back to article Bad news: PC slump worse than feared. Good news: It's Friday

Sales of personal computers – fat workstations, clunky desktops and laptops not running Android or iOS – took a bigger dive as 2012 wound down than the box counters at IDC had expected. People are not necessarily shifting from PCs to smartphones and tablets, but these new devices continue to lengthen the time between PC …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    352 million PCs

    352 million is a lot of PCs. Among my systems, I've a (almost) 7 year old Dell laptop running Windows 7 - still going strong (touch wood) and a good reminder why PC sales are rather unexciting. Perhaps the new detachable touch notebook/tablets will stimulate more replacements once pricing and battery life settle down a bit before the end of the year.

    1. AmigaMan

      Re: 352 million PCs

      Exactly, i've got an 7 year old Dell xps, it was running a bit slow a few years ago so i slapped on Win 7 64bit and a touch more memory and its still adequate for my needs.

      Device consumerism has migrated to phone/tablet arena where manufactures can sell you processing power that you just don't always need, but at least you will look cool on the train!

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: 352 million PCs

        Have you found that the 2.8Ghz CPU you had back then is still capable of viewing today's YouTube cat videos or will you have to upgrade to the new 3.2Ghz version?

        1. (AMPC) Anonymous and mostly paranoid coward

          Re: 352 million PCs

          Recently bought four old dell T300s for about 200 bucks apiece on Ebay. .These boxen have E5 2.8 Ghz x64 procs and can host multiple virtual servers and desktops. They can be built up to use 8 TB of disk space and 24 GB of ram. I now have a cheap server farm which can be used for testing, real work or hosting virtual desktops for many of my aging client systems which have a network connection. Why buy a new PC?

          In fact it's almost a waste of time and money to buy any new kit at all, unless I just want to look flash on the train (or get mugged). And the flood of trailing edge hardware on the gray market just keeps getting bigger. I might be tempted to buy a tablet or very cool smartphone, when they become even cheaper, otherwise forget it.

          I suspect this trend will accelerate, PCs are just too last millennium

          1. Fihart

            Re: 352 million PCs

            I'm with you on old Dell lappies. My secondhand and chunky 15 inch Latitudes and similar Inspiron have a max of P4 1.8 processors and could not handle Win 7, but are quite solid electrically. So easy to disassemble mechanically that cannibalising several into a couple of working ones was actually fun.

            Not so true with newer Dells or any other slimmer models.

  2. asdf Silver badge

    Cue the desperate MCSEs poo pooing tablets in 3-2-1. Oh well Windows 8 may be a Vista style flop but it does sound like Server 2012 will hit it out of the park. Sadly I don't think that will generate the revenue to cover what the artist former known as Metro is going to cost Microsoft in the long run. At least now that WPF is finally dying the death it deserves Microsoft might revisit modernizing MFC at least.

    1. Bob Vistakin

      Poor old Microsoft.

      No one wants their phones.

      No one wants their tablets.

      No one wants their new OS.

      Even burglars in their own HQ swerve their kit.


      1. Bob Vistakin

        Almost forgot - well, as did everyone else to be honest, Windows RT - that was quick, nice knowing you :-)

        1. Powerlord

          WinRT wasn't necessarily a bad idea. Or wouldn't have been a few years ago. Or a few hundred pounds cheaper. Now it's just too late and too expensive with no killer app to sway people to buy it instead of an iPad or Android.

    2. Ceiling Cat

      Not a MCSE, but . . .

      I'm not a MCSE, but having owned a tablet (Gateway Tab TP A60 a.k.a. Acer Iconia 500) for just over a year, I can't see what all the fuss is about. Sure, it was a great distraction on my work commute, but since I no longer have to travel that far, it's been used mostly for email. It spends about 90% of its time on the (improvised) stand, plugged into the charger, since I couldn't find a dock for it.

      What really annoyed me was the shortage of full-featured free apps. It seems to me that every time there's a feature I *need*, it is only available in the paid version. I know most apps are cheap, but so am I.


