The personal computer is in crisis, and getting little help from Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 8 software once seen as a possible savior.
Research firm IDC issued an alarming report Wednesday for PC makers such as Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., saying world-wide shipments of laptops and desktops fell 14% in the first quarter from a year earlier. That is the sharpest drop since IDC began tracking this data in 1994 and marks the fourth straight quarter of declines.
Gartner Inc., a rival research firm, estimated global shipments sank 11.2%, which it called the worst drop since the first quarter of 2001. Gartner blamed the rise of tablets and smartphones, which are sapping demand for personal computers.
Windows 8 was never, ever going to save the PC, because Windows 8 represents an abandonment of the traditional PC. It is essentially a touchscreen tablet OS forced onto the desktop. Like Windows Vista, it is an absolutely awful OS that our company has banned any employee from using on a company machine. Fortunately, we can still buy a few Dell computers with Windows 7, and when that is no longer possible, I will go back to building our company machines and putting Windows 7 on myself, the same thing I did to survive the Vista nightmare (hanging on to XP until Windows 7 came out).
Later in the article, the author recognizes that Windows 8 is killing the PC rather than saving it
But there is little sign that buyers are responding. In a surprisingly harsh assessment, IDC said Windows 8 hasn't only failed to spur more PC demand but has actually exacerbated the slowdown—confusing consumers with features that don't excel in a tablet mode and compromise the traditional PC experience.
Mr. Chou said not only has Windows 8 failed to attract consumers, but businesses are keeping their distance as well. Chief information officers at several companies echoed his opinion Wednesday.
Ricoh Americas Corp., which replaces about a third of its 17,000 PCs every three years and upgrades to the most current operating system available, said this year it is sticking with Windows 7, released in 2009. Tracey Rothenberger, the company's chief operating officer, said the benefits of switching to the new software aren't worth the effort of training employees to use it.
I am sympathetic to Microsoft's goals, if not their tactics. Certainly market share in OS is shifting to handheld devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and Microsoft has largely missed this market. To stay relevant, they need to gain share in these markets -- and trying to gain a foothold by somehow leveraging their market share in desktops makes sense. It would be great to have an OS for tablets that allowed more access to the file system and customization options, as a competitor to Apple's walled garden, though Google is way ahead in that particular niche.
But the imposition of tablet aesthetics, user interface, and apps framework on desktop PC's is just frustrating as hell for those of us who still like using a mouse and prefer our traditional desktop interface. The training issue for employees is not a trivial one -- when Microsoft completely abandoned the menu structure and user interface of their Office products several years ago, we decided not to upgrade any of our PC's and, when necessary, to use the OpenOffice alternative, as much because it retains the old Office interface as for its being free.
I still use Word, Excel, and Powerpoint 2002 on this computer, because I have never really been happy with the new Office interface. I use no other software even remotely that old. I routinely upgrade everything I have. I dutifully upgrade Quickbooks and Norton Security and a dozen other programs every year. So to go a decade without upgrading shows how little I think of Microsoft's upgrade strategies.