Windows 8 takes blame for ‘brutal’ PC sales slide

Thursday, April 11th 2013. | Software News

Microsoft’s Windows 8 took another knock Wednesday as research firm IDC laid much of the blame for the first quarter’s historically-horrible PC numbers at the feet of the beleaguered operating system.

Yesterday, IDC and rival Gartner released their estimates for 2013’s first-quarter PC shipments. The former painted a gloomy picture of the industry, saying that the 14% decline, year over year, was the largest ever in its nearly two decades of tracking.

Gartner pegged the global downturn at 11%.

While the drop was expected — IDC, for example, had forecast an 8% contraction year over year — yesterday’s figures had one analyst searching for words. “It’s brutal,” said Bob O’Donnell of IDC. “These are disastrous numbers. Huge.”

O’Donnell was one of the IDC analysts who blamed Windows 8 for the unprecedented fall-off in consumer PC purchases during the quarter. “Not only has Windows 8 not helped, but it’s actually hurt PC shipments,” he said in an interview.

In a statement that accompanied the firm’s estimates, O’Donnell ticked off a now-familiar litany of Windows 8’s confusing traits that caused consumers to shy from new PCs, including the bold-but-radical move to the tile-based “Modern” user interface (UI), the removal of the Start button and menu from the “Classic” desktop UI; and the touch-first strategy Microsoft’s taken.

“The costs associated with touch PCs have made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices,” O’Donnell said in the statement. “Microsoft is going to have to make some very tough decisions moving forward if they want to help reinvigorate the PC market.”

Jay Chou, another IDC analyst, also tapped Windows 8 for contributing to the decline in PC shipments. “Users are finding Windows 8 to offer a compromised experience that doesn’t excel either as a new mobile interface or in a classic desktop interface,” he said in the same statement. “The result is that many consumers are worried about upgrading to Windows 8.”

David Daoud, however, said that Windows 8 is only one of several factors that suppressed PC shipments. “This was a perfect storm, and Windows 8 was just one issue among many,” IDC analyst Daoud contended in an interview.

He ticked off several other contributors, including a general saturation of PCs, especially in developed countries like the U.S.; the fact that PCs bought since 2008 or 2009 remain “good enough” for what consumers want out of a desktop or laptop; and in some parts of the world, stagnant economic conditions.

But like his colleagues, Daoud agreed that Windows 8’s lackluster acceptance played a part. “There’s a disconnect between what the OS wants to do and what the end user sees,” said Daoud, referring to the touch features of Windows 8 and the higher price of touch-ready PCs.

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Continuing coverage: Windows 8

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