Will Windows 8 save the PC? Gartner reports 8% year on year sales decline

Gartner has reported on third quarter worldwide PC sales and they do not look good:

  • At 87.5 million units, they have declined 8.3% compared with the same quarter in 2011
  • HP is down 16.4%, Dell is down 13.7%. Lenovo managed 9.8% growth and is now number one with 15.7% of the market

Key quote: “The third quarter has historically been driven by back-to-school sales, but U.S. PC shipments did not increase, not even sequentially, from the second quarter of 2012. Channels were conservative in placing orders” said Gartner’s Mikako Kitagawa.

Gartner researchers add that ultrabooks have failed to turn round sales because they are not competitively priced. Worth noting when you look at the expensive hybrid docking tablets and convertibles vendors have come up with for Windows 8.

Gartner’s figures exclude “media tablets” such as the Apple iPad or Android tablets.

Of course you would expect a decline on the eve of the launch of Windows 8, as retailers clear their shelves, though Kitagawa says “On the professional side, there was minimum impact from Windows 8 in the quarter because the professional market will not adopt Windows 8 PCs immediately after the release.”

But will consumers rush to buy Windows 8 machines and make the next quarter boom? Let me throw out a few predictions:

  • Kitagawa is right about the professional market. We may see a few Windows 8 tablets show up among execs, but most companies will go the easy route and stick with Windows 7 for the time being.
  • The Windows 8 launch will be fascinating with cries of agony from some while others say it is rather good.
  • Time will be good for Windows 8 as the shock wears off and people learn how to use it.
  • Microsoft’s Surface will be a success and show Windows 8 at its best, though there will be confusion over lack of compatibility with desktop applications.

I am not sure though that this means a strong fourth quarter. Confusion over the new UI and vendors with over-complicated hybrid products will probably prevent sales from taking off immediately. Further, Windows 8 has to compete with Windows 7, which is already pretty good.

Broadly I reckon Microsoft is doing the right thing with Windows 8: reinventing the platform as a tablet OS while keeping faith with the past, on x86 at least.

I have doubts about some aspects of the Metro user interface and expect it will improve in later versions with some softening of the “immersive UI” religion that hides menus and toolbars so effectively that users think apps are broken, or have to click or tap twice when once should be enough – eg the back button in Metro-style Internet Explorer.

Even so, there are a few excellent new-style apps, more will come, and I expect the platform to succeed eventually.

4 thoughts on “Will Windows 8 save the PC? Gartner reports 8% year on year sales decline”

  1. “and I expect the platform to succeed eventually.”

    There is more than one platform when it comes to Windows 8 : RT on ARM won’t run Desktop apps other than Microsoft Office. But it’s going to be called Windows 8. There is no Windows, but it’s called Windows.

    How do you define the success of Windows 8 in this context ?

  2. Well, Surface will be very good for revenues. Profits will depend on what they’re pricing it at — which we *still* don’t know.

  3. In Metro-style Internet Explorer you can slide page to leftright in order to move backforward. It’s feels very natural on touch screen.

  4. @Stef when I talk about the platform in this context I mean the new WinRT platform that is common to both x86 and ARM.

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