April 10, 2013 10:04 pm

Windows 8 blamed as PC market tumbles 14%

Toshiba's Satellite U925t Ultrabook runs on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 8 operating system©Bloomberg

The PC market shrank nearly 14 per cent in the first quarter, its biggest recorded drop, as Windows 8 was blamed by analysts for making PCs “less attractive” to consumers.

Manufacturers had hoped the new Microsoft operating system would reignite the market when it was introduced last October, but it has had the opposite effect, according to IDC, the research company.

“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 it,” said Bob O’Donnell, IDC analyst.

“The radical changes to the [user interface], 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 said.

IDC’s numbers showed global PC shipments of 76.3m units in the first quarter, down 13.9 per cent on the same period in the previous year. This was worse than IDC’s predicted decline of 7.7 per cent and marked the worst quarterly fall since it began quarterly tracking in 1994.

It was also the fourth successive quarter of year-on-year shipment declines.

Microsoft introduced a new tiled interface that was optimised for touch and tablets, but did away with the desktop opening screen, with its Start button, familiar to PC users. Touch screens have also added to the cost of PCs and notebooks at a time when consumers have been favouring cheaper smartphones and tablets.

“Microsoft will have to make some very tough decisions if it wants to help reinvigorate the PC market,” Mr O’Donnell said.

Figures from research company Gartner on Wednesday showed 79.2m units were shipped in the first quarter, down 11.2 per cent. It said consumers were continuing to migrate to tablets and smartphones.

Gartner drew a distinction between the consumer and professional PC markets, saying the latter accounted for about half of all shipments and was growing, “driven by continuing PC refreshes” by business.

However, Windows 8 was not making an impression here either, Mikako Kitagawa, Gartner analyst, told the FT. “They’re upgrading to Windows 7. Corporate users are very conservative about adopting anything new,” she said.

Gartner said Europe, the Middle East and Africa had suffered the steepest decline in shipments, down 16 per cent, while the US had suffered its sixth consecutive quarter of declines and was down 9.6 per cent.

Hewlett-Packard clung on to its number-one position worldwide ahead of China’s Lenovo. It had a 14.8 per cent market share against Lenovo’s 14.7 per cent, according to Gartner.

HP’s shipments fell 23.7 per cent year on year, according to IDC, while Lenovo’s were flat, and number-three Dell saw shipments fall 10.9 per cent. HP shares were down nearly 2 per cent in extended trading on the news.

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