Windows 8 getting blame for PC sales plunge of 14%

SAN FRANCISCO — The ailing personal computer market is getting weaker, and it’s starting to look like it will never fully recover as a new generation of mobile devices reshapes the way people use technology.

The latest evidence of the PC’s infirmity emerged Wednesday with the release of two somber reports showing unprecedented declines in the sales of desktop and laptop machines during the first three months of the year.

As if that news wasn’t troubling enough, it appears that a pivotal makeover of Microsoft’s ubiquitous Windows operating system seems to have done more harm than good since the software was released last October.

“This is horrific news for PCs,” said BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis. “It’s all about mobile computing now. We have definitely reached the tipping point.”

First-quarter shipments of PCs fell 14 percent from the same time last year, according to International Data Corp. That’s the deepest quarterly drop since the firm started tracking the industry in 1994. Another research firm, Gartner Inc., pegged the first-quarter decline at 11 percent.

The deviation stemmed from the firms’ slightly different definitions of PCs.

No matter how things parsed, this is clearly the worst shape that the PC market has been in since IBM Corp. released a desktop machine in 1981.

In an attempt to keep the PC relevant, Microsoft released a radical new version of Windows last fall. Windows 8 has a completely new look that’s similar to the design of the software running the most popular smartphones and tablet computers. The overhaul requires a relearning process, a leap that many consumers and corporate buyers aren’t ready to take.

All signs so far point to Windows 8 being a flop.

“Unfortunately, it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only didn’t provide a positive boost to the PC market, but appears to have slowed the market,” IDC Vice President Bob O’Donnell said.

The newest version of Windows is designed to work well with touch-sensitive screens, but the displays add to the cost of a PC. Together, the changes and higher prices “have made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices,” O’Donnell said.

Representatives of Microsoft Corp. were not immediately available for comment.

In its tally, IDC excludes tablets, even if they run PC-style software. It also excludes any device that has a detachable keyboard. With the release of Windows 8, PC makers have been reviving their experiments with tablet-laptop hybrids, some of which have detachable keyboards. Consumers are likely to have shifted some of their buying away from traditional laptops and toward these new devices, which means that the total sales decline of Windows-based devices may not be quite as drastic as IDC’s numbers suggest.

Microsoft shares fell 63 cents, or2 percent, to $29.65 in extended trading, after the release of the report. They had gained 67 cents in regular trading.

Hewlett-Packard Co., the world’s largest maker of PCs, saw a 24 percent drop in shipments in the first quarter compared with the same period a year ago. The industry’s No. 2, China’s Lenovo Group, is benefiting from sales to first-time buyers in China and other developing countries. As a result, it held sales steady, alone among the world’s top 5 PC makers, according to IDC’s figures.

HP shares fell 60 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $21.72 in extended trading. They had risen 10 cents in regular trading.

Shares of Intel Corp., which makes four out of five PC processors, fell 27 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $21.99, after rising 51 cents in regular trading.

Gartner noted one bright spot: Businesses are buying more PCs, and account for about half of the market.

In total, IDC put the global PC shipments at 76.3 million in the quarter, while Gartner put the figure at 79.2 million. The shipments are still higher than they were four years ago, during the recession.

Both firms track shipments of PCs from the manufacturer rather than retail sales. Shipments correlate closely with sales. The figures include shipments of Apple’s Macs, which account for about 5 percent of the worldwide market.

More in Herald Business Journal

Tulalips break ground on new Quil Ceda Creek Casino Hotel

A 150-room hotel was added to what is now a $140 million complex expected to open in spring 2019.

For modern women, 98-year-old rejection letters still sting

In a stark new video, female Boeing engineers break the silence about past inopportunity.

Teddy, an English bulldog, models Zentek Clothing’s heat regulating dog jacket. (Ian Terry / The Herald)
Everett clothing company keeps your dog cool and stylish

Zentek uses space-age fabrics to moderate the temperature of pets and now humans.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Merger would make Providence part of health care behemoth

Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension Health are said to be talking. Swedish would also be affected.

Boeing raises dividend 20%, continues stock buyback program

The manufacturer said it has repurchased $9.2 billion worth of its shares this year.

Trudeau snubs Boeing, unveils plan to buy used Aussie jets

Trudeau will be assessing the impact fighter jet contracts have on his country’s economy.

Value Village sues Washington attorney general over demands

The company said the AG wanted it to tell customers how much of their prices goes to charities.

Everett engineers learn lessons from Mexico City catastrophe

Structural scientists went to help after the September earthquake there and studied the damage.

Study: Almost 45 million tons of e-waste discarded last year

The gold, silver, copper and other materials would’ve been worth $55 billion had they been recovered.

Most Read