A majority of consumer and small business Windows 8 PC users launch fewer than one "Metro" app a day, signaling that they're spending most of their time on the classic Windows 7-style Desktop, according to data released this week.
According to Soluto, an Israeli PC management service provider, just 39 percent of owners of desktop PCs powered by Windows 8 launch a Metro app more than once a day. Laptop users fire up a Metro app slightly more often, with 40 percent opening an average of more than one app daily. Even touch-enabled notebooks infrequently access Metro: 42 percent of the owners of those devices launch more than one app a day.
Only tablets tilt toward app use, said Soluto. About 56 percent of Windows 8 tablet users open an average of one or more apps daily.
Soluto calculated the app launch rates using a pool of about 10,800 Windows 8 devices -- PC desktops and notebooks, touch-ready laptops, and tablets -- that use its management service. Soluto pitches that service to consumers, small and medium businesses, and IT managers in larger companies, but the polled systems were predominantly consumer-owned and in small businesses, said Roee Adler, Soluto's chief product officer, in an interview.
The 10,800 PCs "do not include any enterprise systems, but very significant amounts of consumer and small business PCs," said Adler.
The numbers for traditional PCs, especially touch-enabled notebooks, must give Microsoft's Windows executives heartburn: They have repeatedly pinned hopes for a boost to PC sales on touch, blamed the paucity of touch laptops for the sluggish launch of the OS last year, and pointed to later this year -- when more touchscreen PCs will be available, and at lower prices -- as reason for optimism.
On average, a Windows 8 user launches 1.5 apps each day, for a week's total of 10.5 apps, said Soluto. Not surprising, tablet owners open an above-average number: 2.7 apps daily or about 19 apps each week. And just as expected, desktop, laptop and touch-laptop owners launch fewer apps on average. Those with desktop Windows 8 PCs open an average of 1.4 apps each day (9.9 apps each week), people with non-touch notebooks launch 1.5 apps daily (10.5 apps weekly), and owners of touch-enabled laptops open 2.2 apps each day (15.5 apps over seven days).
"The basic behavior is to just jump to the desktop," said Adler. "People don't find Metro intuitive." That's been the dig against Windows 8 from the start. Even before Microsoft officially released the upgrade last October, critics slammed Windows 8's radical move to a touch-first interface. PC shipments have contracted for four straight quarters, most recently by a historic 14 percent in the first quarter of 2013, and some have blamed Windows 8 for contributing to that decline.
Soluto's data doesn't measure actual app usage -- as in, for instance, the percentage of time during the day that the user works with a Metro app -- but only the number of times it's launched. Windows 8 users can, of course, open an app once, then leave that app open throughout the day, returning to it several times to, for example, check email.