I think I know one of the reasons why Microsoft and partner ODMs are having a hard time pushing Windows 8 products: store clerks.
My wife and I were strolling through Walmart to retrieve a huge number of items listed on her seemingly unending scroll of must-haves. It's all in her head of course, so I have no idea when the end will arrive, or how long it will take. All I know is that when she eventually stops in the women's clothing department (and she will), I'm bailing out and heading to the electronics.
Eventually my plan of escape worked, and I darted into the electronics area and worked through the HDTVs, the console games (I'm currently hooked on the 3DS XL which is a very cool handheld), PC peripherals and whatnot. I stopped in the laptop isle to check out what HP, Dell and other ODMs are selling in America's largest retailer. This is where I discovered that Microsoft is essentially doomed.
Checking out the laptops were an older gentleman and his granddaughter. After talking to him for a bit, it sounded like her laptop was having driver issues and the repair tool in Windows 7 wasn't fixing the problem. He didn't know me and I didn't know him, so I merely told him what the likely solution would be and he in turn said he had a friend that fixes computers. Everyone does, it seems.
Despite his friend, the gentleman was in Walmart's laptop isle to buy his granddaughter a new model – he'll just take the other laptop once it's fixed. A Walmart salesman was also on standby next to the gentleman, offering a bit of non-technical information about what he perceived to be the best of the ODMs offering products. The little girl suddenly chimed in, saying that she wanted her desktop unchanged, and that she didn't want the blocky tiles of Windows 8, pointing to one of the models on display.
Now here's the Microsoft killer. "Yeah, Windows 8 is one of the worst versions I have ever seen," the Walmart salesman told the gentleman.
My jaw dropped. Seriously? You have a wall of Windows 8 gadgets and you're telling them it's the worst version ever? It's this type of dedication at the point-of-sale that could be hurting Windows 8 overall. Sure, there are a lot of current and potential customers who are annoyed with the whole redesign. It was too much and too quick in my opinion, but it's still a great, highly secure and highly stable platform.
When the gentleman finally decided on a laptop and the salesman went to retrieve the keys, I told him not to listen to the Walmart worker (putting it nicely), and relayed my experience with Windows 8. I also showed the granddaughter how to quickly switch to desktop mode. There's nothing to fear with the new design: you simply hit a tile and you're somewhat back to normal. Purchase and download the $5 Start8 app from Stardock, and your Start button and Start menu are back.
Of course, Walmart made a Windows 8 sale that day, so all was not lost. I can't say I helped with the sale, because we now live in a Windows 8 world – the grandfather was intent on buying a new laptop no matter what version of Windows it had. But I have to wonder how many sales have been lost because of ignorant store clerks turning people away with their opinions. You damn sure know car salesmen aren't going to steer you away from a car because they don't like the installed radio.
I know I've covered a lot of topics about Windows 8 market share and how some ODMs are "disappointed" and whatnot. But I've also tried to relay that Windows 8 is just a step above Windows 7 with an added overlay that bridges mobile with desktop. What I will never say is that it's the worst platform I have ever seen, because it's far, far from that. Windows 8 is misunderstood, I think, and that should change in the immediate future.