Gartner blames tablets, not Windows 8, for PC market slump

April 12, 2013 // 10:20 a.m.

Tags: #financial #gartner #idc #metro-ui #microsoft #modern-ui #pc-market #pc-shipments #shipments #slump #windows-8

Market watcher Gartner has suggested that Microsoft is not to blame for a serious quarterly slump in sales, questioning rival analyst IDC's conclusions while simultaneously confirming its figures.

Like IDC, Gartner has seen a dramatic fall in overall PC shipments for the quarter. While IDC claims a 13.9 per cent drop in worldwide shipments, Gartner's figures are only slightly less alarm with a claim of a 11.2 per cent slip compared to the same quarter last year. While that's somewhat better, it's still an alarming slide, and one which is reflected across all markets.

Gartner, however, is refuting IDC's claim that Windows 8 is to blame for the slump. '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,' claimed IDC's Bob O'Donnell in the company's report - but his equivalents at Gartner are pointing the finger very firmly elsewhere, claiming buyers are using the excuse of an ageing desktop or laptop to jump away from the PC market altogether.

'Although the overall economy had some upward momentum, it did not help buoy PC growth, suggesting the economic recovery is having little impact on PC market conditions,' Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, claimed in the report. 'Similar to other mature markets, the U.S. will see the installed base of consumer PCs decrease going forward. This is because many of these systems will not be replaced with PCs; they will be displaced by other devices, or simply retired.'

Those 'other devices,' it will come as a surprise to no-one, are largely tablets. The success of Apple's iPad and the growing number of highly-capable Android-based tablets, many of which can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of even an entry-level laptop, are more than capable of performing the majority of tasks asked of them by consumers. Web browsing, communication and even casual gaming no longer need a desktop or laptop - and it's this shift, Gartner claims, rather than the poor reception of Windows 8, that is to blame for slowing demand in the consumer market.

Evidence of this is present, Kitagawa claims, in one area that has not been suffering quite so badly: the enterprise. 'Unlike the consumer PC segment, the professional PC market, which accounts for about half of overall PC shipments, has seen growth, driven by continuing PC refreshes,' Kitagawa detailed in the report. 'Despite the fact that some regions already passed the peak of PC refresh, overall professional PC demand continued to grow.'

One area in which Gartner and IDC are in agreement, however, is that the cost of Windows 8 machines with touch-screen displays - a near-requirement if the divisive Modern user interface is to make a scrap of sense - is going to have to be drastically reduced. 'Windows 8 PCs with touch-screens accounted for only a small percentage of consumer PC shipments in the first quarter of 2013,' claimed Gartner research analyst Isabelle Durand. 'The majority of consumers remain unwilling to pay the price premium for touch-screen capabilities on PCs at this stage. But, even so, touch-screens and Windows 8 will represent key opportunities for PC manufacturers in the second half of 2013.'

Gartner's vote of confidence in the next-generation operating system will come as a relief to Microsoft, which has seen its share price slip since IDC released its own report castigating the platform. The company's stock price is down 4.4 per cent at $28.93 following a mass sell-off when the market opened yesterday, leading to financial analysts including Goldman Sachs downgrading the company's rating.

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