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4/11/2013
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PC Market Bleeds: Windows 8 Tablet Fix Needed

IDC and Gartner report the ailing PC market isn't dead, but has suffered profound change. Microsoft must find the right formula for Windows 8 tablets -- perhaps a smaller model.

Microsoft Surface Pro: Is It Right For You?
Microsoft Surface Pro: Is It Right For You?
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The PC market's historic decline only accelerated during the first quarter of 2013, according to separate reports issued Wednesday by research firms Gartner and IDC. The news tightens the screws on Microsoft, which stands to see its empire threatened if it can't respond to consumers' shifting preference for tablets over PCs. The Redmond, Wash., company is reportedly looking to stem the bleeding by pushing 7-inch Windows 8 tablets. The question, as it has been since the Win8 OS stumbled out of the gate last October, is whether customers want what Microsoft is selling.

The reports don't match on all counts, but both IDC and Gartner agree that global PC shipments in Q1 fell below 80 million units. According to IDC, the performance equates to a 13.9% drop, much worse than the 7.7% decline the firm had expected, and represents the worst year-over-year quarterly decline since it began tracking the segment in 1994. Gartner said the market retreated 11.2%, an estimate that is slightly less bleak than IDC's but nonetheless alarming to those heavily invested in the PC's future. Both reports emphasized that the global market has dropped for four consecutive quarters.

Midway through 2012, analysts had still expected the slumping industry to rebound to modest growth. Attitudes changed late in the fall, however, following consumers' lackluster response to Windows 8 and a brutal holiday season in which tablet purchases far outpaced those of traditional computers. Windows 8 adoption has since stagnated, contributing to recent speculation that Microsoft's dominant position could be in jeopardy. Earlier this month, IDC said that by 2017 Android will be running on more connected devices than Windows, which will be fighting with Apple's platforms for second place. Given that Redmond is accustomed to a market in which 90% of PCs run some version of Windows, the implications of such a shake-up are profound.

[ A smaller tablet isn't the big change consumers are looking for. See Windows 8 Tablets: Why Microsoft Must Slash Prices. ]

The newest round of projections blame a variety of factors for the trouble: the high cost of Windows 8 models; the lack of touchscreen-equipped options that maximize the new OS; consumer dissatisfaction with the Windows 8 interface; and the internal struggles of major PC-makers such as HP and Dell.

"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 IDC analyst Bob O'Donnell in a statement.

That's not to say the traditional PC is dead, however. Gartner found that demand among businesses, while not robust in developed regions, actually increased. Without the support of consumers, though, Microsoft could regress into a role player that dominates certain segments, such as government IT sales, but lacks its current industry-wide clout.

In an interview, Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa said there is still consumer demand for PCs, noting that tablets and smartphones are not equipped for content-creation tasks and lack the large screens that users prefer for certain applications. Even so, she stated that mobile devices cover most users' common Web tasks, meaning the PC, though not obsolete, is less essential.

"If you have three PCs in your household, two of them might be replaced by tablets. Only one of them will be replaced with a new PC," she said.

Given this expectation, it makes sense that Microsoft, according to a Wednesday report in the Wall Street Journal, is readying a 7-inch Surface-branded tablet. Redmond's initial Windows 8 plans contained no mention of these smaller devices. But as products such as the iPad Mini have gained popularity, the company has evidently altered its plans; the Windows 8 certification guidelines were changed to allow lower-resolution screens, for example, and rumors of cheap 7-inch tablets have been raging for weeks, even before the most recent rumors.

IDC analyst David Daoud suggested Windows 8 could still make progress, noting in an interview that supply chain issues with touchscreen components contributed to early troubles. The OS offers little benefit, and potentially much frustration, when installed on a traditional PC, he stated, but users who've purchased touch-enabled equipment "feel the OS meets their needs."

It's a problem, he stated, that "a system designed for touch has been used on hardware not designed for touch."

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Anonomouser
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Anonomouser,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/11/2013 | 3:55:54 PM
re: PC Market Bleeds: Windows 8 Tablet Fix Needed
The hardware or screen size isn't the problem. The problems are the price point, the Windows 8 UI design, and the attitude that Microsoft has towards their customers. Unfortunately for everyone, all we can expect from Microsoft is more more advertising for Win8 as they continue to believe that customers will "get used to it" and start buying like they were a decade ago when Windows XP, which was possibly the most productive desktop in history, was in it's heyday.
dfoulger
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dfoulger,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/11/2013 | 4:01:49 PM
re: PC Market Bleeds: Windows 8 Tablet Fix Needed
If Microsoft really wants to fix the problem, they might start by creating a sane user interface for Windows 8 The current interface is a good reason to buy a different machine (tablet, desktop, or phone.
remmeler
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remmeler,
User Rank: Strategist
4/11/2013 | 4:49:33 PM
re: PC Market Bleeds: Windows 8 Tablet Fix Needed
From my standpoint as a longtime Windows user that uses traditional Windows programs and does not have a smartphone or tablet or use Social Networking, the apps in the Microsoft Store are the problem.

I think from a notebook standpoint the Surface is a good looking system but, the RT won't run traditional programs and the Pro is much too expensive.

Maybe if there were some killer RT apps, that could be a separate path, but I don't think there is a killer app. Also, I have heard that when used in portrait mode as a tablet, using applications become awkward. So it is not great as a tablet.

I have played with many of the apps in the app store without thinking whether I needed touch or not, it just didn't cross my mind. As it turned out, the reason it didn't cross my mind is because my trackball seemed to work just fine and I just didn't think about it.

