PC shipments shrink nearly 14 per cent in worst ever decline

Visitors try out Windows 8 Surface tablet computers at the Microsoft stand at the 2013 CeBIT technology trade fair on March 5, 2013 in Hanover, Germany. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

TORONTO – Personal computer shipments worldwide shrank nearly 14 per cent in the first quarter of 2013, thanks to smartphones and tablets diverting customer spending and a lack of interest in the Windows 8 operating system, according to a recent report.

PC shipments fell to 76.3 million, down 13.9 per cent when compared to the same quarter in 2012, despite new PC models offering the latest operating system from tech giant Microsoft, according to data from the International Data Corporation (IDC).

The decline was notably different from IDC’s forecast decline of 7.7 per cent.

According to the IDC report, fading mini notebook shipments have resulted in big losses in the low-end PC market, while tablets and smartphones continue to rise in customer spending.

But the report cited a weak reception for Windows 8 as one of the key factors in the decline.

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“The PC industry is struggling to identify innovations that differentiate PCs from other products and inspire consumers to buy, and instead is meeting significant resistance to changes perceived as cumbersome or costly,” read the report, released Tuesday.

IDC program vice president Bob O’Donnell said in a press release that the Windows 8 launch not only failed to give a boost to PC sales, but appears to have slowed the market altogether. He noted that the radical changes to Windows user interface, including the start button and other Windows familiarities that consumers grew so accustomed to, were to blame for the lack of interest.

“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,” said O’Donnell.

The quarterly decline was the steepest since IDC began tracking shipments in 1994.

PC maker HP remained one of the strongest vendors, maintaining its leading position in the U.S. market; however, the company saw U.S. shipments fall 22.9 per cent year over year.

Apple  fared better than the overall U.S. market, according to the report, but did still experience a decline in shipments as it faced competition from its own iPad tablet sales.

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“Although the reduction in shipments was not a surprise, the magnitude of the contraction is both surprising and worrisome,” said IDC research director for personal computing David Daoud.

“The industry is going through a critical crossroads, and strategic choices will have to be made as to how to compete with the proliferation of alternative devices and remain relevant to the consumer.”

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