PC shipments and sales are declining. It's an undeniable fact. What people can't seem to agree on is the cause. Some say the rise of tablets and smartphones are to blame, while others think it's just a longer than usual transition period. Both are right in their own way, but one research firm says the root cause can be traced back to Microsoft.
IDC reports that worldwide PC shipments were at 76.3 million units in Q1 of this year. That's a drop of 13.9 percent compared to the first quarter of 2012. It's even worse when you consider that IDC was only predicting a 7.7 percent drop in shipments last quarter. Oh, and to just rub salt in the wound, IDC notes that this is the single worst quarter for PC shipments since it started tracking the market in 1994.
What could possibly be causing this huge decline in PC sales? IDC says there's a lot at play here including a decrease in shipments of low-cost Mini Notebooks, and an increase in consumer spending on tablets and smartphones. The high cost of PCs and Ultrabooks are also presenting obstacles as consumers don't want to spend more than $1,000 on a PC.
All of the above reasons have contributed to the decline of PC shipments, but IDC points to Windows 8 as one of the leading causes of the current slump the PC industry is facing:
"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," said Bob O'Donnell, IDC Program Vice President, Clients and Displays. "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. Microsoft will have to make some very tough decisions moving forward if it wants to help reinvigorate the PC market."
IDC's findings jibe with that of UK PC Merchants who in February reported that consumers were still buying Windows 7 PCs over those that came with Windows 8. In fact, one merchant said that he had to start offering Windows 7 as the default OS again lest he lose business.
While this certainly looks bad, IDC reminds us that there's at least one silver lining in all of this. Going against all expectations, Lenovo posted double year-on-year growth in the U.S. while everybody else, including Dell and HP, have posted double digit losses.
So, what can Microsoft do to turn its, and the entire PC industry's, fortunes around? That's hard to say, but the company is obviously up to something with Windows Blue. Whether the improvements being made to Windows 8 can actually turn everything around remains to be seen though.