back to article US shoppers abandon PC makers in hour of need

America’s PC market sneezed in Q4 calendar and the rest of the world caught a cold: global sales declined in the final three months of last year, stats from Gartner indicated – although rival IDC did not concur. Shipments into the channel – retailers and tech distributors – dropped 2 per cent year-on-year to 71.6 million, …

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to be expected

In other news , sales of VHS tapes declined for the 20th straight year

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Anonymous Coward

Re: to be expected

See, that's why I use betamax.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: to be expected

As long as Microsoft push the metro interface, and UWP apps and a subscription model, consumers will not support buying into the new "Windows". Forced updates, sneaky telemetary sent back to Microsoft, and unexpected blue screens. No one wants to be at Microsoft's mercy.

Dear Microsoft, My PC is MINE to do with what I want, not a tool of yours to extract money and intelligence from!

A reboot of Windows 7 is what is needed to boost PC sales.

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Re: to be expected

US software companies abandoned consumers in an effort to push them into their clouds.

They had little use for new hardware.

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Re: to be expected

Did anybody else notice that in the run-up to Christmas and the New Year that all the big PC sellers here in the UK had their usual full page ads in the press but none of them mentioned Windows 10 in their spiel?

Not so long ago the Windows OS would have been plastered all over the advert in huge print as a big selling point but, for some reason, the likes of PC World, Currys (one and the same) and John Lewis all had almost no mention of the OS that came with their new PCs other than in the tiny print at the bottom of the advert even though you could tell from the screen-shots that it was Windows 10.

There was one full page advert - can't remember which company - that didn't even show the laptop screens - just shots taken from the back of the laptop looking at the back of the screen.

Is Windows now becoming toxic as a consumer brand following all the highly publicised criticism of the Win10 up(down)grade programme over the last year or so?

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Re: to be expected

People outside of IT neither know nor care about any of those things. PC sales are declining because people don't need PCs. The vast majority just need a Facebook machine with email and a search engine. Tablets and phones fit that bill nicely.

The other reason is that PCs aren't obsolete after a year. A 5-yo machine is still perfectly good, if it was a good machine to begin with. I'll not be buying machines for work in the foreseeable future.

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Market Saturation

This should be a warning sign that the PC market in North America is approaching saturation. Most everyone that needs a PC has one with enough oomph to get them through nigh anything they encounter on a daily basis. And thanks to cloud computing, there's less need for spare capacity that rarely gets used. Plus PC computing power is plateauing, showing signs of Diminishing Returns, further convincing owners not to upgrade. It happens to most markets eventually. The smartphone market is slowing down as well so it's not isolated.

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Re: Market Saturation

Saturation was reached years ago (probably when notebooks overtook desktop sales), the market is now in retreat.

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Re: Market Saturation

Though there will be a bump later in the year when everyone replaces their PCs again after Intel, ARM licencees and AMD have released *SECURE* (we hope) CPUs.

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FAIL

Re: everyone replaces their PCs

you reckon ?

I think we'll see a surge in landfilled PCs, and no replacements bought.

In other news, my 8 year old Cyclone media player gave up the ghost recently. Rather than splashing out on a replacement, I got off my arse, spent 15 minutes setting up casting on my Android Tablet, and carried on regardless.

(I could have done that 3 years ago, but the media player remote was always by the sofa).

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Re: Market Saturation

People won't be replacing PC's because they don't have them. They have internet browsers and e-mail readers and movie streamers. We think of those things as PC's but they don't. Some even call their PC "The Internet". So when that box goes pfftz they're going to buy a different but cheaper Internet, maybe what we would call a phablet.

Selling people PC's was a giant con, a way of making PC's cheaper by broadening the market to people who normally wouldn't think of touching a "computer". Even in cubicle land the all-purpose PC is being replaced by virtualized machines that, for the moment, happen to be accessed from PC's, but soon won't. I hated the idea of "thin clients" back in the day, but now they are the main defense against what bozos can do to the networks we all depend on.

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Devil

Re: everyone replaces their PCs

"I think we'll see a surge in landfilled PCs, and no replacements bought."

