Windows 8 sales soft in changing market

The new Microsoft Surface tablet on display.

Microsoft says it sold about 40 million copies of the new Windows 8 operating system in its first month, but it hasn’t exactly lit the computer market on fire.

Despite Windows 8's new features, computer sales are still down from last year, and Microsoft’s Surface tablet has seen few takers so far.

In the past, when Microsoft launched a new version of Windows, people would flock to upgrade, and Microsoft might see a Windows sales bump up to 30 percent.

That’s not the case with Windows 8, though.

“The consensus is that it’s doing what everyone expected it to do, which is not a lot,” says Stephen Baker, a vice president at NPD group. He says Windows computer sales are down about 10-12 percent this year compared with last year.

“Windows 8 hasn’t necessarily changed that direction, but it hasn’t made it worse either,” Baker says.

How’s that for low expectations?

Windows 8 is a big departure for Microsoft because it’s designed to work best with touchscreen computers and tablets. That’s why sales of new computers are so important to the success of Windows 8. 

“If you get Windows 8, but you’re running on an old desktop, you don’t actually get that much benefit,” says Carolina Milanesi, vice president of research at Gartner.

We’ll get a better sense of Windows 8 sales once more PC makers release new touchscreen computers next year. But with the rise of smartphones and tablets, it’s no longer a given that a new device will even have Windows.

“It could be Microsoft, it could be iOS, it could be Android, it could be a Mac,” Milanesi says.

And, with tablets from Apple and others still hot this holiday season, Microsoft has to convince consumers that it can do touch too.

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