Windows 8 Update: IDC blames bad quarter for PC sales on Windows 8

The 6.4 per cent decline in PC sales was worse than projections of a 4.4 per cent drop

Windows 8 will shoulder part of the blame for a worse-than-expected dip in Q4 PC sales because it didn't offer clear enough benefits that might spark a surge in PC buying, according to IDC.

During the fourth quarter of last year worldwide PC shipments were down 6.4 per cent compared to Q4 2011, the first time in more than five years that such a decline has occurred between back-to-back holiday seasons, according to IDC's most recent Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker report.

BACKGROUND: Ultra-hyped ultrabooks ultra-flopped in 2012

LEARN: 12 essential Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts

FIRST LOOK: Surface RT

"Although the quarter marked the beginning of a new stage in the PC industry with the launch of Windows 8, its impact did not quickly change recently sluggish PC demand, and the PC market continued to take a back seat to competing devices and sustained economic woes," IDC said in a press release. Those other devices included tablets and ultrabooks.

The actual decline in PC sales was worse than projections of a 4.4 per cent drop, and may have been made more severe by questions about use of touch in Windows 8 PCs versus in tablets, IDC says.

As a result, the fourth quarter of 2012 marked the first time in more than five years that the PC market has seen a year-on-year decline during the holiday season. Contributing to the problem was marketing emphasis on touch capabilities in Windows 8 that may have overshadowed other important capabilities that might have better boosted sales, IDC says.

"Lost in the shuffle to promote a touch-centric PC, vendors have not forcefully stressed other features that promote a more secure, reliable and efficient user experience," says Jay Chou, a senior IDC research analyst, but that can be fixed going forward. "As Windows 8 matures, and other corresponding variables such as Ultrabook pricing continue to drop, hopefully the PC market can see a reset in both messaging and demand in 2013."

A lack of available hardware customized for Windows 8 contributed to the problem. "Consumers expected all sorts of cool PCs with tablet and touch capabilities," says David Daoud, an IDC research director. "Instead, they mostly saw traditional PCs that feature a new OS optimized for touch and tablet with applications and hardware that are not yet able to fully utilize these capabilities."

CES: Windows 8 hardware on the way

PC vendors wheeled out touch-capable PC/tablet portables at the Consumer Electronics Show 2013 this week in Las Vegas.

At the show Asus, Dell, Gigabyte, Lenovo, LG, Panasonic, Razer, Samsung, Toshiba and Vizio all demoed touchscreen devices suitable for Windows 8. Some of them won't be available until later this year.

Intel promised showgoers that by the end of the year Windows 8 ultrabooks will be available for as little as $600, supporting Windows 8 Pro with full Windows capabilities, not the more streamlined and limited Windows RT version of the operating system, which is available for about that price in the shape of Microsoft's Surface RT tablet/notebook.

Notable among the CES-debuted products were a 27-inch Lenovo tablet that doubles as a gaming table and a ruggedized Panasonic tablet for field work in challenging environments. The Lenovo tablet is called IdeaCentre Horizon and will sell for about $1,700 when it's available this summer. Panasonic's Toughbook FZ-G1 tablet will cost $2,900 when it's available in March.

Surface Pro test drives

Microsoft rented a room nearby CES this week where it let a few journalists play with one of its Surface Pro tablet/laptops. The Surface Pro differs from Surface RT in that Pro supports all Windows 7 applications as well as Modern applications designed just for Windows 8 and that are designed around Windows Runtime, the application architecture meant to support apps that can run on Windows desktops, tablets and phones.

Impressions ranged from praise that said this was the device everybody wanted when they heard about Windows 8 to criticism about poor battery life. It's got a hi-res, 10-point touchscreen, and a stylus for notebook mode.

With Windows 8 touch support, the device can be a tablet when stripped of its detachable keyboard, but also becomes a full laptop when the keyboard (which doubles as a cover) is attached. It's due in stores by the end of the month for $899 or $899, depending on storage.

