After the 14% drop in PC sales last quarter, everyone is proclaiming “The death of the PC.”

They’re wrong.

It all started earlier this month, when IDC reported that PC sales were down 13.9% compared with the previous quarter. “The extent of the year-on-year contraction marked the worst quarter since IDC began tracking the PC market quarterly in 1994,” the company wrote. “The results also marked the fourth consecutive quarter of year-on-year shipment declines.”

While the company blamed a weak reception for Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system, the problem is actually much more general, which IDC mentioned in passing: The PC market is meeting significant resistance to changes perceived as cumbersome or costly.

In other words, what it actually means is that people want simplicity. They want PCs that look like PCs, not like tablets — which is what Windows 8 is forcing them to do.

Some PC vendors are making it difficult for users who don’t want Windows 8, such as by making Windows 7 unavailable or telling potential purchasers that drivers for operating systems other than Windows 8 are not available. Significantly, one of the PC manufacturers that continues to do well, according to IDC, is Lenovo – which still makes it easy for people to choose between Windows 7 and Windows 8.

What does that demonstrate? If PC sales are low, it’s because users can’t find the PCs they want, not because they don’t want PCs. With some manufacturers claiming that Windows 8 is their only option, users are digging in their heels and sticking with what they’re used to.

We’re seeing the same thing with Windows XP. Although Windows XP has been supplanted over the years by Vista, Windows 7, and now Windows 8, as of early March it was still the #2 operating system, after Windows 7, with 39% of the market, according to NetMarketShare. This is true even though Microsoft has warned that after April 8 next year, “there will be no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates.” You’re on your own.

When people have something that works, they don’t want to go through the complexity of changing it unless there’s a real business case for it, and apparently Vista, Windows 7, and now Windows 8 just haven’t  cut it. Even with a smooth migration to a robust operating system – that is, not Vista – you’re dealing with application upgrades (and some applications that don’t work), driver upgrades (and some drivers that aren’t updated), and hardware upgrades (and some hardware that can’t be upgraded).

Many businesses simply can’t afford the downtime, so they’ll wait for the next PC upgrade cycle. People who got burned by Vista are particularly likely to want to stick to Windows 7 for as long as they possibly can rather than take their chances. And the people who are still using Windows XP? Perhaps their hardware won’t support the processor and memory requirements of Windows 7 or 8 – or perhaps it’s simply a case of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

The problem is that all these different form factors and OSes are being spawned and users and IT departments have to figure out how to juggle them. What people really want is a PC or laptop when they’re doing big work in the office, a tablet when they’re doing medium work when they’re traveling, and a smartphone when they’re on the go — and as little friction as possible when shifting between them. That means they want the same apps, the same functionality, and access to the same data on each system — not that they want the same new, unfamiliar OS on each one.

Related Posts