablet and computer.

Make the Most of Intel's Haswell Chips.

Ultrabooks that run on Intel's Haswell chips should hit the market by the end of the year. The next-gen Core processers advertise slight increases in central processing power but substantially improved graphics performance and power consumption. Intel has mandated that all future Ultrabooks be touch-enabled and suggested that the chips will advance its perceptual computing concept, which integrates features such as gesture and voice controls into the PC experience.

The company has also set a price target of $599 for Haswell-based models. Taken together, these developments suggest that if Microsoft's discounts don't inspire OEMs' respective imaginations, Intel's newest silicon might do the trick.

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DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
3/26/2013 | 5:49:47 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Stall: 3 Strategies
That's the problem, you shouldn't have to dump Metro. Out of the box you should be able to use Metro when you want or use Desktop with Win7 UI when you want. It shouldn't be an either or choice. Also, the startup UI should be selectable, Metro/Win7 Desktop then be able to which between them. Instead MS wants Metro only until they go broke.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
3/26/2013 | 5:42:06 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Stall: 3 Strategies
The basic problem with Win8 is its change. Microsoft expects every current user of Win7 to change. We are not talking about a minor change with something like the backup function from XP to Vista or the network function from Vista to Win7. We are talking a wholesale change without justification (at least to existing Win7 installations). The hundreds of millions of Win7 users don't want the change of Win8 unless on a touch device. Apple does not run the same OS on an iMac as on an iPhone for good reason, they are used differently. If and when they are used the "same" the Apple OSs' will be the same. Microsoft has not learned this. Instead of offering OEMs discounts they need to give the end user the ability to use both the Start button desktop fully featured for Win7 and the Win8 Start Screen.
Terabyte Net
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Terabyte Net,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/22/2013 | 1:57:24 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Stall: 3 Strategies
Win8 is fine the second you install Classic Shell and dump Metro. It's at least as fast as Win7 x64, far faster than Vista and with Classic Shell you get the security and speed of 8 with the REAL Start bar of Windows starting with Windows 95. Honestly, if MS hadn't yanked the Start button and had offered Metro as an alternative only we wouldn't be having this discussion. No one is talking about speed or compatibility issues with Windows 8, the only comparability issue I've come across is an O2Micro SD card reader in Dell Latitude E6520 laptops, but other than that Win8 seems to work well with everything Win7 does. Users, with the exception of my teenage daughter, seem to universally hate Metro and universally love Classic Shell. If the OpenSource community can put together Classic Shell in an 8.5MB download surely MS can add the Start menu back as an App or as an update and fully support it. Short of that no amount of touchscreen enabled ultrabooks are going to spur sales of a mobile phone GUI on a laptop, desktop, or server (has anyone tried to use Server 2012? It's horrible without the Start menu).
theBigE
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theBigE,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/19/2013 | 12:15:19 AM
re: Windows 8 Sales Stall: 3 Strategies
Windows 7 has had a greater usage share over Windows XP since 2011. A quick google search shows that as the end of February 2013, (the most recent end month data available) the difference is almost double. So, business laptops and desktops being given to new hires that are a "new lease" would surely be Windows 7. Business Laptops and desktops that are not yet ready to be turned in and "upgraded" to something new per the typical enterprise contract would be the only likely devices still running Windows XP...anything else beyond that scenario would more than likely be because the company in question can not afford to upgrade. Such a company's solvency may very well be in question.

Regardless, businesses have just switched over to Windows 7 over the last few years, so there is going to be a delay until hardware upgrades occur.

That leaves consumers; the Microsoft Commercials are fun to watch for people who like "So You Think You Can Dance", but they don't effectively sell the product to the average consumer. Combine that with Windows 8 "complainers" over the lack of a start button and the tile interface start screen etc. and it isn't shocking that the battle has been uphill thus far.

This could probably be helped if there were more "killer devices". When did Android really take hold...after some compelling hardware entered the arena at mainstream price points.

A flagship product that is aggressively priced would be a big catalyst towards increasing Windows 8 hardware quickly. Otherwise, like Windows 7, it will take some serious time.
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/13/2013 | 8:44:12 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Stall: 3 Strategies
I'm not sure what you mean when you think a "good number of organizations... are rolling out Windows XP" and how that even correlates to the story. More accurately, the author is making a point that companies are still "upgrading" from XP to Windows 7 and are therefore not looking at Win8 right now. I know a lot of organizations and NONE of them are rolling out XP at this point. It's a dead OS walking to the majority.

There is no comparison between what happened with Vista and what is happening with Win8. Different times, different products, vastly different circumstances. Vista obsoleted the vast majority of existing hardware and software at that point in time. Win8 does no such thing (excepting the RT version).

