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Touch-Screen Laptops Fall Short in Sales
Touch-Screen Laptops Fall Short in Sales

By Barry Levine
August 13, 2013 9:59AM

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One issue resulting in lower touch-screen laptop sales has been the higher price of touch-capable laptops, as they can continue to cost hundreds of dollars more than their non-touch brethren. Other factors hindering a demand for touch-screen-based computers include the lack of applications whose value is enhanced by the use of touch.

By orienting Windows 8 around a touch-based interface, Microsoft was making a calculated guess that touch-screens would become widely popular. Now, however, a new projection from IDC indicates that touch-screen laptop shipments this year will be significantly lower than previous estimates.

IDC had estimated earlier this year that as many as 18 percent of all laptops sold in 2013 would be touch, but now it is projecting touch-capable laptops will only capture 10 -15 percent of the market.

Industry research firm NPD DisplaySearch predicted in April that about 12 percent of notebooks sold this year would be touch-capable.

Cost, Apps, Fatigue

When it released Windows 8, Microsoft described its new approach as "touch-first," and said it was creating a unifying touch experience across all devices. In January, an executive from Microsoft attributed the slow adoption of Windows 8 to the relatively scarce availability of touch-based PCs. Similarly, various industry observers have suggested that, once touch-capable laptops and desktops became more available, Windows 8 would become more widely adopted.

One issue has been the higher price of touch-capable laptops, as they can continue to cost hundreds of dollars more than their non-touch brethren. Other factors hindering a demand for touch-screen-based computers include the lack of applications whose value is enhanced by the use of touch, the considerable issue of arm fatigue when employees are using touch interaction all day long, and the additional time and expense of training.

Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Corp., told NewsFactor it is "pretty clear that Steve Sinofsky and other factions at Microsoft knew they were getting beaten up in the press" for not having foreseen the boom in touch-screen tablets and smartphones. But, she said, "they went too far into the other direction." Steven Sinofsky, who left Microsoft in fall of last year, had been the President of the Windows Division.

She added that "the younger group that is coming up now is much more used to touch-screen," although there are still such issues as price differentials and user experience.

'Have a Choice'

DiDio also mentioned a study conducted by her company last fall, in which 22 percent of the responding business users said they were unhappy with the Windows touch-oriented graphical user interface. More recently, her data shows that number is up to 34 percent. She cited one user as saying that Microsoft's Windows 8 "took every day tasks that needed only a couple of mouse clicks" and made them more complex by introducing touch.

In particular for the business market, Didio said, Microsoft at this point needs to let potential customers and Windows users know that future editions will give them "a choice" about whether to use the touch interface or the traditional desktop one.

Windows 8.1, which is expected to become available this fall, allows users to boot directly into the traditional desktop instead of starting with the touch-based Start screen, and it will bring back a Start button-like feature.

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