Windows 8.1 and OS X Mavericks are compelling upgrades, but they aren't driving sales of new devices.
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Though the world relies more on PCs than tablets, the PC market will continue to shrink for the foreseeable future, according to a new report from the research firm IDC.
However, desktop operating systems saw an uptick in November, according to a report from the web tracking firm Net Applications. Apple's OS X Mavericks and Microsoft's Windows 8.1, the two newest PC desktop operating systems, gained a substantial number of users last month. But the increase for each OS likely had more to do with computer upgrades than sales of new machines.
IDC said worldwide PC shipments will fall 10.1% this year, slightly more than it previously forecast. Shipments will contract by another 3.8% next year before stabilizing. IDC said 349.4 million PCs were shipped in 2012, but it expects 314.2 million to ship this year and 305.1 million in 2017.
IDC said that people use traditional PCs for more hours per day than they use tablets or phones, suggesting that, even though the PC industry is in decline, desktops and laptops remain indispensable. Nevertheless, PC sales have cratered as consumers have shifted more of their activity to tablets. This change in preferences hasn't obviated the need for PCs, but it has meant users are waiting longer than ever to upgrade their machines.
The report said tablets haven't affected commercial PC shipments as much as consumer ones, but the consumer and commercial markets face similar long-term trajectories. Portable PCs in emerging markets are expected to be the biggest source of growth over the next few years, but even in those markets, shipments will be slower than ever before.
Among the platforms vying for PC users, Windows 7 remains the top option, according to Net Applications. It snared 46.64% of PC traffic in November, up slightly from 46.42% in October. Though most new PCs aimed at consumers feature touch screens and Windows 8.1, many businesses are still purchasing new Windows 7 machines.
Windows XP got 31.22% of the market in November, versus 31.24% in October. The OS loses support from Microsoft in April, and even though its share is down substantially this year, it's clear that many users still haven't upgraded their OS.
Windows 8 dropped from 7.53% to 6.66%, while Windows 8.1 rose from 1.72% to 2.64%. These two systems claimed 9.3% of the market -- only a slight improvement from last month's combined share of 9.25%. This indicates that Windows 8.1's adoption uptick stems from upgrades to Windows 8 systems, rather than device purchases. That said, it makes sense that Windows 8.1 sales would stall in the weeks before Thanksgiving. Many buyers were no doubt waiting for Black Friday and other holiday sales. The December and January statistics should be more revealing.
Apple's OS X Mavericks jumped to 2.42% of the market from 0.84% the month before. Its predecessor, OS X Mountain Lion, predictably took a big hit, dropping from 3.31% to 1.85%. The various versions of OS X accounted for 7.56% of the market. This means Apple has successfully moved almost one-third of its user base to its newest platform, which was a free upgrade to all users with compatible hardware.
Windows 8.1 was likewise free to Windows 8 users. Microsoft's updated version accounts for 28.4% of the Windows 8-Windows 8.1 combined user base. This means Windows 8.1 has more users than OS X Mavericks, but OS X Mavericks has enjoyed a slightly better adoption rate among core users.
Windows operating systems accounted for 90.88% of the PC market, versus 90.66% in October. OS X's share fell from 7.73% in October to 7.56% in November. For most of the year, OS X trended incrementally up, while Windows trended incrementally down. November was one of the few months in which the relationship was reversed. Since January, Windows has lost 0.83 percentage points, while OS X has gained 0.48.
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