Jeebus, will everyone please stop smugly predicting the utter and final death of the desktop PC? And the fax machine? And the other Old Skull Tech that persist in having a useful purpose in the world?

For us business types trying to get some work done, a good desktop and a couple of big monitors are pretty much required. Keyboards are faster than swiping or talking at a machine, mice and sticks are more accurate for selecting and placing items. I have four big tablets worth of screen real-estate for multiple programs and documents. Tablets and phones are not serious work machines.

So why slowing PC sales? I blame Windows 10. Why buy a marginally faster PC if you have to trade Win 7 for "Windows As A Spyware Service"? If the Old Box works well enough, no need to replace it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: everyone replaces their PCs

A PC is also no longer a precious gift. Do you get a new washing machine as a gift for your beloved one? PC are now simple tools, no longer appealing fashionable showoff devices.

But in some niche nerd circles, you no longer show off with a new PC. You show off with the latest bling phone, or some new IoT gadget.

So PCs are bought when you need them to study or work, maybe waiting for some sale if you have to save some money. And you'll spend those saved money in gifts from the latest bling technology.

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Re: everyone replaces their PCs

Wait, are you still using a fax machine?

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Mushroom

Re: "utter and final death"

who predicted that ? Not I.

I have absolutely no hesitation in believing that "the PC" will be with us for a long time. In fact, truth be told, I will probably be in the market for one soon, as the heart of my hobby home-music system.

However the glory days, when world+dog needed one have passed us by. In fact they probably passed us by 10 years ago (which is when I started calling the PC sales slowdown from a strategy POV).

I guess there were probably similar misunderstandings when solid-state electronics became commonplace. People were bewailing the "utter and final death" of thermionic valves. Wrongly. Even in 2018 there are applications that call for valves, factories that make them, and people who can design them into circuits.

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Stop

re: Wait, are you still using a fax machine?

Whilst it does sound incredible, I'm afraid brain dead one-size-fits-all IT security is probably the fax salesmans best friend (and has been for a while). The most common use for a fax machine I know of is to bypass attachment-stripping email filters.

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Re: everyone replaces their PCs

"So PCs are bought when you need them to study or work, maybe waiting for some sale if you have to save some money. And you'll spend those saved money in gifts from the latest bling technology."

Plus like I said PC power is plateauing. Case in point; there are so many capable secondhand PCs on the market these days there's little need to buy new ones. After I built a white-box PC 10 years ago (I actually still have it), all the other machines I've acquired since then have been secondhand. When you can get a Core i5 with monitor, keyboard, and mouse for only $130 used, and you can upgrade the bits you need upgrading, why buy new? And even many of the subpar ones make capable media players with just a few cheap additions.

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Thumb Down

Re: Market Saturation

Though there will be a bump later in the year when everyone replaces their PCs again after Intel

Why should be people pay to replace what was broken by design?

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Fax Machine ?

I honestly cannot remember when I last saw I fax machine, but I think I remember what they looked like and would recognise one.

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Re: Market Saturation

I subsisted on multiple PIII 800/1GHz desktop machines from ~2003-2012 (and a couple athlon XPs somewhere in the middle; I killed one, my cat killed the other.. both overclocking 'incidents') , and a C2D laptop from 2008-2013. I've been on SB/IB equipment since then. and I'm one of those who sees no pressing need to upgrade, as I don't do anything that scales efficiently beyond 4 cores. I'll probably rebuild this year, as the power efficiency gains have been significant in the mean time, and AMD is back in the running.

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People won't replace PCs over Intel bugs

It isn't something to be overly concerned about versus the tons of holes that are found every year - the tons more that exist but aren't publicly known yet or have yet to be discovered at all.

I imagine this is what Gartner and IDC are telling their clients, because they always say "good times are around the corner" and predict rising PC sales, but if they are falling even when world economy is doing quite well and Windows 7's retirement date is rapidly approaching Meltdown/Spectre isn't going to move the needle.

It may result in enterprises and cloud providers replacing servers more quickly, since hit on VMs is far larger than the single digit performance penalties Intel is claiming. So I'd look for server sales to bump because of it.