Windows 8 apps contest

Startups with Windows 8 apps to sell can enter a Microsoft contest that might give their efforts better visibility.

Called The Windows Startup Challenge, the competition seeks applications that are written for Windows 8 -- called Windows Store apps -- that are innovative, address a specific need and stand the chance for commercial success.

Winners get free travel to DEMO Mobile in San Francisco April 17 and the opportunity to make a presentation there about their apps to the press and investors.

The competition accepts Windows Store adaptations of existing Apple and Android apps.

Tim Greene covers Microsoft for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at tgreene@nww.com and follow him on Twitter @Tim_Greene.

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Comments

Enigmatic

1

What a load of garbage...

How can Windows 8 be blamed for a bad quarter when there is nothing stopping people from purchasing a Windows 7 machine if they want to. Its not like they took away all options BUT windows 8.

This makes me wonder what their agenda is by purposely misleading people like this. Personal dislike? Aversion to change? Paid by Apple?

The fact is that Windows 8 is a paradigm shift, a completely new way of looking at the PC as being PART of a larger endeavour, a consistency of access across multiple form factors. Of course it is going to be a slower seller than Windows 7, which was released to overcome the problems with Vista but still was the same known and familiar interface methodology.

I for one am waiting until I need a new laptop before upgrading to Windows 8, because there is no point in taking a non-touch laptop and then underutilizing the features it provides. I believe many people are in this same boat, so poor sales are not a reflection of a bad OS, but are a direct reflection of the change in the way it is used and thus people will wait until they can take advantage of it.

gnome

2

Despite a large campaign, Win8 is not seen by most people as relating to their current needs.

As a result, it seems the main outcome has been to cause confusion in the minds of potential purchasers, who as a result are sitting on their hands until the position becomes clearer and/or the need for new gear is more pressing.

Win8 may be 'a paradigm shift', but it also seems to be an answer to a question that as yet not many are asking. You don't have to be 'paid by Apple' to realise this...

Enigmatic

3

Sorry gnome but I disagree with you. The world has definately shifted, and it has moved towards mobility and sharing. We are wanting access to more things in more places. This is exactly the question that is being asked... "Why can't I get my data wherever I go?"

And the answer has been Windows 8, which is on phones, tablets and desktops/laptops and which shares a common cloud service that allows you to access this data consistently across all of these devices.

I watch others use emails to send things between their devices, and then talk about the fact you cannot set up an email account purely on an iPad, and they end up using note pad to write things down because their iPad has different software to their desktop, and they have to transfer it manually to their iPhone.

I then see how I finish writing a document on my desktop, pick up my tablet and instantly have access to the same document on my tablet and then while travelling on the bus on the way home I have instant access to the same document yet again on my phone. The method I used to access it is consistent across all 3 environments and what i learn from one I can use on the others.

You cannot confuse what people are wanting, with they fact they don't know what will achieve it, and asking them to completely change their way of thinking is never easy. Remember back when everything was DOS and people were told they needed to purchase this new peripheral called a "mouse" that allowed them to navigate around a series of windows. The very same situation happened then. They wanted better visual representation but they didn't know HOW to get it, so when windows came along, many were reluctant to pick it up because it was so fundamentally different to what they were used to and required them to change their way of thinking and utilize different hardware.

The real barrier to uptake is TOUCH, and the need for devices to support this in order to be affective. Unlike previous upgrades where existing hardware was sufficient, upgrading to Windows 8 to be effective requires devices that support touch, so people are going to be slow in doing this until their actual hardware needs upgrading or until they are unable to continue with what they have got.

It is the reason why companies are now releasing new touch sensor products that can be clipped to existing screens to provide touch support. They wouldn't be doing this if there wasn't a market for it, which clearly indicates that is the thing holding it back. In 10 years time, when everybody has upgraded their hardware and everybody has touch devices across the board, they will look back and wonder what all the hassle was about because now eveything is touch and they wont be able to remember how they ever did without it... just like they did with the transition from DOS to windows

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