By many accounts, the Windows 8 launch has been a bust.
New machine designs and sales figures have been uninspiring.
And so now the blame game begins. "Next year, we'll have finger pointing back and forth by everybody in the supply chain," said Steve Kleynhans, an analyst who heads up client device research for Gartner. "The reality is that probably everybody bears some responsibility."
One of the biggest disappointments is that there are few new machines with innovative designs that take advantage of new Windows 8 features. Kleynhans thinks that new models with interesting form factors are likely to come out in the first couple months of next year. That just misses the holiday shopping season, giving many people more reasons to buy iPads, Android tablets, or Chrome machines.
There are many reasons for the delay, starting with the vendors facing a short time frame to develop machines.
"The PC makers were probably late getting started building because they didn't have access to the software and they underestimated how much effort was going to be needed to get everything tuned and working with these slick, tiny devices compared to what they were building before," said Kleynhans.
OEMs didn't get Windows 8 as early as they have in the past with new versions of the operating system so they didn't have the time they needed to play around with it and dream up new form factors. On top of that, they're being asked to work with new types of hardware, like touch screens and in some cases new processors. And, some of those parts, namely Intel's Clover Trail processors, weren't even available.
"The component manufacturers dropped the ball too," he said. "They weren't going to start pushing to build touch screens in great volumes until manufacturers started asking for them. Once they did, they couldn't ramp up the supply fast enough."
All of those problems means that there are only a few interesting models out there like Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga and the Dell XPS 12. And, they're expensive, many of them surpassing $1,000. "It's going to take a while for the cost to settle down," Kleynhans said. Touch screens and other components are expensive right now and until the OEMs sell more machines the prices won't come down. "I think it will take a while for vendors to learn where they can optimize design and get the cost out without seriously damaging the device experience but that will take some time," he said.
New machines with innovative designs are likely to come out early next year. "These are first generation devices from vendors who might have limited experience with some of these device types. Most haven't built many tablets, certainly not Windows tablets, so it's a learning experience for everybody. It will probably take one or two iterations for things to really start to gel in a big way," he said.
Also, supply should loosen up soon which will allow new devices to hit the market. For instance, there were around 20 design wins for Clover Trail machines and only one or so has shipped, he said. There's only one ARM machine in addition to the Surface, the Asus VivoTab. It's a nice machine but pricey at $599.
"I really think it will get better, but it's going to take a couple of months," Kleynhans said.