Last week, the NPD Group said that in a four-week-period surrounding Windows 8's Oct. 26 debut, U.S. consumer PC sales dropped 21 percent compared to the same period in 2011. The research firm's conclusion: Windows 8's introduction failed to turn around sluggish PC sales, killing the industry's hopes of earlier this year.
Puget's customers are turned off, said Bach, by Windows 8's new UI (user interface), the missing Start button and menu, and the operating system's emphasis on touch.
Few of Puget's customers request a touch screen -- even those that purchase PCs running Windows 8 -- but then most are buying desktops, not more mobile systems like ultrabooks or tablets, Bach said. "We've been offering a touch screen, but we've only sold a handful. Most just aren't interested in touch," he said.
Even so, he has hope for the new OS. "There's a few weeks of shock when you hate [Windows 8], but eventually you get accustomed to it," said Bach. "It's hard to say when, but Windows 8 will gradually get a higher adoption rate."
It's unclear how long system builders like Puget will be able to sell Windows 7 PCs. Although Microsoft has a policy that allows OEMs to pre-install the previous Windows edition on PCs for up to two years after a new version launches, Microsoft's website, last updated in January 2012, doesn't yet specify an "end-of-sale" date for Windows 7.
Microsoft put a stop to sales of PCs with Vista pre-installed in October 2011, two years after Windows 7's debut. If the company applies the same schedule to Windows 7, which is likely, OEMs will halt Windows 7 system sales in late October 2014.
Even after Windows 7's end-of-sale date, however, build-to-order shops like Puget will be able assemble a PC using downgrade rights, which requires them to sell the buyer a license to Windows 8 Pro -- the one version with downgrade rights -- and then install and activate Windows 7 Professional.
"But the downgrade option is really painful," Bach acknowledged. "It's not a process suitable for mass production."
Puget Systems also uses downgrade rights to sell a handful of PCs powered by Windows XP each month. "We took XP off the website a couple months ago, but we still get very specific requests for it, usually for people who need to run proprietary software," said Bach.
See more Computerworld Windows 8 launch coverage including news, reviews and blogs.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.
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