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13 May 2013

The End Of The PC?: Windows 8 Was A Flop, PC Sales Continue To Drop

Many people dismissed Steve Jobs’ talk of a “Post PC Era” as another Apple sales pitch or some hyperbole from the Reality Distortion Field. However, the number crunchers at the International Data Corporation (IDC) provided some cold hard numbers yesterday which suggest that we may have already slipped into such an era.

According to the IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, PC sales have been slipping each quarter but fell by a total of 18.3 percent in the first quarter of 2013. This is the lowest PC sales have been since 2006, and it’s a performance the IDC is calling “dismal.” What’s more, the IDC report suggests the final bullet to PC sales may have been Microsoft’s Windows 8.

“At this point, unfortunately, it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only failed to provide a positive boost to the PC market, but appears to have slowed the market,” said IDC Program Vice President Bob O’Donnell in a statement.

“While some consumers appreciate the new form factors and touch capabilities of Windows 8, the radical changes to the UI, removal of the familiar Start button, and the costs associated with touch have made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices,” he continued.

“Microsoft will have to make some very tough decisions moving forward if it wants to help reinvigorate the PC market.”

To be fair, Windows 8 arrived in a situation that was already dire. For instance, those netbooks which once flew off the shelves are now being all but ignored in the face of the tablet revolution. IDC also claims that Mini Notebooks have also seen slower sales lately, and though the industry is trying to resuscitate sales with slim body styles and touch screens, they’ve been unable to match the margins they once made on other machines.

The most obvious reason for the decline in PC sales, however, isn’t software – it’s hardware.

Apple’s iPhone gave some of the more daring individuals a chance to experience life away from their desktop or laptops. With the full web and a host of apps to do some light to moderate lifting, the iPhone has essentially become a PC in your pocket.

And when the iPad debuted in 2010, this effect became more pronounced. Many consumers began to weigh the pros and cons of a new laptop or netbook versus an iPad. And these days, few casual users need any more computing power than what’s found in an iPad or a competing tablet.

This means PC upgrades will be few and far between, if ever.

“We are truly in an era of good-enough computing. People are holding on to their machines longer,” said O’Donnell in an interview with CNET.

“Eventually [customers] do upgrade their PC, but they’re going to wait.”

PC makers like Dell and HP have certainly felt the weight of these declining sales, and though they’ve tried to restructure and reorganize in anticipation of the drop, they’ve nevertheless been left scrambling to keep the proverbial ship from sinking.

“Although the reduction in shipments was not a surprise, the magnitude of the contraction is both surprising and worrisome,” said David Daoud, IDC research director in the press statement.

HP came out on top of the heap, but was still left with a double-digit decline, falling more than 23 percent year over year.

Lenovo scored a close second, thanks to strong sales in the US, while Dell saw double-digit declines across the globe, leaving them in third.

Even Apple saw shipments of their computers slip, although much of this can likely be attributed to cannibalization by their iPad sales.


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