In the three weeks after Windows 8 launched on Oct. 26, sales of Windows PCs and tablet computers fell 21 percent compared with a year earlier, according to NPD, which tracks U.S. retail sales.
There’s no sign that Windows 8 made things worse for PC makers. Rather, NPD said the weak sales are a continuation of a trend seen throughout the year.
Consumers appear more interested in smartphones and tablets than in computers. Several tablet makers released new models, and Apple has made a smaller iPad.
PC makers were officially optimistic and have largely switched their consumer-focused product lines over to Windows 8, but they were cautious about stocking large numbers of PCs.
“After just four weeks on the market, it’s still early to place blame on Windows 8 for the ongoing weakness in the PC market,” NPD analyst Stephen Baker said in a statement. “We still have the whole holiday selling season ahead of us, but clearly Windows 8 did not prove to be the impetus for a sales turnaround some had hoped for.”
Baker said Windows 8 laptops with touch screens were doing well, helping drive up the average selling price of PCs.
Microsoft has said it sold 40 million licenses to Windows 8 in its first month on the market, but that number includes licenses bought by PC manufacturers such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc. for machines built but not yet sold.
Research firm IHS iSuppli has predicted that 349 million PCs will be shipped worldwide this year. That would be a 1 percent decline from the year before – the first year-over-year decline since 2001. In the U.S., PC sales have been declining for two years already.