Windows 8 Partially Responsible for PC Implosion: IDC

PC shipments are tumbling into the basement, and IDC partially blames Windows 8.

The research firm estimated worldwide PC shipments in the first quarter of 2013 at 76.3 million units, down 13.9 percent from the same quarter in 2012. It was the worst quarter in IDC’s 19 years of tracking the PC market.

Customers are abandoning low-end PCs such as “mini notebooks” and netbooks in favor of tablets and smartphones. And if PC manufacturers were expecting a spike in demand for Windows 8 to balance out that attrition, well, they’ve been sorely disappointed.

“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,” Bob O’Donnell, IDC Program Vice President, Clients and Displays, wrote 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.”

PC manufacturers are also struggling to identify those innovations and price-points that would help their products stand out in a market crowded with next-generation tablets and other mobile devices. Over the past few quarters, these companies have experimented with “convertible” laptops, which usually feature a touch-enabled screen that either detaches or flattens against the keyboard to become a tablet—but none of these devices have proven a breakout hit. Even Microsoft’s heavily promoted Surface tablet, which includes a detachable keyboard that doubles as a screen cover, has earned only modest sales.

That’s left the manufacturers in something of a bind, even as many of them wrestle with internal issues that threaten their very existence. Hewlett-Packard has suffered through abrupt switches in CEOs and strategies over the past few years; Dell is trying to remake itself as more of a services provider, in the midst of a very public attempt to take the firm private again. Such battles are distracting at a time when these companies can’t afford mistakes or hiccups.

“The industry is going through a critical crossroads, and strategic choices will have to be made as to how to compete with the proliferation of alternative devices and remain relevant to the consumer,” David Daoud, IDC’s Research Director for Personal Computing, wrote in a statement. “Vendors will have to revisit their organizational structures and go to market strategies, as well as their supply chain, distribution, and product portfolios in the face of shrinking demand and looming consolidation.”

No pressure, anyone.


Images: Microsoft, IDC