Microsoft bills Windows 8 as a "re-imagining" of the personal computer
market's dominant operating system, but the company still has a lot of
work to do before the makeover captures the imagination of most
consumers, based on the results of a recent poll by The Associated Press
The phone survey of nearly 1,200 adults in the U.S. found 52
percent hadn't even heard of Windows 8 leading up to Friday's release
of the redesigned software.
Among the people who knew something
about the new operating system, 61 percent had little or no interest in
buying a new laptop or desktop computer running on Windows 8, according
to the poll. And only about a third of people who've heard about the new
system believe it will be an improvement (35 percent).
Dionne of Waterbury, Conn., falls into that camp. The 43-year-old
engineer had already seen Windows 8 and it didn't persuade him to
abandon or upgrade his Hewlett-Packard laptop running on Windows 7, the
previous version of the operating system released in 2009.
not real thrilled they are changing things around," Dionne said.
"Windows 7 does everything I want it to. Where is the return on my
investment to learn a new OS?"
Microsoft usually releases a new
version of Windows every two or three years, but it's different this
time around. Windows 8 is the most radical redesign of the operating
system since 1995 and some analysts consider the software to be
Microsoft's most important product since co-founder Bill Gates won the
contract to build an operating system for IBM Corp.'s first personal
computer in 1981. Microsoft is hoping the way Windows 8 looks and
operates will appeal to the growing number of people embracing the
convenience of smartphones and tablets.
The consumer ambivalence,
however, was even more pronounced when it came to Microsoft's new tablet
computer, Surface, which was built to show off Windows 8's versatility.
Sixty-nine percent of the poll's respondents expressed little or no
interest in buying a Surface, which Microsoft is hoping will siphon
sales from Apple Inc.'s pioneering iPad and other popular tablets such
as Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle Fire and Google Inc.'s Nexus 7.
results indicate Microsoft still has work to do to create a bigger buzz
about Windows 8 and help consumers understand the new operating system's
benefits, even though the company provided several previews of the
software at various stages in the final 13 month leading to its release.
But the information apparently resonated mostly with industry analysts,
reporters, technology blogs and gadget geeks.
Microsoft is in the
early stages of an estimated $1 billion marketing campaign that will
include a siege of television commercials to promote Windows 8 to a
That still might not be enough to sway longtime
Windows users such as Mary Sweeten. She is 75, and not eager to learn
the nuances of a new operating system. She, too, is comfortable with her
current desktop computer running on Windows 7.
"I am not
technologically savvy like all these young kids," said Sweeten, who
lives in Camdenton, Mo. "I like something I am used to and can get
around on without too much trouble. Sometimes when you get these new
(systems), you wish you could go back to the old one."
represents Microsoft's attempt to adapt to a technological shift that is
empowering more people to use smartphones and tablets to surf the Web
and handle other simple computing tasks. The revamped system can be
controlled by touching a device's display screen and greets users with a
mosaic of tiles featuring an array of dynamic applications instead of
the old start menu and desktop tiles. In an effort to protect its
still-lucrative PC franchise, Microsoft designed Windows 8 so it can
still be switched into a desktop mode that relies on a keyboard and
mouse for commands.
Microsoft felt it had to gamble on a radical
redesign to fend off the competitive threats posed by Apple, which has
emerged as the world's most valuable company on the strength of its
iPhone and iPad. Google Inc. is a threat, too. It has used its
4-year-old Android operating system to become an influential force in
the mobile computing movement.
Despite the growing popularity of
smartphones, Microsoft remains deeply entrenched in people's lives. The
poll found 80 percent of respondents with personal computers in their
homes relied on earlier versions of Windows versus only 12 percent that
operating on Apple's Mac system.
Windows is even more widely used
in offices, but 90 percent of companies relying on the operating system
are expected hold off on switching to the new operating system through
2014, according to a study by the research firm Gartner Inc.
Beske of West Fargo, N.D., won't be waiting long to install Windows 8 on
the home computer he bought a year ago. He already has seen how Windows
8 works in his job as a network engineer, and he considers it to be a
"They have made it much simpler," Beske, 43,
said. "I don't know about the tiling so much; that's something I think
younger people will like more. But once people get in front of it, I
think they will understand it."
Windows 8 also could appeal to
consumers who still don't own a home computer. The AP-GfK survey found
22 percent of all adults fall into this category, including 30 percent
with households whose incomes fall below $50,000 annually.
Beske is among a growing group who use both Microsoft and Apple products. Besides his Windows computer, he also loves his iPad.
survey respondents liked both Apple and Microsoft. Fifty-nine percent
said they had favorable impressions of Apple versus 58 percent for
Tequila Cronk of Herington, Kan., is more of a
Microsoft fan because she considers Apple's prices to be a "rip-off." At
the same time, she can't justify buying a Windows 8 computer when her
desktop and laptop computers at home are running fine on the earlier
versions of the system.
"We will upgrade, but I am not going to
rush out and buy a new computer just because it's got a different
operating system," Cronk, 26, said.
Windows 8's release came at a
perfect time for Hector Gonzalez of Kissimmee, Fla. He is so frustrated
with the performance of his 3-year-old laptop running on Windows 7 that
he is considering buying a MacBook laptop. But now he plans to check out
the array of new Windows 8 laptops and may even consider buying a
Surface tablet to supplement the iPad that he bought for his teenage
"Anything that is new, it's worth taking a look at,"
Gonzalez, 35, said. "That's the way technology is. There is always
something new to replace everything else."