January 14, 2013, 2:09 PM — Shortages of touch-enabled Windows notebooks led to a steeper-than-expected decline in PC sales last quarter, an analyst said.
According to IDC, global PC shipments in 2012's fourth quarter fell 6.4% compared to the same period in 2011, a larger decline than the 4.4% downturn the research firm had forecast before year's end.
The data was no surprise, as others have pointed out sluggish PC sales for weeks. The NPD Group, for example, said U.S. sales during the 2012 holidays were down 11%, and like IDC, pinned some blame on shortages of touch-equipped hardware.
IDC followed other research firms in noting that Windows 8, which was once expected to provide a sales pop near year's end, did nothing of the sort. Even Windows 8's release could not rewrite a litany of bad news, with the quarter ending as the first holiday period in five years to post a year-over-year decline in personal computer sales.
There's plenty of blame for the poor showing to go around, IDC analyst David Daoud said in a Friday interview. But while Microsoft must assume some blame, he found the most fault with OEMs, or "original equipment manufacturers," the computer makers like U.S.-based Hewlett-Packard and Dell, as well as Asian companies like Lenovo ASUS and Acer.
"A great deal of Microsoft's marketing campaign featured a great deal about touch, but when you went to retail, you didn't find that," said Daoud. "You found notebooks that looked just like ones from two, three years ago."
Promised -- or at least told -- that touch was key to Windows 8, and would revolutionize how they used a PC, consumers walked into stores, but couldn't find a touch-enabled system, one that fit their budget, or an inspired design different from what they already had. So they walked out without buying.
"What they saw were standard laptops, ones clearly not optimized for the tablet experience," said Daoud. "OEMs didn't deliver."
Microsoft did its part by creating a touch-oriented OS -- Daoud called it "terrific" -- but computer makers dropped the ball.
Yet, even they had their hands tied to some extent. "Glass is a constrained market," Daoud said of so-called "One Glass Solution" (OGS) touch screens, which combine the touch sensor layer with the protective glass that covers the display. "They're pretty comfortable handling the smaller devices like smartphones and tablets, but it's taking them a little bit of time to ramp up for larger screens, like those for notebooks."