NPD: U.S. Windows Device Sales Down 21% On Last Year; Windows 8 Tablet Sales “Almost Non-Existent”

Microsoft earlier this week made a point of noting that there have been 40 million downloads of Windows 8 since it launched a month ago, putting it ahead of where Windows 7 was at the same point in its sales cycle. But according to figures out today from NPD, in the midst of an overall slowdown in PC sales, this is not translating into robust hardware sales in the influential U.S. market.

U.S. sales of Windows devices in the last month are down by 21% compared to the same period a year ago, with Windows-powered notebooks — generally in decline since the rise of tablets and smartphones — down by 24%. Desktop devices were down, too, but less, at 9%.

It gets worse. Microsoft has make a big bet on the touchscreen and tablets with Windows 8, but so far, NPD’s Stephen Baker says that Windows 8 tablet sales “have been almost non-existent.” Unit sales, he says, have been less than 1% of all Windows 8 device sales to date. The caveat is that NPD’s numbers do not include sales of Microsot’s own tablet, the Surface. (We are contacting Baker at NPD to see if he can give more detail on how those are selling and why they have been left out.)

So do these numbers indicate that — despite the record-breaking sales we’ve seen so far for online shopping this holiday season, which often gives an annual boost to the consumer electronics industry — Microsoft has a turkey on its hands in the form of Windows 8? Not exactly, says NPD. The problems could be just as attributable to a sluggish market at this point.

“After just four weeks on the market, it’s still early to place blame on Windows 8 for the ongoing weakness in the PC market,” writes Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD. “We still have the whole holiday selling season ahead of us, but clearly Windows 8 did not prove to be the impetus for a sales turnaround some had hoped for.”

There are still devices being sold with earlier versions of Windows, and NPD says that since launch Windows 8 hasn’t been performing as well against legacy equipment, compared to the same period in the Windows 7 sales cycle. It says 58% of Windows devices sold are loaded with Windows 8, versu 83% powered by Windows 7 one month after its launch.

“The bad Back-to-School period left a lot of inventory in the channel,” Baker explains.

Silver lining: hybrid devices — notebooks with touchscreens, such as the Asus Transformer, pictured — seemed to be doing alright. Yes, they accounted for just 6% of notebook sales, but with an average price of $867 (compared to $433 across all Windows devices) they show that there is at least some appetite for premium products, an area where Windows OEMs traditionally compete against Apple.