  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Since 1997 I used to have to do a substantial tech refresh for my many godchildren every couple of years. Nowadays they are content with the power of the ones they have had for several years. The same is true of my home PC and laptops. The important thing for us all is being able to run existing devices, games, or specialised applications.

    XP works ok for most of us - although a few users were migrated successfully to W7 64bit (with an XP boot also available).

    The more I hear of Windows 8 - the less I like the idea of TIFKAM, hardware restrictions, and no apparent gain for much inconvenience and trouble. There was too much aggravation when MS Office 2002/3 licences were invalidated by new hardware - and the users then hated the "ribbon" on Office 2007/2010.

  4. Tom from the States

    Tablets are front and center

    We got a Nexus 7 for my wife. She likes its portability and it frees up our 3-year Dell laptop to be used for home work by the kids. In general, I like Dell equipment and I support it at work, but that's not what Michael Dell wanted to hear.

  5. jaycee331


    Am I the only one thinking that it's still way too early for BYOD to start blaming that as a significant factor?

    1. Al Jones

      Re: BYOD?


      You don't want people to think that you're not cool, do you?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: BYOD?

      I agree. I always thought this just meant that companies let you hook up your own smart phone to their exchange server instead of forcing you to have a Blackberry.

      Does anybody even know of any serious companies that let you (officially at least) use your own PC to do proper work?

      1. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: BYOD?

        The only case I can think of for BYOD PC's is to take a VM image and keep it at home so you don't need to cart your laptop backwards and forwards to work each day.

        That's normally done on the sly anyway.

  6. A Butler

    All hardware eventually fails and you ask anyone doing productive work what is their choice they will choose a laptop or PC (Windows, MAC, Linux: flavor of OS your choice) any day over a tablet.

    The tablet is a secondary device used for messing around with while chilling on the couch, or commuting.

    The PC market will pick up again when low priced touch and type laptops are available in abundance cheaply and that will happen this year. Windows 8 will be the route to this upgrade for most people.

    I laugh when I read all those Windows doom mongers. Windows 8 is cheap stable and fast, metro takes a small bit of getting used to but nothing like the steep curve suggested by some people.

  7. Scott Broukell

    DIY Build policy

    I've always built my own system choosing components that are at least one, two or even three or more years old. In that time prices have normally fallen to something I find acceptable and the revisions / bugs have also been ironed out. I still get an "Upgrade" feeling, without the "must have the latest" hankering. I couldn't care less if my kit is seen as below par with the very latest, I'm more than content with my choices. So I'll consider tinkering with W8 and tablets when the time comes thank you very much. I understand that the market would look very different if we all did this. I wonder how many other Reggers follow a similar strategy ? Got to go, the cob webs need sand blasting of my wallet again ;)

    1. Ole Juul Silver badge

      Re: DIY Build policy

      I've always built my own system choosing components . . . I understand that the market would look very different if we all did this.

      I suspect we'll see prices go up as those of us who want discreet components become fewer and willing to pay for what will likely become speciality products. We've already seen a change in some markets that reflect this. I'm sure there are many examples, but Linksys discovered they could charge double for consumer routers that facilitated hacking. How long until we see motherboards with only one available slot?

      Oh, motherboards? We haven't stocked those for years. I suggest you contact our industrial branch who do still sell those - in minimum lots of 1000.

      1. Scott Broukell

        Re: DIY Build policy

        @Ole Juul - I suspect you may be correct, although, what with growing efforts to encourage younger generations to tinker with stuff like the Raspberry Pi etc and the economic climate where peeps might want to reduce costs with some DIY, the niche for those 'speciality products' may be fairly strong, if still small, compared to the mainstream.

        It really all comes down to how much the markets can cram into the wide open beaks of the all consuming masses. It would appear that the lust for the newest 'shiny shiny' maybe waning as folk tire of such force feeding.

        Perhaps we should all look harder at our habits of consumption for digital goodies, rare minerals and safe disposal methods, instead of just blindly ripping things out of their packaging, only to throw them away a year or so later in favour of the next must-have.

