Microsoft has done something it's historically been loath to do: discount prices for the copies of Windows it sells to computer makers, online reports said today.
Both the Wall Street Journal and the Asian electronics supply chain publication DigiTimes published reports claiming that Microsoft has cut prices of Windows 8 and Office 2013 in an attempt to spark sales.
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"They've always held [pricing] close to the vest," said Allan Krans, an analyst with Technology Business Research, in a Wednesday interview. "They've always been insistent on maintaining that pricing, but a discount makes sense, given the holiday season, the back-and-forth with the OEMs and the slow start to the Surface."
Windows 8, which launched in October, has struggled to gain traction, and failed to trigger a boost in PC sales, as new editions have done in the past.
Earlier this week, for instance, research firm IDC said global PC sales would contract 1.3 percent this year, a drop atop 2012's even-larger slump of 3.7 percent. IDC cited an "underwhelming reception" to Windows 8 as one of several factors that will lead to a second-consecutive year of declining PC sales.
A Windows price cut would also mollify long-time OEM partners, who have been increasingly at odds with Microsoft since the Redmond, Wash. developer announced its own hardware -- the Surface line of tablets -- last summer.
The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, said Microsoft was slashing the price of a combo deal for Windows 8 and Office 2013 to $30 from around $120. The discount applies to OEMs for PCs and other devices with touch screens smaller than 10.8 inches, said the publication.
DigiTimes had a different tale, saying the Windows 8 discount was just $20 off the usual $80 to $90 per PC, and that the cheaper price was applicable to PCs, tablets and hybrids -- hardware that mixes elements of traditional laptops with tablets -- equipped with screens 11.6-in. or smaller.
Discounts on Windows 8 could result in lower-priced touchscreen PC and tablets, perhaps as early as this summer when back-to-school sales kick off.
"If you think about the components in a PC, almost every one has dropped off a [price] cliff," said Krans. "Except for the OS. Microsoft's pricing is their one lever left, the last where it can have a big impact on PC prices."
While touch-enabled hardware has been among the few bright spots for Windows 8, many buyers, used to shopping for cut-rate computers, have balked at their higher prices.