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Re: everyone replaces their PCs

Faxes are still used in real estate by older agents who shun PDFs and e-signing. Nobody wants to lose a deal by telling them to get with the times, so you just put up with them. That's why my spouse has a multifunction printer set to fax mode connected to our landline.

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Re: Market Saturation

Most people have PCs that are powerful enough for their needs.

My old 2010 Sony Vaio Core i7 got an SSD last year and went to my wife, it is fast enough for her needs. My 2015 HP Spectre x360 is more than fast enough currently for portable needs.

I did replace my 2008 Core2Quad Q6600 with a Ryzen 7 from Memory PC just before Christmas, because I wanted to experiment with Hyper-V.

At work, we rolled out over 20 new PCs in 2017 (company with 150 employees) at my last employer and this year, at my new employer, we have already rolled out 4 new PCs (2 ThinkPads and 2 Intel NUCs).

Some of those were PCs reaching the end of their useful lifecycle (5 - 8 year old PCs being replaced) or for new employees starting at the company. And that is the problem today, when the PCs don't stop working, they are often "good enough" for at least 5 years of use, whereas in the past, you really needed a new PC every couple of years.

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Re: Market Saturation

The problem is, just because the old PCs are now insecure doesn't mean there is automatically budget available to replace them with new kit. If a company has just rolled out a bunch of new PCs in the last quarter, they aren't going to be replaced immediately, they will have to struggle on for another couple of years at least, even if they are a little slower than expected.

Older PCs that were already nearing the end of their lifecycles (2010 - 2013 range), I can see them being replaced sooner, especially if the reported slowdowns are as bad as the press are saying... But in typical companies, where the internal IT infrastructure has a lower priority than the cleaning crew, I don't see extra money being made available for new PCs, when the old one still "work".

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Re: everyone replaces their PCs

@JimmyPage

I don't see them not being replaced, at least not in most businesses. At my previous employer, the CAD and ERP employees were all working on PCs or workstations with at least twin 24" monitors. At my current employer, the programmers have a similar setup.

You can't really replace multiple large screen setups with a tablet.

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Re: everyone replaces their PCs

@Tikimon I agree with you, apart from the last paragraph. If you thing Windows 10 is WAASS, I assume you aren't using an Android or iOS device for your mobile communications...

When properly configured, Windows 10 doesn't leak any more information than Windows 7, what it "leaks" is what you let it, for the most part. You want Cortana? It has to send additional information to the cloud to work, like an assistant. If you don't want Cortana, you disable it and that information isn't sent out. The same goes for many other services.

In fact, there controls in the latest version of Windows 10 are even more controllable than under Windows 7. You can allow / disallow specific applications access to the camera, microphone, location services etc. Something which older Windows couldn't do - that said it still doesn't stop me putting tape over the camera lens! Better safe than sorry.

I have used Windows 10 for a while now and I wouldn't want to go back to Windows 7 now, there are too many benefits, even if I have to take a couple of minutes when setting up a new machine / account to ensure that information leakage is set to the level I want to accept.

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Windows

Re: Market Saturation

I do hope you don't let the cat overclock this build for you.

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Re: everyone replaces their PCs

@ big_D

I didn't downvote you, but here's the thing.

@Tikimon ... I assume you aren't using an Android or iOS device for your mobile communications

Just because one does it, doesn't mean it excuse the others from doing. Also since windows did not have those 'features' before Windows 10 comparing to mobile devices which had it from the start, the users will see a bigger differences.

When properly configured, Windows 10 doesn't leak any more information than Windows 7

Well yes until you update it. Which from a number of people, it resets some/all your settings while adding new settings, making you redo every configuration. Unless you hope someone out there script it for you, you'll have to manually configure/ script the settings for every new update. Microsoft did this on purpose (they are effectively a reinstall/update which is easier on them when without the QA), and the power users / admins are getting sick of it.

In fact, there controls in the latest version of Windows 10 are even more controllable than under Windows 7. You can allow / disallow specific applications access

APPS, allow / disallow specific APPS. This doesn't work with 'programs' because they're not sandboxed. Consider plenty of users still use only 'programs' and not apps (which also not available on Windows 7), you'll still need the tape.