        When I do have to retire a very old box that's still in working condition, it is either handed down to relatives or given to charities who recycle them to help less fortunate peeps experience computing. I am sure that I am not alone in this regard.

  8. Daniel B.

    Too much analysis, the main reason is obvious.

    It's the Windows 8, stupid! Companies will have frozen *all* orders for new PC purchases as soon as the win7 kit ran out of stock. People hate TIFKA Metro probably even more than Ribbon when it came out. MS and manufacturers have actually shot themselves in the foot!

    1. Steve Knox Silver badge

      Re: Too much analysis, the main reason is obvious.

      Companies will have frozen *all* orders for new PC purchases as soon as the win7 kit ran out of stock.

      Since the major PC vendors still happily ship Win7 boxes, I doubt it.

      FAIL, indeed.

      1. pdxbrit

        Re: Too much analysis, the main reason is obvious.

        I believe it's a bit more complex than that.

        1) If you order a home edition as most end-users are likely to do, you're stuck with Windows 8. I just went to Dell's website (US, since that is where I live) and tried a sample order of an Inspiron 15 (just at random, it's a popular laptop). It comes with Windows 8, and there are no options to choose anything else. I'd consider Dell a pretty major vendor.

        2) If you buy a machine with Win 8 Pro, you have downgrade rights to Windows 7 Professional or Windows Vista Business (see I still doubt the PC vendor will install these for you, but for a business with an IT dept, they're

        likely to install their own image anyway.

        So, no, most vendors will not ship Windows 7 installed any more, and depending on what you buy, you may or may not have the option to downgrade.

      2. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: Too much analysis, the main reason is obvious.

        Worse, companies nearly always ditch the OEM license regardless of what it is and build from a standard image.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have you tried Win 8 with a mouse

    I did and it was awful, so bad that I actually decided to replace the internals of the pc I was going to throw out and put an OEM version of Win 7 on it. To get to anything worth clicking on meant huge mouse movements all the time, like using a WII.

    I don't understand why they keep changing everythng so much, you would have thought people would buy more of something that does not completely upset their computer usage. Why don't they just provide skins that make things feel familiar but still with all the improvements under the bonnet.

    1. Androgynous Cowherd

      Re: Have you tried Win 8 with a mouse

      Or the option to boot into either gui by default during install (without editing the reg).

      It's not difficult for ms to do

      It's about choices. Moi? gimme a keyboard.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Have you tried Win 8 with a mouse

        I boot my Windows machines once a month, after I apply the patch Tuesday updates. So my Windows 8 machine is in Desktop mode when I wake it up. I'm struggling to see how clicking on the Desktop icon once a month is that big a deal for some people. Why did Microsoft do it? Who cares!

        1. jason 7

          Re: Have you tried Win 8 with a mouse

          I know amazing right? It's like you woke up one morning and everyone around you has had a stroke and can't remember how to use a computer or learn new things.

          Most bizarre.

    2. Steve Knox Silver badge

      Re: Have you tried Win 8 with a mouse

      Why don't they just provide skins that make things feel familiar but still with all the improvements under the bonnet.

      Because most of the improvements under the bonnet come from clearing out cruft related to the previous UI decisions.

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Re: Have you tried Win 8 with a mouse

        > Because most of the improvements under the bonnet come from clearing out cruft related to the previous UI decisions.

        That's just gibberish. What's underneath has nothing to do with the UI. You can still have the old UI with the allegedly better internals.

        Your comment rates right up there with IE4 being inseparable from Windows.

        1. Tinker Tailor Soldier

          Re: Have you tried Win 8 with a mouse

          Not so much gibbrerish actually. USER32 is right at the bottom of everything before Win8 and USER32 is pants. (E.g. window move requires an application to respond to a move event before the move happens, resulting in freezing).

          That said, they was probably a hybrid they could have chosen which ran the risk of blowing some apps up (or, gasp, having them render incorrectly in some interesting cases) which kept old apps and new apps in one place and still allowed an evolution touch.

          Pure is poor....

