re: Windows 8 Did Not Cause PC Sales Slump
Mac sales have also taken a hit, adding - like Intel's rough earnings - to the overall argument that PCs as a whole are losing steam. Windows 8 has poured gasoline on the fire-- but the fire was already burning.
That said, Apple has fared better than most other PC-makers (though it's not clear how much better, as Gartner and IDC seem to frequently disagree about Apple). One factor could be this: Apple brought features to market this year that are obviously useful-- like the Retina displays, or the iMac's Fusion Drive. Those aren't mass market appeals, but for some of Apple's core users, they're pretty compelling. Microsoft seemed to assume that a dual-personality OS would be a bigger attraction, and consumers have so far suggested they'll need more from Windows before opening their checkbooks. So I think there's some merit to the idea that Apple and Microsoft used different tactics to drive PC sales, and that these strategies imparted impacts that should be separated from the larger "decline of PC" narrative.
But the two companies still constitute an imperfect comparison. Microsoft has a much bigger and much more diverse install base that includes both enthusiastic fans and those who've settled with Windows because it's what their workplaces have always pushed. OS X, in contrast, has a smaller but more rabid fan base. It is still selling computers primarily to developed markets, and even there, OS X is a niche player compared to Windows. So we can't expect the signs of the PC's decline to manifest similarly in each company.
Apple also targets a much more confined market than Windows. Even if you're on a budget, you can find some cheap Windows 7 laptops. Cheap Windows 8 Ultrabooks might soon enter the budget market too. Apple relies on tablets in this space. Even the Mac Mini and MacBook Air - its two cheapest computers - aren't exactly budget friendly. The iMacs, MacBook Pros and long-neglected Mac Pros, meanwhile, are exclusively aimed at the high-end user. Sales in this segment might not be indicative of overall PC sales, limiting the extent to which we can point to Apple successes as a surefire sign that Windows 8 - and not PCs in general - are the problem.
So, yes, I think Windows 8 has contributed to Windows PCs performing worse, in percentage terms, than new Macs. But we can draw only so many inferences, given that Macs target more specialized users and are less crucial to Apple's overall revenues than PCs have been to Microsoft's. And even the inferences that more concrete suggest that Macs aren't immune to the tablet rise/ PC decline. So though Windows 8 hasn't helped, I still think the shift toward tablets is the biggest driver of the "PC downfall" trends. Apple demonstrates that Windows 8 isn't helping, but it doesn't change the fact that PCs aren't the only device competing for consumer dollars.
- Michael Endler, IW Associate Editor