Is Microsoft Helping Kill the PC?

While yesterday it became clear just how deep the PC market could dive, the impacts for Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) are looking worse and worse — the software maker may even be partly to blame.

Research firms IDC and Gartner both released their global quarterly PC shipment data Thursday, and the results were far from positive. According to IDC, global PC shipments declined 13.9 percent year-on-year in the first quarter. Gartner’s figures more or less agree. With a total of 76.3 million units shipped, it was reported as the worst slide in shipments since 1994, when tracking on this data began.

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For U.S. shipments, HP (NYSE:HPQ) and Dell (NASDAQ:DELL)– 2 of the 5 biggest PC sellers in the U.S. — all saw their shipments decline. HP shipments dropped 22.9 percent, and Dell slipped 14.4 percent. Lenovo and Toshiba, the fourth and fifth biggest PC sellers, saw their shipments increase, putting them near a tie for market share. Oddly, IDC and Gartner couldn’t agree on what happened with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) during the quarter, as IDC showed the iPhone maker losing 7.5 percent of shipments, while Gartner had the company increasing shipments by 7.4 percent in the quarter…

One suggested reason for the decline is, of course, smartphones and tablets. The handy devices are becoming more and more popular around the world, and they can make it unnecessary for some people to own a PC, as they can take care of some PC tasks.

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Microsoft may prove to have been part of the problem, as its new operating system — Windows 8 — didn’t quite get the embrace from the market that Microsoft and PC-makers would have hoped for. Many consumers have shied away from Windows 8 because of its revamped interface — a lot of people don’t like new and unfamiliar things — and others have held off because the operating system is optimized for touchscreen devices, which have prices too high for many people’s budgets.

The situation has damaged Microsoft, as the falling shipments and weak performance of Windows 8 has lead some to downgrade Microsoft’s stock — Goldman told investors to sell and Nomura dropped the stock from “buy” to “neutral.” The PC makers and processor makers haven’t gone unaffected either, as shares for many have dipped. HP fell over 6 percent, dropping from nearly $22.40 per share to $20.80 between the market’s close Wednesday and open Thursday.

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