PC shipments suffer worst quarterly decline on record

Q1 drop the worst on IDC's records, but Microsoft could be doubling down on Surface

PC shipments suffered the worst single quarter decline in history, according to data released by IDC.

In the first quarter of 2013, worldwide PC shipments stood at 76.3 million units - a 13.9 per cent decline over the same quarter in 2012, which is the single largest quarterly drop since IDC started tracking the PC market in 1994. It was also significantly higher than the 7.7 per cent drop IDC anticipated.

"At this point, unfortunately, it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only failed to provide a positive boost to the PC market, but appears to have slowed the market," said Bob O'Donnell, vice president of Clients and Displays at IDC, in a statement.

"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."

And according to a report from the Wall Street Journal, one of those tough decisions may well be the rapid production of a 7-inch version of its Surface tablet. Despite the tepid reaction to the 10-inch Surface Pro and Surface RT models, sources close to Microsoft have claimed that the company is eager to move quickly on the consumer interest in smaller tablets.

The 7-inch Surface is expected to enter mass production by the end of the year.

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Latest comments (6)

Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee6 years ago
I simply can't see Windows 8 as the scapegoat despite a lot of suggestions across the web.

The PC market has been in some decline for a long time. Laptops started outselling desktops about 3:1 and now people who only care about Internet access and even more portability are seeing Tablets (or even smartphones) as a major alternative for e-mail, news, social networks etc.

It was some time before Windows 8 that traditional PC manufacturers started to worry about the sustainability of their businesses, making varying attempts to diversify, often ending in failure to really make a mark. I don't think a new "Windows" is enough to change the way the industry is heading. If anything, more focus on the cost of hardware and the form factors needs to be made.

'Most people' already have a computer, and are now adding mobiles and tablets, where is this 'infinite growth' supposed to come from?
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 6 years ago
Does anyone actually WORK from a tablet (as in REAL work, not social, presentations or casual gaming)? I have an old laptop and desktop that are doing me fine and won't need replacing for a while, as I'm not a slave to tech where I just HAVE to get the newest and latest just to drop a recently acquired product that still works in a landfill somewhere. MOST people I know who own either are the same way, so perhaps the PC market is sloping downward because the average consumer isn't replacing what they've spent hundreds on and yes, is also into the tablet craze... which will get hit with slowdown when that fad starts drying up at some point...
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee6 years ago
I doubt many people work from a Tablet, outside communication in some professional contexts. But it is a case of people not throwing away and adopting new tech as quickly as the industry asks them too.

There are Windows 7 PCs just as functional and as powerful (if not more so) than many you can buy today. In fact a lot of computers come with repackaged older generation chips and entry level graphics but more RAM.

To me its extraordinary to think computers can just keep selling at the same rates, especially looking at the capabilities an refinement of previous generation ones and the new Internet enabled devices. If you think about it, Laptops really are around 70% of the computer market. The tablet already killed off the Netbook, which was looking to be the biggest growth area. Now tablets are even faster, higher resolution and so on. They won't replace the full functionality of a PC just yet, if ever for but they offer a great portable Internet and communication tool, which most people use a computer for.

I'm kinda going on but another thing to put out there is that, tablets and smartphones aren't just to be seen as threats but part of what 'the computer' has become. Its a shame many companies have't been able to use their vast knowledge and technological assets to create a more balance and diverse offering for the changing and evolving market.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adam Campbell on 16th April 2013 1:00am

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 6 years ago
Well... it's only a perceived "threat" for some people like me who find them useless for anything but entertainment and making mundane crap look good because people will make apps for all sorts of stuff these days. I know a few folks who use tablets at work (it's been mandated in some jobs (!), but they end up complaining because they can't do what they did with a more functional computer that no matter how "ancient" lets them do more, period.

I like the IDEA of tablet PC's with a keyboard attachment, but all I see are people breakdancing with them in TV commercials and I don't think I need to be handstand hopping at my age. That and I like using a damn mouse over a touch screen.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 6 years ago
A 13 inch i5 laptop gives a nice balance of utility and portability.
Big (10 inch) tablets are utterly useless for anything and are surely just a fashion fad.
Small (7 inch) tablets are absolutely fantastic devices that do very many things. But I wouldn't like to write a book on one.

Things are looking up for laptops with Intel at long last looking to make genuine low power X86 processors, with Win 8 and with OLED touch screens. Until then there is no real reason to upgrade.
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee6 years ago
I think that's an earlier point Andrew.

A lot of chips nowadays are repackaged ones from last generation or more, Core i3 is a good example of something that is no special evolution over the Core 2 series, yet its in so many new devices. Most new PCs also come with relatively low end GPUs as do laptops.

So we're not seeing a real performance evolution over our old tech unless the extra money is thrown in (meaning no real need to throw it away).
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