A variety of factors, from the omitted Start button to the lack of Modern UI apps, have hampered adoption of the new OS -- but the high cost of touch-enabled hardware has been one of the biggest deterrents.
If price is all that's stood between you and a new Windows 8 device, it might be time to make a purchase, as the Microsoft Store has slashed prices on a number of models. Don't hit the "buy" button too quickly, though; with new and improved tablets and ultrabooks on the horizon, buying one of the discounted offerings now could quickly lead to a case of buyers' remorse.
The price cuts, originally spotted by CNET, extend to ultrabook and laptop models from a variety of manufacturers. Acer's Aspire S7, which boasts a 13.3-inch full HD display and a 1.8-GHz i7 processor, has been slashed more than 20%, from $1,649 to $1,299. The Sony VAIO T Series family also has been discounted, with the high-end 13-inch i7 model dropping from $1299 to $999, and the less-powerful i5 model dropping from $899 to $799.
Additional price reductions include HP's Spectre XT TouchSmart, which dropped from $1349 to $1249 and offers a large 15.6-inch screen; and the TouchSmart Sleekbook, which dropped $100 to $599 and is, even after the cuts, one of the only legitimate low-budget options among Windows 8 devices with traditional clamshell designs.
The Microsoft Store's lowered ultrabook prices follow a number of price reductions earlier this month to Windows 8 tablets and convertibles. Discounted models ranged from the pricey Toshiba Satellite Convertible Ultrabook, which dropped from a wallet-busting $1149 to a more palatable $799; to an Acer Iconia tablet, now priced at a relatively affordable $399.
[ Don't blame Windows 8 for the PC's marketplace woes. Read Windows 8 Did Not Cause PC Sales Slump. ]
To traditional desktop users, Windows 8, with its massively overhauled interface, has been more a frustration than an improvement. But the OS has gained a bit more traction among users of touch-enabled software, at whom its Live Tile environment is aimed. By making these devices cheaper, Microsoft could make its newest platform more attractive. Cautious buyers beware, though: the Microsoft Store might be offering good deals today, but better deals could be just around the corner.
Windows 8.1, the forthcoming update previously called Windows Blue, is one major distinction between current options and those expected to be available by the fall. To be clear, current models should have access to the update, so this difference might not seem significant. But Windows Blue rumors have suggested the OS has been tailored to Intel's forthcoming Haswell chipset, the energy-efficient family of processors that will fuel the most powerful batch of future Win8 devices. So even if one of the current models is upgraded to Windows 8.1 in a few months, it is unlikely to gain many of update's headline enhancements, such as substantially improved battery life. Moreover, Intel has suggested that at least some Haswell ultrabooks will be priced below $600, so the new models could offer not only improved performance but also prices that undercut the current discounts.
Microsoft and its partners also are readying a fleet of low-cost 8-inch tablets to compete with the iPad Mini. Such devices have been rumored for months, and Microsoft, without providing any new details, acknowledged during its recent earnings call that the devices are coming.
Indeed, images of an upcoming 8-inch Acer tablet are already circulating online, after appearing briefly on the French site MiniMachines.net. The device is expected to use Intel's current-generation Atom technology, which allows the full Windows 8 OS, rather than the Live Tile-oriented Windows RT version, to run in a thin, fan-less device. Intel's forthcoming Bay Trail Atom chips should only improve this capability, and the chipmaker has suggested that Bay Trail tablets will be priced very aggressively.
If you need a Windows 8 device immediately, the reduced prices should be a welcome development. But if you're still on the fence about a new purchase, it could pay off to remain patient for a few more months.
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