Re: Windows usage has peaked
I think you're making some good points about the economic factors.
Point-by-point, the $700+ Windows 8 devices are almost all nicer than the <$300 devices-- which is isn't surprising. The problem is, lot of the cheaper devices are too compromised; there are few I'd recommend without heavy qualifications, especially given the somewhat misleading way hybridity is marketed. At the same time, it's not easy to recommend the nicer, more expensive devices either, as they're just too pricey for most of us to easily afford.
Yes, unemployment is down and there's allegedly an economic recovery, etc-- but companies have replaced high wage jobs with low wage jobs; younger people have the kind of debt out of college that used to entail buying a house and having kids; and even most people people with "good" jobs who get raises end of losing purchasing power. San Francisco is on the verge of historically-low unemployment, for example, but in the last few years, literally 95% of people who work in the city have lost purchasing power. A lot of the people who might have bought a new computer every 3-5 years just don't have the flexibility, even if they'd like to. I suspect this partially explains why tablet sales have also cooled, though that also has to do with category fragmentation, smartphones, and several other factors.
That said, I think there's more than the economy to consider. Before Windows 8 tablets came along, conventional desktops and PCs had settled into a pattern of incremental improvement. That trend largely continued, with exceptions like tacked-on touchscreens and new iMac-like all-in-one designs, after Windows tablets. The first few generations of those tablets, meanwhile, were a mess. So, for several years, buyers saw non-persuasive updates to more traditional machines, and unappealing "innovations" in the others. In 2015, I think device-makers might finally launch some devices that appeal aesthetically and functionally-- so perhaps, even with ongoing economic doldrums, there's room for growth.