Baker traced that failure in part to years of habitual price cuts by computer makers that intensified between 2008 and 2010, when netbooks -- smaller, less-capable, and above all else, cheaper portables -- were the rage, accounting for upwards of 20% of mobile PC sales.
On Saturday, long-time Windows watcher and blogger Paul Thurrott cited NPD's data to make a case that netbooks poisoned the well. Baker seemed to agree.
"If you use the netbook analogy, OEMs 'trained' customers to devalue their products," said Baker. "They told customers then that what they had been paying $800 for before was really worth only $300. That dragged down pricing across the board."
Netbooks, in fact, created the sub-$500 Windows notebook market, Baker said more than two years ago in an interview with Computerworld. That fueled sales, but at the same time depressed revenue for OEMs.
Over the holidays, said NPD, the average sales price (ASP) of a PC notebook sat at $420.
Those low, low prices now haunt computer makers: A sub-$500 laptop simply can't show off Windows 8 and touch. And because consumers have been trained to expect cheap PCs, they were unwilling in 2012 to spend enough to justify a move to the new OS.
Additional NPD data showed that was what happened. During the holiday season, sales of sub-$500 PC laptops dropped 15.5% from 2011's number. But sales of notebooks in the $500-and-up category increased by 3.5%.
"Windows 8 and touch is the right product," Baker asserted. "But Windows and touch at $349 is not. It just is not a good enough platform for Windows 8. And it's trying to compete with tablets."
"A tablet does everything that a low-end PC is expected to do, and it has touch," said Baker. "Those tablets can sell for $200 to $250, because their makers don't expect to make money from the hardware."
But while Thurrott contended that the PC industry had to solve the poor sales problem by lowering prices, Baker said just the opposite.
"That's just not a winning battle," he said. "Does touch have to average $700 to $900 [for a notebook]? No. But it has to average $500 to $700. Cheap PCs just cannot compete with tablets."
In other words, OEMs must stop racing to the bottom of the price barrel, and instead take on the much tougher task of raising prices and convincing consumers that it's smart to pay more to get more.
If that sounds familiar, it's Apple's personal computer business model in a nutshell.