July 16, 2012, 5:29 PM — Not even Ultrabooks could spur recent PC sales as prospective buyers wait for new Windows 8-powered hardware to debut in October or look to alternative devices such as tablets and smartphones. That's the word from market research firms Gartner and IDC along with their estimates of PC shipment volume for the second quarter of 2012.
Both analyst firms said PC shipments shrank in the U.S., with Gartner pegging a decline in PC shipments at 5.7 percent compared to the same time in 2011. IDC's forecast was even more bleak, with the company saying PC shipments in the U.S. shrank by 10.6 percent. (IDC and PCWorld are both owned by International Data Group).
Windows 8 Expectations
Microsoft is offering anyone who buys a new PC before January 31, 2013 a $15 upgrade to Windows 8. Despite that deal, many prospective buyers appear content to wait for hardware designed for the new OS, according to IDC. That's not a huge surprise, considering past Windows upgrade headaches such as endless reboots, product key issues, and delayed driver updates.
The dramatic shift in user interface and basic functions in Windows 8 compared to Windows 7 may also be inspiring people to wait for new hardware in the fall. Unlike Windows 7, the newest version of Windows is designed for touch from the start, with a new Metro-style UI similar to Windows Phone.
The traditional desktop still exists in Windows 8, but the first thing you see when you boot into Windows 8 is the new Metro Start screen featuring live tiles showing information such as social networking updates, calendar appointments, weather, news headlines, and e-mail. With touch playing such a central role, new laptop-tablet hybrids are expected to accompany the Windows 8 launch. New touchpad gestures designed for Windows 8 will also be included in new PCs later this year.
IDC also points to economic slowdown as part of the reason for sluggish PC sales between April and June.
PC vs Mobile
Gartner had a different take on the U.S. PC shipment slowdown, blaming mobile devices -- particularly tablets such as the iPad and Google's new Nexus 7. Consumers are less interested in buying PCs than smartphones and tablets, Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa says in a statement.