PCs running Microsoft's new Windows Vista operating system got a cool response from consumers in Japan during their first month on sale, according to data published Tuesday.

Sales of desktop and laptop computers from brand-name makers in February were 1.2 perc ent higher than the same month in 2006, said BCN. The company came up with its figure after analyzing point-of-sales system data from about 560 specialist PC and electronics shops that are part of 12 retail chains.

The entire market was up 6 percent thanks to better demand for white-box PCs made by computer stores and for motherboards.

The jump in the brand-market was smaller than expected by market watchers, who thought the launch of the long-awaited operating system on Jan. 30 would give the PC market more of a kick. Better sales had been expected in part because consumers had shown a lack of interest in new PCs in the months prior to Vista's launch.

In October, sales were down 21 percent compared to the previous year. In November, they were 22 percent lower, in December 19 percent down and in January 14 percent below the same month in 2006.

The little strength there was in the brand-name market came from increased sales of laptops, sales of which were up 9.3 percent on a unit basis for the month, said BCN. The desktop sector was down 13.8 percent on the year.

Despite the apparently lackluster response from Japanese consumers, Microsoft and two major PC makers have in the last 24 hours given the Vista launch votes of confidence.

"We're actually pretty happy with how the launch has gone so far," said Darren Huston, president and CEO of Microsoft's Japan unit, at a news conference on Monday.

The same day Walt Mayo, corporate director of Dell Japan's home and business sales division, said in an interview that the Vista launch has been "good overall."

On Tuesday Richard Walker, head of Hewlett Packard Co.'s consumer PC division, said sales of Vista PCs were "strong" in the global market. He didn't have any data specific to the Japanese market. "We're definitely ahead of our plan as far as Vista is concerned," he said.

Among Vista sales demand for the premium versions has been greater than anticipated, said Microsoft's Huston.

"That was actually a good, positive surprise for us," he said