Sales of personal computers were down significantly during the holiday season, and now it appears this was no anomaly. PC shipments for the first-quarter (January 1 to March 31, 2013) fell by 14 percent from Q1 2012, according to International Data Corporation (IDC). This amounted to the most precipitous quarterly drop since 1994, when the market research firm first began tracking the numbers. Bob O’Donnell, Program VP of Clients and Displays at IDC, placed the blame squarely on the launch of Windows 8 on October 26. O’Donnell, according to eWeek, said people simply are not willing to embrace the radical changes of Windows 8, specifically the removal of the Start button.
Hewlett-Packard, the largest single PC manufacturer in the world, experienced a 24 percent drop in shipments from Q1 2012 to 2013. Lenovo Group, the world’s number-2 PC maker, benefited greatly from first-time buyers in China. As a result, Lenovo was the sole top-five PC manufacturer that maintained the same level of sales from 2012.
Gartner Inc., another technology research firm, determined overall shipments were down only 11 percent in Q1, mostly due to the differences in how the two firms classify what is and what is not a “PC.”
Hardware and Software Failures
The increased demand for smartphones and other mobile devices can be attributed to declining PC sales. Windows 8 is Microsoft’s answer to what appears be a mass decline in desktop and laptop computer usage in lieu of mobile devices. The latest Microsoft OS is supposed to be compatible with any and all types of devices, including tablets, laptops, smartphones and desktop computers. But IDC pointed out the fundamental incompatibility of a touch screen for business users, especially those that encompass extensive programming.
The interface is one of the major complaints users continuously raise. Unlike previous Windows versions and even Myhosting.com Windows hosting, all of which were user-friendly and consistent between upgrades, Windows 8 is an entirely new experience most people either do not want to learn or cannot learn. An IDC research analyst went a step further, calling Windows 8 a compromised experience with a confused identity as to whether its a mobile or desktop interface.
ABC News pointed out how previous Windows PCs were $300 to $400. But that is no longer the case with the added touch screen. The monitors cost more to manufacture and subsequently those costs are passed onto the consumer. IDC, and many other analysts criticizing Windows 8, have failed to point out that PCs can still come with Windows 7 installed if requested. Just about every Windows update has been met with the same initial scorn as Windows 8; the fact shipments have simultaneously plunged with the new OS’s release makes it difficult to argue the two are mutually exclusive.
Future of Steve Ballmer
One of the several publications speculating on the future of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is 24/7 Wallstreet. Citing other analysts, the return of Bill Gates as the day-to-day operations front man seems to be popular sentiment. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt has also been mentioned.
Microsoft will have to find a way to entice new customers to stop the bleeding. Lowering the price of new units is a suggestion posed by several tech bloggers. But until then, Ballmer’s job and the future of Microsoft as a company, will be the subject of speculation.