The Associated Press and GfK surveyed nearly 1,200 adults in the US and found that 52% had not even heard of Windows 8 in the run-up to the launch of the re-imagined software last Friday (October 26).
Among the people who did know about the new operating system, 61% had little or no interest in buying a laptop or desktop computer running the software.
Equally worryingly for Microsoft, only around a third of the consumers who knew about Windows 8 felt that it would be an improvement on previous generations.
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer freely admits that he has 'bet the company' on Windows 8 being a success, such is the importance of the operating system.
New Windows software is usually released every two to three years, but the latest version represents a major leap forward for Microsoft, and is designed to position the Windows ecosystem for the era of touchscreen and portable computing.
Microsoft hopes to fend off renewed competition from Apple's Mac by offering a touch-based, dynamic operating system that can run on processors designed for high-spec machines and chips that usually run on mobile devices.
The software introduces various features similar to the Windows Phone operating system, enabling users to lay out their applications and programmes on a touch-enabled user interface.
Chris Dionne, a 43-year-old engineer from Waterbury, Connecticut, had experienced Windows 8, but did not think that the changes introduced were enough to make it worthwhile upgrading his laptop from 2009's Windows 7.
"I am not real thrilled they are changing things around," he told AP. "Windows 7 does everything I want it to. Where is the return on my investment to learn a new OS?"
Microsoft also last week launched Surface, its new line of tablets designed to show off what Windows 8 can do on a touchscreen device.
But alongside getting mixed reviews from the critics, the Surface tablets also appear to be attracting ambivalence from consumers.
AP and GfK found that 69% of those surveyed had little or no interest in buying a Surface, suggesting that Microsoft will struggle to pull tablet buyers away from Apple's dominant iPad range.
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