This year, the stakes are higher than ever for Microsoft at CES, which hopes that a new slate of ultrabooks will jumpstart Windows 8's sluggish start. But as impressive as the new ultrabooks may be, they can't save Windows 8 or the struggling PC market.
There's going to be an impressive lineup of Windows 8 ultrabooks at CES, many of them sporting touchscreens. Lenovo will introduce new ultrabooks, both of which will feature touch screens. Toshiba will show off an $800 touchscreen ultrabook, and Samsung will also introduce two touchscreen ultrabooks. LG also will introduce several Windows 8 ultrabooks. Expect plenty more as well from a variety of other vendors.
But just because PC makers build Windows 8 ultrabooks doesn't mean that consumers will buy them. Consider last year's CES. Ultrabooks were hot news, and they were expected to help juice up the sluggish PC market. It didn't happen. Back in October, IHS iSuppli reported that ultrabooks couldn't help PC shipments declining in 2012 for the first time in 11 years.
IHS iSuppli senior principal analyst Craig Stice wrote that despite hopes that ultrabooks would lead to a PC market rebound, that didn't happen.
Windows 8 has been struggling, with Net Applications reporting that for December only 1.7 percent of desktops, notebooks, and laptops using the Web used Windows 8. That's much worse than even the poor Windows Vista uptake. Computerworld's Gregg Keizer wrote that
"At the same two-month mark in Vista's release timetable, that OS accounted for 2.2% of all Windows systems, double the month prior."
Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu has a bleak view of Windows 8 sales as well. He wrote in a research note that there will be only a 2% increase in PC sales this year, due to muted interest in Windows 8. He cites several reasons, including consumers buying tablets rather than traditional computers, and that Windows 8's new interface will lead to a slow adoption curve.
So while many in the tech press will drool at the beautiful new Windows 8 hardware on tap at CES, don't expect consumers to follow.