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Don't blame Windows 8 for slumping PC sales

windows 8; pc sales

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#1 spenser.d


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Posted 18 April 2013 - 01:16

PC sales are slumping and the technological prophets of doom are quick to point the finger at Microsoft and its Windows 8 operating system.

Last week IDC Vice President Bob O'Donnell not only expressed disappointment that Windows 8 wasn't able to reverse the trend, but asserted that Windows 8 was the reason for the slowing market.

But the PC sales problem doesn't begin or end with Windows 8. Even if Windows 8 were the most well-received and critically acclaimed operating system ever, PC sales would probably still slump.

Why? Tablets.

Even if they won't render the PC obsolete, the rise of tablets and smartphones have certainly made them less necessary in our day-to-day lives. They are no longer just an accessory to the PC. In many cases, they're a functional alternative.

The tablet market has grown rapidly since 2010, with the latest reports signaling the space is on its way to becoming a $64 billion industry, with 150 million units expected to ship this year, according to ABI Research.

When you compare the rapid growth of tablets to the general decline of PCs, it's evident people are opting for a tablet to supplement -- and sometimes even replace -- their aging computers at home. By 2015, Gartner expects tablet sales to exceed PC sales for the first time.

Although PCs are still very much the best tool for work and other productivity-related tasks, tablets (and in many cases, phones) can now handle the vast majority of activities we need them for: Web browsing, email, messaging, music, video, social networking, etc. They're slimmer, lighter and more versatile.

It's not unlike the move from tower PCs to laptops in the early 2000s, when the portable computers started to offer an experience on par with their stationary counterparts. The only major difference this time around is that a whole different set of players are leading the tablet space -- from the hardware to the software makers.

Another factor dooming the PC: Most computers purchased within the last five years can still perform admirably today.

New computers are noticeably better, but for the large swath of consumers who are turning to phones and tablets for all their casual computing, the necessity of regularly buying a new computer has become less pronounced. For those who sit in front of a home PC just a handful of times a week, they are probably fine extending the life of a slightly creaky machine.

So it's not so much that Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) has scared everyone away. It's just that everyone was already drifting towards the latest evolution of the PC -- something new, exciting, and at times, better.

Trying to protect the top dog status of the PC now is like trying to preserve the status of the vinyl record over CDs. They're superior in certain aspects, sure, but they're also significantly less convenient.

And that was really Microsoft's main mission in creating Windows 8 -- not to save PCs, but to guide the company through a transition when the capabilities of tablets and PCs are merging. Microsoft wants Windows to run on both. The strategy understands the importance of keeping the PC around, but Microsoft ultimately realizes that most people will eventually opt for a tablet as their main "computer."

Microsoft investors aren't necessarily convinced, however. The stock is down about 4% since the first quarter PC sales numbers came out. On Thursday, Microsoft will give shareholders a glimpse of the first full quarter of Windows 8 sales. They probably won't be pretty, but investors would likely be well served to take a long-term view.


It's no surprise to think that Microsoft is planning for the long haul as they tend to do. I think a lot of people will be surprised down the road when they figure out that Windows 8 isn't a failure.

#2 Tha Bloo Monkee

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 01:23

I'm not surprised. I can personally remember not so long ago when most of my friends had PCs for general use and messaging etc. Now many of those people are switching to cellphones and tablets, having little use for a PC.
There will always be those that will stick hardcore with their PCs and shout "long live the PC", but at the end of the day, having a big giant box for a computer along with a keyboard and mouse just isn't needed to many anymore with all the alternatives.

That being said: "long live the PC" :p Neowin will never lose its appetite for desktop PCs.

#3 Dot Matrix

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 01:32

Wow. Finally, someone speaking the truth.

#4 Atomic Wanderer Chicken

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 01:56

Desktops will never go away, they are used in businesses, colleges, schools, homes, gaming etc. I think it is absurd people are calling this the post-pc era, its more like the pc-plus era. Apple is now slowly going back to the pre-jobs era, hopefully Windows 8 will help Microsoft dominate Apple especially with tablets. I see WIndows 8 more of an extension of WIndows 7 to get to be on more devices like tablets etc! Windows 8 isn't a failure, but it is just different and needs time for adoption!