Windows 8 itself is fine. I have been using it side by side with a Windows 7 system for about 6 months. It actually brought an old XP system of mine back from the Dead. Contrary to the belief of some haters, you can easily bypass all the things they hate about the Modern/Metro front end.

1. You can easily bypass the front end on start up by loading a Desktop program automatically, I use StickyNotes or you could also create a task using task scheduler (google it for step by step instructions.

2. You can solve the problem of clicking on a picture and being yanked out of Desktop and sent to the Modern screen to view it by just opening Control Panel and making the included Windows picture Viewer the default program or downloading your own old favorite.

3. You can easily live without a start button by just remembering how to do three simple things.
Mouse to the Left bottom Corner for the Start Icon with most of your start button items. Click on the Folder on the quick program part of the task bar and bring up File Explorer for the other items like documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, Computer, Disks, Network, etc.

4. Ctl, Alt, Del to get the power icon to turn off or press the off switch (yes, it is now ok) or mouse to the right lower corner and click on settings and then the power Icon.

Did it ever make sense to press Start to Shut Down?

So far nothing has required downloading any third party program or if you want you could download Classic Shell and get your start button back.
jfrey191
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jfrey191,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/11/2013 | 6:09:34 PM
re: PC Market Bleeds: Windows 8 Tablet Fix Needed
The PC consumer market is dead. Consumers are not loading up their homes with PCs, they're shedding them. Microsoft's opportunity here is to split between consumers and businesses with separate but equal/similar product lines. If they don't recognize that they and PC manufacturers are doomed.
bg
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bg,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/11/2013 | 6:26:51 PM
re: PC Market Bleeds: Windows 8 Tablet Fix Needed
Good points. The availability of apps always drives the need for the platform/os. The os/platform is part of a tool. I believe that the cost of apps is fueling the explosion of smartphones / tablets. Anyone ever try to buy a Windows app for $2. They are either free or $35 and up.
Regarding your instructions on navigating the W8 UI, #3, you say " remember three simple things" . I only saw two listed before point #4? Its meaningful to me as I have struggled with the W8 UI and am more frustrated than enthusiastic. Thanks
moonwatcher
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moonwatcher,
User Rank: Strategist
4/11/2013 | 6:34:04 PM
re: PC Market Bleeds: Windows 8 Tablet Fix Needed
I'm not a Microsoft "hater". In fact, I've been using PCs since the DOS days and have watched Windows mature. The problem is that from a desktop standpoint it matured just fine in XP and especially in Windows 7. Shoehorning a UI that is designed for tablets and phones into a desktop OS and then forcing it down people's throats is not a way to endear yourself or your product to people's hearts.

If they had given options for simply booting to a Windows 7 desktop but having the Modern UI available then maybe people would have "discovered" it by word of mouth or been intrigued by it and felt "cool" for experimenting with it - and perhaps created a buzz in the marketplace. But the way MS rolled out Windows 8 made it needlessly hard for the average consumer to deal with. I had numerous relatives and friends who were got new lap tops and PCs for Christmas and were very frustrated. They merely wanted to set them up and use them, not have to spend hours learning a new UI that proved useless to them. It's like getting a shiny new car, but then none of the controls work the same as you've been used to for many years...frustration city. If you have a full blown PC or lap top at your disposal, why pray tell would you want to use some lame app when you could easily go to the web and use the full blown site? (Like Facebook for instance).

I'm afraid playing catch up in smartphone and tablet devices is simply too little too late for Microsoft. Consumers seem pretty happy with two choices...Apple or Android. Having too many choices just confuses people (and the fact that most people aren't going to spend hours researching and comparing them.)
bwdolphan
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bwdolphan,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/11/2013 | 7:11:46 PM
re: PC Market Bleeds: Windows 8 Tablet Fix Needed
The problem lies 100% at Microsoft's feet. I bought my wife a new laptop with 8 on it. Massive mistake - I should have looked for a used one with 7 on it. Even after adding classic shell, it remains a pain in the keyster.

I have to buy several for the office and will not touch a PC with 8 on it until they realize that it needs to have a 7-like option.

Time to admit the mistake, ditch the new Coke, and bring back the Classic Coke.

As Bob O'Donnell says: "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,"
remmeler
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remmeler,
User Rank: Strategist
4/11/2013 | 7:29:32 PM
re: PC Market Bleeds: Windows 8 Tablet Fix Needed
Sorry the third thing was listed on the next line. It was choosing one of three ways to shut down your system
Ctl, Alt, Del,
Press the off button
mouse over to the right bottom corner and click on settings
remmeler
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remmeler,
User Rank: Strategist
4/11/2013 | 7:37:01 PM
re: PC Market Bleeds: Windows 8 Tablet Fix Needed
You will completely bypass the front end if you:
1. create a task using task scheduler. Step by step directions here:
http://www.techrepublic.com/bl...
or
Load a Desktop program automatically at start up, I happen to use StickyNotes.

2. Open Control panel and make Microsoft Windows Picture Viewer the default picture viewer or use any other one you like.

I run a Windows 7 and 8 system side by side with the same programs and I never see the Modern/metro front end unless I want to by pressing the M/S key.
remmeler
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remmeler,
User Rank: Strategist
4/11/2013 | 7:40:07 PM
re: PC Market Bleeds: Windows 8 Tablet Fix Needed
I kind of look at it differently. I think they bolted on the Modern/Metro interface on an improved Windows 7 and wanted people to see it first because they wanted people that were not Windows savvy and just wanted to run apps.

Windows savvy people should have been able to figure it out, see my comment above or any of my comments throughout for simple ways to not see the front end.
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