"The challenge of a new OS is that they'd want to do a general wholesale sweep, leaving one or two SKUs [stock keeping units] that are older and replacing everything else," said Baker. "That's a real tough period of time trying to make a switch. Why spend money to disrupt the supply chain?"
Baker didn't believe OEMs would bother. Instead, they're much more likely to sell Windows 8.1-powered devices, spend the following months finishing up new designs and/or models more or less explicitly crafted for the new OS, then launch those this fall in time for the holiday stretch.
A big part of Baker's rationale was Microsoft's emphasis on a streamlined, easier-to-do upgrade from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10. If Redmond makes good on that promise, there shouldn't be a problem with selling Windows 8.1 systems for back-to-school, since the hardware requirements for Windows 10 are identical to its predecessor.
"Things are different now. What with the upgrades for phones and tablets, consumers have been educated about what an upgrade means," Baker said. The process isn't as terrifying to them as it once was. And to those for whom it remains mysterious, then the free offer gives retailers an opportunity to do the upgrade for consumers. Whether that service comes with a fee really doesn't matter: Either way, it gets the customer back into the store.
Moorhead echoed Baker's take on OEMs' moves for back-to-school and Windows 10. "They'd rather have brand-new product, fully merchandized for Windows 10," Moorhead said. "But what we'll see are PCs with Windows 8.1 that are upgradable to Windows 10."
In any case, that may be OEMS' only play.
"Based on my use of Windows 10 [preview], it would take a Herculean effort for it to show up pre-installed in retail by July," Moorhead opined.
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