#5 Growled


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Posted 18 April 2013 - 01:56

I agree. It's mostly tablets (and phones) and price. The Windows offerings have got to come down to be competitive.

#6 techbeck


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Posted 18 April 2013 - 03:54

Oh come on, Windows 8 played a part in it...if only a small part. But people keeping their PCs longer and opting more for tablets, even if for a second device, is probably mostly the cause.

#7 abysal


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Posted 18 April 2013 - 04:20

Everyone will hear only what they want to hear. While the truth is probably a little bit of both.

#8 soumyasch



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Posted 18 April 2013 - 04:22

The only reason PC sales are slowing is because there is no need for most people to upgrade their systems anymore. Even a Core 2 Duo era system is more than powerful enough for whatever task is being thrown at them. And smartphone/tablets/TVs have grown powerful enough to handle all communication and entertainment (media, photos and casual gaming) to be preferred over a computer - putting the computer back for work related stuff. Does not mean in any way that one will kill the other. They each serve different purposes and all will be needed.

#9 rfirth


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Posted 18 April 2013 - 04:33

Windows 8 isn't the cause. Windows 8 is the symptom. PC sales were slowing long before the first preview of Windows 8.

1. People are using tablets and smartphones instead of dedicated PCs more and more.
2. The life expectancy of a PC is much much longer now.
3. No need to upgrade... what you have is 'good enough'. The economy hurts here too.
4. New PC isn't required to upgrade to Windows 7 or 8.
5. The market is saturated. There is little additional room for growth.

#10 PGHammer


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Posted 18 April 2013 - 05:58

Desktops will never go away, they are used in businesses, colleges, schools, homes, gaming etc. I think it is absurd people are calling this the post-pc era, its more like the pc-plus era. Apple is now slowly going back to the pre-jobs era, hopefully Windows 8 will help Microsoft dominate Apple especially with tablets. I see WIndows 8 more of an extension of WIndows 7 to get to be on more devices like tablets etc! Windows 8 isn't a failure, but it is just different and needs time for adoption!

Go away? No. (Not even Dot Matrix thinks that.) Become less of a force in the market? Unfortunately, yes. The watchword for newer hardware is portability - not power, so much; this is especially true for those that ALREADY have a desktop PC. Any portable I get (be it notebook or whatever) has to be compatible with the file FORMATS that I have on my desktop; however, it need NOT be fully compatible with the desktop itself (though it would help if it were). Due to the file-format issue, all the tablet and slate OS players survived the first culling; now, it comes down to usability and learning curve. WindowsRT and Windows 8 have the advantage, due to a LACK of learning curve (I'm running Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 in a dual-boot configuration). While Android has a lower price, it also has a higher learning curve than even WindowsRT, let alone 8. iOS? Highest device price AND highest learning curve - therefore, a major outlier.

That is the real advantage the one-two (even one-two-three if you add in Windows Phone 8, or one-two-three-four counting - don't laugh - Windows Server 2012) except for task-specific differences between them, how large is the learning curve for non-power usage? Here's the thing - not only do Windows 8 and Server 2012 share a ton of code, other than Server-specific roles and features, you could actually use Windows Server like a workstation out of the box - without having to strip a lot of stuff out of it, as was the case with previous versions of Windows Server. (I'm not talking Server Essentials, either, but Windows Server 2012 Standard, GUI and all - even with Hyper-V and all the Desktop Experience installed, it takes up little more disk space than Windows 8, and is also little slower. About the ONLY thing you wouldn't want to do is game on it, though even THAT wouldn't necessarily be a stretch - AMD Catalyst and nVidia ForceWare are cross-compatible between the two OSes - today.)

Generally, there are two - and ONLY two - driving forces to change out desktop hardware today - whether it's all of it or even pieces: hardware death or hardware obsolescence. Other than gamers, which is MOST likely to cause hardware changeout today? And unless you play a lot of AAA games or have outlier usages (such as virtualization), obsolescence is far from unlikely, even with Windows 8. (Windows 8 hasn't made my MOUSE obsolete, even with the better support for touch. Windows Server 2012 ALSO has touch support - the only server OS that can make that claim; however, it didn't obsolesce my mouse, either.)

We, as users, have been driving the portability and touch-enabled trend for the past two years: did anyone REALLY think Microsoft hasn't been watching and listening?