The bold direction of Windows 8, with its emphasis on touch as a selling point, presented retailers with problems they'd never encountered -- detachable displays, for example -- a core feature of the so-called convertible devices that morph from a notebook into a tablet by swiveling the screen to a new position or removing it entirely. "That isn't the norm of what we've had in the market before," Baker said, referring to retailers' confusion over how to secure those detachable screens or show the mutating nature of the device in the absence of a salesperson.
Baker highlighted the end-cap -- one of those displays at the end of an aisle -- that Lenovo and Intel created for the former's IdeaPad Yoga as an example of a top-notch retail presentation for a Windows 8 device.
"You can't go to market with the same old stuff," he asserted.
Moorhead cited Apple's retail stores as the right way to promote and sell today's computers -- and other computing devices, like tablets. "Interestingly, I never see the [retail problems with Windows 8 notebooks] at an Apple store. Never, ever," Moorhead said. "I can sit at the Apple store there for hours and literally do a test drive like I would a car."
Microsoft, of course, has its own, albeit much smaller, chain of retail outlets, designed in Apple-esque fashion and staffed with many more salespeople than a big-box store. Even so, Baker downplayed their impact.
"They face the same challenges [with Windows 8] as most retail stores," Baker said of Microsoft's outlets. "They may have more people, but they have the same challenges. And they're not a unit volume driver."
He did have hope, however. "Anything Microsoft does learn about what can be successful, I expect they're trying to port as quickly as possible to the retail industry overall," Baker said.
And retail, while contributing to Windows 8's problems, perhaps even to the drop in PC sales, is the least of the industry's worries at the moment.
"I really don't think that [Windows 8's slow uptake] has had a lot do with merchandising," Baker said. "It's far more to do with the trajectory that the marketplace was already on."
Retail analyst Stephen Baker of the NPD Group pointed to Lenovo's end-cap for its IdeaPad Yoga as an example of what retailers need to do to sell Windows 8 to confused consumers. (Image: Intel.)
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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