In a nutshell, Daoud believed that Microsoft made the right bet on touch, and that consumers responded. But they were unable to find the systems that had been so heavily touted. And without machines with touch capabilities, they saw no reason to spend money on a new PC -- not after hearing about difficulties running Windows 8 with the mouse and keyboard or experiencing that themselves when trying out PCs at retail.
Microsoft has said much the same. Last week Tami Reller, CFO and chief marketing officer of the Windows division, said that Windows 8 was unable to spark sales because touch-enabled PCs, particularly notebooks, were in short supply.
Still, Microsoft wasn't blameless, said Daoud, who cited the company for an inability to coordinate a successful launch of Windows 8. "It's much more complex than just putting together an OS, although that is terribly complex," said Daoud. "There's the execution part of it, coordinating OEMs, suppliers and retailers. Where was the flawless execution?"
Microsoft clearly didn't execute on Windows 8's launch, Daoud continued, and that showed in the fourth quarter's numbers.
Like others, including Microsoft's Reller, Daoud was optimistic about Windows 8's long-term prospects and its ability to revive PC sales. Display manufacturers will step up production, OEMs will deliver innovative touch notebooks and buyers will return, he predicted. The first half of 2013 will retain tough, but Daoud said there's a chance everyone will get their acts together by summer, when the back-to-school sales season begins.
IDC's data does not bode well for Microsoft's fourth-quarter earnings, slated for release Jan. 24. The Windows group's revenue typically tracks with PC sales -- when system sales are down, so are sales of Windows, and vice versa -- a fact the firm has made clear time and again during the latest run of low or no growth.
If Windows revenue for the quarter drops 6% year-over-year, Microsoft will post sales of $4.46 billion, down from 2011's $4.74 billion. The $4.46 billion would represent a 35% decline from Windows' revenue in the fourth quarter of 2009, the three-month span that included the launch of Windows 7.
Other data supports that scenario. Online usage measurements, for instance, have showed that Windows 8's usage during its first two months has lagged far behind Windows 7's at the same point in its release.