An HP executive late last week confirmed what we’ve now known for months: Microsoft’s latest client OS, Windows 8, is off to a slower-than-expected start. Speaking on behalf of the world’s largest PC maker, HP Executive Vice President Todd Bradley discussed what happened, and why he thinks things will get better.
“It was a slower start than many people expected,” Mr. Bradly told Bloomberg, responding to a question about whether poor PC sales over the holidays means that consumers don’t really want Windows 8. “But as we’ve gone through January and looked at retail sales week-to-week, and our web sales week-to-week, we see continued momentum and continued growth. The combination of a very new experience, a very touch-driven experience, and lots of [device] choices over the holidays … [the slow start] is not to be unexpected.”
Although it’s no longer debatable that Windows 8 is selling more slowly than expected, and at a pace that trails that of its predecessor, it wasn’t always so. I was the first to sound the alarm, though when I exclusively revealed that Windows 8 was selling much more slowly than Microsoft’s internal estimates, some critics insisted it was too soon to judge.
Of course, Microsoft then confirmed my report publicly, and we’ve seen plenty of other evidence of the slow start, including NPD retail data for the holiday selling period and IDC and Gartner reports on fourth quarter PC sales. It’s no longer a theory: Windows 8 is off to a slow start.
But Bradley’s firm and others in the PC business see signs of hope. New PC and device form factors are coming to market in 2013, and with Microsoft dropping support for Windows XP in April 2014, Windows 8 could see another sales bump in that time frame as overdue corporate refreshes start kicking in. That Windows 8 might be “saved” by the corporate market is, of course, somewhat ironic, given the consumer focus of this release. But Windows 8 could indeed benefit from the timing of this event.
Bradley claims that there are also 120 million laptops out there that are about four to five years old, and these too are primed for replacement. A good number of those machines will be replaced by touch-based Windows 8 Ultrabooks or tablets, Bradley says.
One product HP isn’t interested in is Windows RT, the ARM-based version of Windows 8. Bradley says that HP focused on the standard Intel version of Windows 8 because of its compatibility with the software that drives the enterprise. “We’ll watch as the [Windows] RT ecosystem builds out,” he said.