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Windows 8 Fail To Save PCs: Analysts

That’s according to analysts IDC who said the latest PC shipment figures were worse than expected.

PC shipments, including desktops, ultrabooks and notebooks, fell over 6.4% in the fourth quarter – to 89 million – worse than the forecasted 4.4% decline, the IDC said.

Indeed, Q4 was the first time in five years PC demand dropped during the (usually frantic) October-December sales period.

Consumer demand for PCs has slumped on the back of huge appetite for mobile devices like tablets such as the iPad and smartphones, which do almost everything the humble PC once did.

Most Aussie retailers predicted Apple and Android tablets to be the top sellers for Christmas, although said Windows 8 PC devices were selling well.

Microsoft Windows 8 launched in October did not quickly turnaround weak demand, although the IDC did say the launch “marked the beginning of a new stage in the PC industry.”

PC vendors and retailers globally, including the Asia-Pacific region, were also desperate to clear out remaining Windows 7 devices last quarter before going gung-ho on W8, the touch-based OS for tabs, PC and smartphones, so 2013 should be a big year for the platform.

Last week, Microsoft said it has sold 60 million W8 licences, and said it was on the same trajectory as Windows 7 – its most successful release ever.

However, “questions about the use of touch on Windows PCs versus tablets slowed commercial spending on PCs,” the IDC noted.

Despite the slump, HP, Lenovo, Asus, and Samsung still did well in the PC market taking advantage of some consumer interest in Windows 8, and a push to build up their presence ahead of 2013.

PC shipments in the Asia/Pacific region fell below forecasts and even China fell below forecasts, due to a sluggish economy. Demand in the US also fell. 

 “Although the third quarter was focused on the clearing of Windows 7 inventory, preliminary research indicates the clearance did not significantly boost the uptake of Windows 8 systems in Q4,” said Jay Chou, senior research analyst with IDC.

But vendors who failed to push touch-based devices are also at fault, says Chou.

“Lost in the shuffle to promote a touch-centric PC, vendors have not forcefully stressed other features that promote a more secure, reliable and efficient user experience.”

PC king HP continued to defend its No. 1 spot with 16.7% marketshare, and made a recovery in key markets including Asia/Pacific (posting the first yearly growth in four quarters) and the U.S, although struggled in EMEA.

Hot on HP’s tails was was No. 2 Lenovo on 15.7%, also a big winner in Q4 outpacing the market with 8% growth.

No. 3 Dell continued to lose ground amid “aggressive competition.” Asus, who recently teamed up with Google for the Nexus 7 tablet, also showed strong growth this quarter (+5.6%), where its “often innovative yet price-conscious” methodology captured the imagination of consumers.

However, all is not lost for the humble PC:

“As Windows 8 matures, and  Ultrabook pricing continue to drop, hopefully the PC market can see a reset in both messaging and demand in 2013,” Chou believes.