          1. JEDIDIAH

            Re: Have you tried Win 8 with a mouse

            > window move requires an application to respond to a move event before the move happens, resulting in freezing

            ...which they could refactor by using the BeOS "thread everything" approach or by using the X11 approach of having a separate window manager. Bad apps wet themselves but the rest of the system chugs happily along.

            Although that's the PROGRAMMER's interface rather than the USER's interface.

            So bringing that up is a big of a red herring.

            That's like saying you can't build something like Cinnamon because you went from GNOME2 to GNOME3.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should build what people want

    I'm in the market for a 17" laptop upgrade. I quite fancy something with an SSD and quick starting. But unfortunately no-one has a decent screen resolution compared to what I currently have, and I don't want to downgrade to 1080p. If it comes with Win8 it also ought to be a touchscreen. But no-one builds 17" laptops with touchscreens. I'll keep waiting...

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Should build what people want

      I was tempted by Lenovo's new ultrabook, right upto the point where it said 1376x768 display

      2000 called they want their definition of 'ultra' back

      1. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: Should build what people want


        I want a fast quad i7, ssd + spinny high-capacity disk, big touchpad and high-res matt screen in a small light package.

        and I want a little slider switch which says: "optimise for battery life" which slows down the cpu, turns off a couple of cores, lets the spinning disk sleep quickly and dims the screen a bit.

        "But I still haven't found, what I'm looking for..."

  11. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: death spiral windows down drain

      The licenses have already been discounted a few months ago. Last fall I've paid around 375CAD for my retail copy of Win7 Pro (and about the same amount for WinXP a long time ago) while I could now have a full version of Win8 Pro for about 80CAD (or a downgrade for as little as 14CAD) but no thanks, Mr. Ballmer. At least not for the moment.

      1. Powerlord

        Re: death spiral windows down drain

        Why would you buy Windows at retail instead of buying the OEM (or "System Builders") versions that sell for half of the retail version's price?

        1. Turtle_Fan

          Re: death spiral windows down drain

          I'm not saying you should, but clearly there are reasons. Ability to migrate across boxes and not being tied to a motherboard can be useful to some folk.

    2. The_Regulator

      Re: death spiral windows down drain


      Your comments are a joke, you should get back under your bridge troll..

  12. grabme

    Complete rubbish., I have tablets and they are good but no replacement for a Windows 7 or 8 PC. I have a Nexus 7 and its a wonderful product BUT given the choice I go for the laptop most of the time. Android is great, I'm fairly new to it BUT I can't help feeling its all novelty value, I view them as mobile communication tools rather than computers, they make a great remote control for my laptop! The only thing that would replace a Windows laptop or desktop is a Surface Pro device but they are way overpriced thanks to Microsoft's stupidity.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That is the problem Microsoft is facing.

      Most of the people who are not 100% on Apple technologies already have a Windows PC and and Android or Apple tablet and/or smart phone. Now they might replace their desktop/laptop with a Win8 (or a Mac) but the tablet is not yet for renewal. And even if it would be, a lot of people would still choose IOS or Android if only for diversity reasons. All these scenarios show that Microsoft has to compete for consumers wallets and minds and that they can have only a part of the whole consumer market they used to have with PCs. Now a lot of marketing slogans Microsoft used to defeat Linux ascension can no longer be used. Familiar interface, application availability, user experience, learning curve and so on, at no longer convincing arguments. To add insult to injury, shackled hardware manufacturers have discovered the sweet taste of freedom (and higher margins too) selling Android devices. It might not be the best OS in the world but it lines the OEM pockets nicely and everybody is making a profit (Google, hardware manufacturers, service providers even app developers). Working with Microsoft would bring nothing but headache and the risk of becoming enslaved like they were when the PC was king.

  13. mraak


    Lots of people never wanted a laptop in the first place but they got one because there was no other device to use Facebook. Now that there is cheaper, lighter and fancier alternative, they got what they wanted. Computers are for working.

  14. Azzy

    Why is that an Asus laptop depicted falling in the image for this article?

    Asus is one of the manufacturers whose sales are increasing (and with good reason - they've been producing products that are a real cut above their competition in terms of build quality and their IPS LCDs are beautiful, and they've been selling said better products at only a small price premium.