Win8 simply straddles the deep divide between legacy PC computing and the pardigm shift to a mobile centric world. This is something Microsoft has always felt a responsibility to maintain (legacy support). It's something that the iOS and Android boys are just beginning to wake up to. On the other hand, maybe they won't need to because we seem to be permanently moving toward a throw away society when it comes to tech devices.

There is no binary compatibility issue between cheap notebooks and the Surface (non RT version). Not sure where you are coming from there based on your stated case. They both run x86 or x64 chips and are thus compatible by nature. There are plenty of sub $400 laptops and notebooks running Win8. As such, the Win8 lineup is an absolute mess because every OEM in the land has decided they can offload their old inventory by putting Win8 on it. They have done a huge disservice to themselves, to Microsoft, and to their customers by doing so. It's the primary reason that Microsoft invented the Surface Pro in the first place.
Andrew Hornback
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Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/13/2013 | 4:16:08 AM
re: Windows 8 Sales Stall: 3 Strategies
It's interesting to me that you're talking about how companies are still highly invested in Windows 7 and that's why they don't want to look at Windows 8 at this point. Gives me a good laugh, knowing that a good number of organizations out there are still rolling out Windows XP systems to new hires instead of Windows 7 or 8.

Ever since the Vista misfire, and I have to agree with the Samsung exec here that Windows 8 feels like the same paradigm shift that Vista brought about and will be coupled to it for a good while to come, organizations have been gunshy to pick up the Microsoft ball and run with it every time they roll out something new.

I can remember when I was consulting for small businesses, our orders from management were to not even have discussions with a client about a product until SP1 rolled - because at that point, the theory was, that the product could then be trusted. With Microsoft's push to turn OSes into a subscription-based product, I'm not sure how that line of logic would be implemented.

I also think that, given the overall Windows 8 line-up, you're going to run into some issues where Win8 will get thrown on lower-end notebooks/ultrabooks that ship for cheaper than the Surface. How does one realstically differentiate between the two at that point, aside from the being binary compatability issues between applications running on the PC and running on the Surface? That positioning may have unloaded a few rounds into Microsoft's foot.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/12/2013 | 7:57:05 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Stall: 3 Strategies
Glad to hear you are moving forward with your Win8 plans (and ignoring all the FUD)!

Win8 is getting a bad rap imho. It really is not that difficult to learn. It's just new and different. Easy to customize as well. When better modern apps start appearing, I think the tide will turn. That, and better education of consumers who buy Win8 devices (on how to use it).
wht
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wht,
User Rank: Strategist
3/12/2013 | 6:32:32 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Stall: 3 Strategies
i agree. I also like and use Win8 at home and at work, desktop, Windows 8 phone, and a home laptop. None are touchscreen other than the phone, but the next laptop will be an Ultrabook with touchscreen. Nothing wrong with Win 8 in my book, and little adjustments going from XP or Win 7. I do read the manuals, help screens, and use tutorials to get started, unlike the lazy 90% who prefer to complain. MS did a poor job of marketing and rolling out the new software and hardware, as did most vendors. They all had misses, and a few close hits so far. We will be rolling out Windows 8 at work within the year, about 100 users. We are at about 10 users now in testing mode, going from XP/Win 7 32 bit to Win 8 64 bit. Only 1 minor application that needs updating to 64 bit, but there is a workaround until the software is updated by the vendor. There are many advantages to Win 8 when you learn how to use it.
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/12/2013 | 6:14:35 PM
re: Windows 8 Sales Stall: 3 Strategies
It's clear now that Win8 is swimming upstream. Unfortunate - because I actually like Win8- but nevertheless true. This is imho due to misguided efforts by OEM's and by Microsoft.

The OEM's can only blame themselves because they failed to innovate new high performance touch based devices to run Win8. Instead, they have shoehorned Win8 on older models and have flooded the channel with devices ill equipped to appeal to consumers. Really. Who wants a $299 non-touch laptop with a core 2 processor running Win8? I don't.

Yes, Win8 can run on existing/older hardware. But, why bother? It would have been better to continue promoting Win7 for the standard desktop/existing hardware/enterprise market and position Win8 for the shift to portable touch based devices of the future. Of course there is overlap. But, the device/use case should have been properly segmented.

Now, let's focus on Microsoft's culpability in this. They continually miss the point in their marketing efforts. If you are selling a new concept... nee a paradigm shift... you don't do it by showing Apple-esque Adds of yesteryear with kids doing flips on office desks. It's stupid advertising. The better approach is showing how to use Win8 features while at the same time demonstrating cool new capabilities of the OS and modern apps.

The 10% of the population that really "get" computers will do just fine. But, that's not the target market for Win8. It's the other 90% that just want to turn on the thing and have it work. For that, they need a more intuitive experience because Lord knows they won't read the instruction manual or even ask for directions... and the advertsising we all see fails to address that need.
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