The more I wander around looking at Windows 8 in the retail channel the more frustrated I become. There remains very little availability of systems that showcase Windows 8. By that I mean, where are systems that make you feel you have to replace that old laptop or desktop that you are generally satisfied with? For the most part stores are filled with very nice, but modest, revisions of the laptops/notebooks and desktops that were available a year earlier for Windows 7. The myriad of announced, and in some cases heavily advertised, convertibles and tablets are AWOL.
On a recent visit to Australia I noted a tremendous amount of Windows 8 advertising by Microsoft, Intel, and the OEMs. Images of the ASUS Taichi, Sony Vaio Duo 11, Dell XPS12, and numerous other convertibles and tablets filled TV screens, posters, and billboards. Microsoft is heavily advertising the Surface, which in Australia is only available online. I was hopeful that many of these advertised products had made their way into retailer and stopped at a few to check.
What a let-down! Harvey Norman (kind of the Best Buy of Australia) had a couple of rows of laptops running Windows 8, but only a couple had touch screens. Their all-in-one display was similar, with only a single system having a touch screen. They had no convertibles and no x86 Windows 8 tablets. The only tablet they offered was the ubiquitous ASUS VivoTab RT. They had a brochure for the x86-based VivoTab but no actual device. One might be forgiven for classifying Windows 8 tablets and convertibles as vaporware.
So the question for those watching Windows 8 adoption is this, what out there would drive rapid adoption? There are plenty of goodies in Windows 8 for every type of system, but the real magic occurs when you throw in touch and new form factors. When I walk into a retail store nothing says to me “your Toshiba Portege R705 is a dinosaur that you must replace”.
Today I think most Win8 adoption on new PCs is little more than a 1-for-1 replacement for sales of Win7-based PCs that would have happened anyway. In other word, you were going to get a new PC in November whether or not Windows 8 was out. Maybe you waited for Windows 8 since you might as well get the latest rather than deal with an upgrade later. Or maybe you are taking advantage of deals as retailers unload Windows 7 PC inventory.
What you are not doing is saying is “even though I don’t really need a new laptop, I am going to get a convertible so I don’t have to carry a notebook and a tablet around with me all the time.” You can’t say that because you can’t actually find one of those convertibles. Vaporware?
I’m baffled by press, analysts, OEMs, and retailers who are complaining that Windows 8 isn’t saving the PC industry. They still don’t get it. Windows 8 couldn’t do a damn thing to make classic form-factor PCs so attractive that their sales would explode. They represent a mature market with a steady to declining replacement rate as some scenarios are addressed by alternate form factors. It is only by embracing the new form factors, including large screen touch-based devices, that the PC industry can reverse its decline. And so far, other than Vapor, the PC industry has largely failed to do so.