    That should have been an Acer laptop falling, what with their 28% decline and all... Acer laptops are more fun to drop, too. They just kinda explode. The Asus zenbook depicted would probably just get a dent in the corner of the case.

  15. Tony W

    Go our way or go away

    I knew Win8 isn't for me when I found the mail client won't do POP3. Yes you can install the legacy Essentials with its outdated desktop UI, after all POP3 is completely dead and we all have cloud based email, except a few privacy freaks and proper people who have MS Office with Outlook. Well my sister was suckered into buying a Win8 laptop without touchscreen, she can't afford MS Office and has a POP3 account. I found setting up her new machine a deeply frustrating experience, compared to her last one which ran Win ME (yes she is an early adopter) & was a piece of cake.

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: Go our way or go away

      I was talking to a friend about Win 8 on Christmas Eve. New PC, Christmas present for one of the boys...

      He was spitting feathers about how crap Win 8 was, and how much time he'd wasted setting it up.

      Then he asked me how to set uo his son's POP3 email. The one he had to use for school. The one that not even MS tech support - whom he'd spent an hour on the phone to - could get working.

      'Ah,' I said. 'Well...'

      The conversation did not improve after that.

  16. jason 7

    The thing is that......

    .... a lot of folks bought XP machines. it was the only game in town for so long.

    They held off and and then bought Windows 7 machines like crazy when it came out.

    The fact that MS brought 8 out so soon is not going to alter things much. The big rush for now has passed.

    It will hit again in about three years time.

    No one that bought a Windows 7 PC or laptop in the past two years (who isnt an enthusiasts or has money to burn) is going to buy another Windows PC right now.

  17. Barry Rueger Silver badge

    Don't need 'em

    Around here we have one PC running XP - very happily. That will likely need to be replaced in the next year to handle some software that's on the horizon that I'm sure won't cut it on this box. (Sibelius).

    My box has been on Linux for a few years, on a five year old Dell box, with Vista running in a VM when I do our bookkeeping. I'll probably replace this box too in the next year, for more storage space, RAM, and speed. But that's a "want to" upgrade, not a "need to."

    Probably my first computer upgrade though will be my smartphone, which is where I do a LOT of e-mail, browsing, and other on-line stuff. And I can see adding a tablet for a lot of idle around the house stuff.

    My laptop was given a way to one of the kids when I realized that I was only opening it up once or twice a month.

  18. Nuno trancoso

    Don't need 'em either...

    Think main problem is that we already have too much as is. My E7400 is old news, and i have it running at stock 2.8. That's a real change since it's the first time i've run stock on any box since my 1998 Cel300A@450.

    If i think "upgrade", the image in my mind is HD's+RAM. And for that i can buy parts, no need to shift boxes.

    Besides, where i live you fork out an extra €100-150 for a "name box" built out of lesser parts than you'd get built in a mom'n'pop store...

    That 1st tier builders also like to install every lame PoS software they think you "might" want and then having to spend hours cleaning that crap out is just another good reason NOT to buy their wares.

  19. Mikel

    W7 is W8

    If you go to HP's website and choose "advanced PCs" you will see a broad selection of PCs engineered for both Windows 8 and Windows 7, licensed for Windows 8 Pro but with Windows 7 Pro on. It's hard to even find the ones with W8 on now.

    This is no different from the Vista days when Microsoft bragged they sold millions of copies of Windows Vista for PCs that never ran it, nor ever could. Microsoft needs to declare victory even if they have to pre-sell W8 with downgrade rights to OEMs selling PCs pre-"downgraded" to W7, and deeply discount it to do so. They've sold "60 million licenses" - and now OEMs can put W7 on and Microsoft can sell it as a W8 license, and probably had to discount W8 licenses to get the sale. In the Vista days I pointed in a number of comments to the fact that HP workstations nominally came with Vista, but didn't even support the software - they came pre-downgraded to XP and Vista is not even supported on that hardware still today.

    But even this isn't saving PC sales. We like our iPads and Android tablets. Yes, we do.


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