Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Watching Computers and Tablets Sales in the 2012 Holiday Season

I have an unusual hobby these days, I visit my local Best Buy and Staples and look to see what touch screens are the dirtiest. The idea being, the dirtiest screens are the ones most looked at. I also check each section of the computing areas of the store, several times over a 10-20 minute period, to get a feel for where the traffic is. I have also visited Apple and Microsoft stores. Additionally, I've been following Amazon's Best Seller list for Computer's and Accessories. I have done all of this many times, starting on Black Friday.

Sunday, I made my usual visit to Best Buy and Staples (Sunday, because the Microsoft Surface tablet was to be there) and I was shocked. The Windows laptop/desktop section was EMPTY, perfectly clean touch screens (except for a Lenovo Yoga that is in a prominent location at Best Buy). I mean Stone Dead was not an exaggeration.  Other sections had the expected amount of traffic.  I saw two probable sales of MacBooks (a Pro and an Air). Chromebooks had traffic. All non-Windows tablets had very good traffic.  Android selling several, probably an iPad mini was sold. Not one customer in the Windows 8 desktop/laptop section. The whole time, not even a walk through.

Combining the sources I've been watching, I've observed the following:
  • Interest in Windows 8 (not sales, simply people looking) was high on Black Friday. This interest has steadily declined. It is clear that Windows 8 has failed in the consumer/SOHO market. Watching people in the store, you see Windows 8 initially confuses them.  If they receive help on how to use the product, they understand it, but they just are not interested. They just want to use the computer to do a task, not learn a whole new paradigm. This has definitely provided a boost to Apple laptop sales.
  • Android Tablets, especially Samsung, are the most looked at (and purchased). Android tablets sell well in all prices ranges: $69-$499.
  • Next best selling in tablets, iPad minis, then iPad 2s. (Though on Amazon, these two are reversed. It is possible this is true in Best Buy as well, as I am going mostly by smudge marks on the tablets. It could be the case that people try the iPad mini, then buy the iPad 2.)
  • Sales of the 4th generation iPad lag the other two.  I have never seen the 4th generation hit the top 20 on Amazon (though it is usually in the top 100). The iPad 2 has always been in the top 20.  The iPad mini has been in the top 20 briefly; it has always ranked higher than the 4th gen.
  • Apple Laptops do sell at a decent rate, but at a far lower rate than aggregate tablet sales.
  • Touch Screen Windows notebooks get some traffic, but relatively little.
  • The Lenovo Twist and Yoga (both on special display) get significant "touch" traffic, but I've never seen one sold (or even seriously considered... people like playing with them).
  • Windows laptops in general are selling poorly.  Those that do sell are usually inexpensive (sub $500).
  • Retailers seemed to be able to sell remaining Windows 7 systems (somewhat discounted) quickly.
  • Almost nobody even looks at desktop systems.
  • The new Samsung ARM-based Chromebook is the most exciting thing to come out since the first iPhone shipped.  It has been sold out so often, that Best Buy has a 3 foot, commercially printed sign explaining that it is sold out and that you can reserve one.  It has been the #1 best selling laptop on Amazon most (possibly all) of the Holiday Season.  The Acer Chromebook does well too, but not nearly as well as the ARM-based Samsung. All three current Chromebooks and the Chromebox have made significant appearances in Amazon's top 100.
  • The Microsoft Surface tablet will sell even more poorly at Best Buy and Staples than at Microsoft Stores. The only unit on display has a black keyboard that looks faded relative to the stark black border of the tablet's screen. The overall effect is such that the Surface appears to be a really cheap laptop (think early netbook).
We will of course know much more in late January when the numbers come in, but I doubt I'm that far off, at least for the US market.


  1. Excellent bit of work and it mirrors what I've been seeing from an Enterprise persepctive, no one here on the IT Infrastrcuture or Business side cares for or wants Windows 8, the only people actively interested in it or have bought it are the developers.

    I rememeber when Vista was in the beta stage and lots of people were saying it wasn't ready and MS didn't listen and it failed. It's like none of those lessons were learned and while reading similar complaints for Windows 8 MS had the same arrogant attitude as when it produced Vista.

    Quite frankly they deserve to fail on this in the same way Nokia failed. If MS manage to piss the enterprise off as well they'd just be another Nokia.


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