Last year, when Windows 8 arrived, the plan was for touch-enabled PCs to sweep over the market and rejuvenate the industry. Well, that hasn't quite happened. In fact, according to ComputerWorld, market research firm IDC has lowered its forecast for touch-enabled notebooks. Worse, the firm seems to think even the reduced forecast is optimistic:
"We forecast that 17% to 18% of all notebooks would have touch this year," Bob O'Donnell, an analyst with IDC, said in an interview Friday, referring to the research firm's own estimates earlier this year. "But that now looks to be too high, to be honest." He said IDC would probably drop its touch estimates to between 10% and 15% of all laptops.
That's quite a downgrade from the figures we were hearing just a few months ago. In May, ComputerWorld says, Acer President Jim Wang predicted that 30-35% of Acer notebooks would be touch-enabled by the end of 2013. The company now seems unlikely to reach that target. Indeed, just last week, Wang was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying, "We are trying to grow our non-Windows business as soon as possible." Acer apparently plans to bolster its Chromebook and Android offerings at the expense of Windows PCs.
IDC believes two factors are to blame for the slow sales of touch-enabled Windows systems: the dearth of touch-enabled apps and the price premium associated with technology. Notebooks with touch screens cost "hundreds more, sometimes as much as double the price, of non-touch notebooks," according to IDC's O'Donnell. Consumers just aren't eager to spend so much for so little benefit.
IDC's analysis definitely rings true. If I were in the market for a laptop today, I'd probably be more interested in a high-PPI display than a touch screen. I don't know if today's sluggish sales spell doom for touch PCs forever, though. Haswell-powered ultrabooks are only just starting to come out, and we're still waiting for smaller hybrids based on Intel's Silvermont Atom processor. If next-gen hardware can offer a compelling touch experience at an attractive price, the tide may yet turn.