* Biggest year-on-year drop since 1994, says IDC
* Microsoft Windows 8 seen as drag on sales
* HP narrowly holds off Lenovo as No. 1 PC vendor
By Bill Rigby
SEATTLE, April 10 Personal computer sales
plunged 14 percent in the first three months of the year, the
biggest decline in two decades of keeping records, as tablets
continue to gain in popularity and buyers appear to be avoiding
Microsoft Corp's new Windows 8 system, according to a
leading tech tracking firm.
The huge drop over a year ago, the steepest since
International Data Corp started publishing sales numbers in
1994, mark a new milestone in the apparent decline of the age of
the PC as computing goes mobile via tablets and smartphones.
Total worldwide PC sales fell 14 percent to 76.3 million
units in the first quarter, IDC said on Wednesday, exceeding its
forecast of a 7.7 percent drop. It was the fourth consecutive
quarter of year-on-year declines.
That marked the lowest level since the middle of 2009,
according to competing data tracker Gartner Inc, which published
its own figures showing an 11 percent decline on the same day.
Both firms blamed the sales drop on fading sales of
netbooks, the small laptops that have been rendered obsolete by
tablets, and more consumer spending going toward smartphones.
"Consumers are migrating content consumption from PCs to
other connected devices, such as tablets and smartphones," said
Mikako Kitagawa, an analyst at Gartner. "Even emerging markets,
where PC penetration is low, are not expected to be a strong
growth area for PC vendors."
Microsoft's new Windows 8 actually deterred potential PC
buyers, IDC said, as users felt they could not afford
touch-screen models required to make the most of Windows 8, even
though the system runs equally well on standard PCs and laptops.
"People think they have to have touch, and they go look at
the price points for these touch machines, and they are above
where they want to be and they say, 'I guess I'll wait,'" said
Bob O'Donnell, an analyst at IDC.
O'Donnell said other users were simply uncomfortable with
the new Windows system, which dispensed with the familiar start
menu and uses colorful 'tiles' to represent applications.
New Microsoft operating systems usually boost PC sales, but
the lukewarm reception for Windows 8 will likely mean an even
greater drop in the market this year, said Jay Chou, senior
research analyst with the IDC unit that tracks PC sales.
"Users are finding Windows 8 to offer a compromised
experience that doesn't excel either as a new mobile interface
or in a classic desktop interface," he said. "As a result, many
users find a decline in the traditional PC experience without
gaining much from new features like touch. The result is that
many consumers are worried about upgrading to Windows 8, to say
nothing of business users who are still just getting into
Among manufacturers, Hewlett-Packard Co saw a 24
percent decline in sales in the quarter, but narrowly held on to
its title of No. 1 global PC supplier, with 15.7 percent market
share. Fast-growing rival Lenovo Group managed to keep
sales flat and is now just behind HP with a 15.3 percent global
Dell Inc, roiled by plans to go private, along with
rivals Acer Inc and Asustek, all saw
double-digit declines in PC sales.
Apple Inc was not immune from the decline, as some
sales of its own Macs appeared to be displaced by iPads. Its
U.S. PC sales fell 7.5 percent in the quarter, but it held on to
its spot as No. 3 U.S. PC manufacturer, behind HP and Dell.