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Re: everyone replaces their PCs

"For us business types trying to get some work done, a good desktop and a couple of big monitors are pretty much required."

But there are so few of you who "need" that these days.

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Re: everyone replaces their PCs

There is these newfangled Firewalls thingies, in which you can block IP ranges, sites and software from talking to the web. Once you master them, windows can easily be totally blocked from chatting back to MS, with or without updates. Turns out MS include such a firewall in Windows 10 and folks have written scripts for PowerShell that add in all the blocks you need.

Thus MS collecting your data, like Google, Apple, Amazon etc, is completely optional for anybody with a scrap of IT knowledge.

Worryingly MS base now their decisions off just idiots without any IT knowledge.

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Mushroom

Re: everyone replaces their PCs

Sorry to sound snippy but where did I say business aren't replacing their PCs ? I even replied to myself to point out that there will ALWAYS be some use for PCs.

I know this is just a knockabout forum, but if it's a microcosm of the comprehension skills in the real world, no wonder things are going the wrong way.

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Re: Market Saturation

If you do all your web surfing/emailing on your smartphone you're not even booting up your Win XP, Win 7+ pc. Why would a consumer need to buy a new pc? Death of the pc was because of the smartphone for millions of home users. The business market just can't fill the demand gap.

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Re: everyone replaces their PCs

Thank you! 'For us business types trying to get some work done...' The problem is the world is bending towards doing everything on a tiny screen that you carry in your pocket (well, not really - does anyone carry an iPhone+ in a pocket? Don't you need a manpurse for one of those?). More and more websites are being designed primarily for the mobile browser. If you're using a regular pc to look at these sites you're s.o.l., you dinosaur.

I actually have work to do, and need a full screen and enough compute power to get the job done. The last thing in the world I want to do is scroll an excel spreadsheet on my phone. I use command line scripts to offload data from SQL databases and run the results on my work pc. I have a job to do, not tweets to send or cat pictures to forward.

All the companies out there from big banks to journalistic websites (thankfully not El Reg) see that 80% of their traffic is coming from smartphones so they change their design to accommodate, leaving the full screen format to rot. It's sad, it's 'progress' and it will only get worse.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: everyone replaces their PCs

"There is these newfangled Firewalls thingies, in which you can block IP ranges, sites and software from talking to the web."

Except many of the IPs either keep changing or are dual-purpose. Block them and you also block the security updates that keep you from getting pwned. This is ALSO intentional on Microsoft's part to put you in a dilemma. And since all the telemetry and security updates occur over encrypted connection, deep packet inspection isn't an option.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: everyone replaces their PCs

If you are an hourly paid contract worker (what they call the gig economy - probably because it is well short of a giggle) you probably still have to fax in your time sheets. May be not in the IT industry, but a lot of people still do it.

My local pharmacy faxes my repeat prescription requests to the doctor's surgery, who fax back the necessary forms. They not only both have PCs and the internet (probably Windows XP, but I don't actually know) but the fax machine is actually an all-in-one connected to the PC at both ends. For some reason, it is widely believed to be more secure to use a fax. Obviously, the medical profession does not employ any black hats, so there is no one to explain to them the error of their ways, and I have better things to do than describe various world famous fax-based scams (and I would not want to say anything that might incriminate myself).

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Re: everyone replaces their PCs

Ten year old screens can to 1280x768*, just like the new ones, and the 10 year old cases are a lot more robust than most of the modern junk. I can see why people are not in a rush to upgrade.

* or you can get a netbook with an 800x600 screen from PC world if you are really desperate.

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Re: everyone replaces their PCs

You can't really replace multiple large screen setups with a tablet.

Well may be you can't and I can't, but PHBs and MBAs are quite capable of it. That is how they justify those huge bonuses.

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Re: everyone replaces their PCs

@AC re: Firewalls and blocking IPs.

Modern firewalls block traffic inteligently, based on more than IP address - all port, traffic type or traffic patterns. Some actually work on an "application" basis, so you can block the site for browsing for normal workers, but allow updates to be downloaded.

You can also block based on source (internal) IP as well, so your provisioning servers can pull down the updates and then push them out to the internal PCs. The endpoints don't need any access to the Internet for patching their OS or applications. Heck, you then even set up test groups to ensure the patches don't cause any problems, before rolling them out to the entire organisation.

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Cue Gardner / IDC report of groth in 3-2-1?

NFT

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SaVaGe MiLLeNnIaLs TeRRoRiZe InnOcEnT PC InDuStRy

Harmless desktops brutally ripped apart and rebuilt into soulless patchwork monsters with no OEM operating system! (in other words, anyone who knows the most basic PC building can get a desktop for free just by salvaging off the market saturation. But it's funnier to blame millennials for not going into more credit card debt to spend 3,000$ on a desktop that does nothing they couldn't do on a smartphone.)

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Anonymous Coward

"desktop that does nothing they couldn't do on a smartphone"

Just because they do next to nothing useful on their smartphones.

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Boffin

The need for most people is gone or going. The PC was the gate to the printer but now QR tickets on phone are now being widely accepted so you don't need the printer and if you don't need the printer you don't need the PC wired to it.

A PC on/under a desk with a big monitor and a full sized keyboard is still the best device to do work on. But for a lot of people they're not doing heavy number crunching 'work' they're doing a bit of typing and devices are coming which will allow them to use the big screen and keyboard without the big box.

Continuum could have been a winner there if MS wasn't so fucking awful at being innovative as opposed to selling licenses for slightly updated version of the same shit for the last 20yr.

Gamers will still like a big box, tinkerers like me will still like a big box, but we're a shrinking minority.

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Rejoice!

I'd have thought that, on the whole, the US would have rejoiced at the fall. Think of all those imports that no longer have to be matched with exports.

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Re: Rejoice!

Except that items with the highest margins on the BoM of a PC include the Intel chip and the MS Windows licence which never leave the country…

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Anonymous Coward

Re: PC include the Intel chip and the MS Windows licence

Err.... In the past I have bought a new Laptop on trips to the USA. A few states have no Sales Tax and with PC makers using $1==£1 it makes sense to get one over there and bring it home. Even if HMRC stop you it ends up being cheaper than buying it here.

Many of us in IT get used to different Keyboard layouts so using a US one isn't that difficult.

Hate to say it, Mac's give you bigger savings over the UK price.

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Re: Rejoice!

I believe most of Intel chips leaves the country for cutting, testing and packaging. Not the glorious part of the process (and likely not the most profitable) but necessary non the less.

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Anonymous Coward

Upgrading is cheaper

I usually replace my desktop pc about every 5 years usually when it starts slowing down so much it frustrates me and I decide its time to get a new version of windows and a cheap office bundle deal.

About 6 months it was time to upgrade but I decided to swap my dual raid hard drives for dual raid SSD drives. Needless to say the performance is amazing so I for one won't be purchasing a new desktop for a while, if it goes bang I'm sure I can pick up parts if not a replacement identical unit on a well known auction site for peanuts.

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Unexpected

When one's options were a PC/laptop that is what people bought. Also, in many regions the market is mature meaning most sales of PCs are replacements. With the other devices being available and doing the job most people need, there will be declining demand for a PCs for awhile. Eventually the drop will flatten out.

One point these 'analysts' seem to always miss is most families do not need that many PCs and many have more than they need squirreled away gathering dust. Businesses will need only issue one box to an employee at a time.

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Windows

“US consumer confidence is high…"

I repeat. "US consumer confidence IS high"

But I wonder how come they are so "confident"....

Do they all have un-cashed-in bitcoins?

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Re: “US consumer confidence is high…"

QE has finally "done its job" and pushed equities high enough for the wealth effect to kick in. The wealth effect does, of course, encourage people to borrow more money something that the US consumers seem to love doing anyway: household debt is starting to grow but it will be masked by the apparent value of the assets such as houses. Remember that walking away from a mortgage in the US has little real consequence for either debtor (bankruptcy imposes no limits) or lender (the mortgage is sold on before the ink is dry).

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