Changing Consumer Preferences Confront Microsoft, PC Makers With New Challenges, IDC Says

Final global PC shipment data for 2011 shows 1.8 percent uptick, expected 5 percent growth in 2012.

Consumer expectations for the Wintel platform to accommodate the user experience of tablets will pressure Microsoft Corp. and PC makers in 2012 and 2013, one of a number of significant challenges to the platform going forward, according to researcher International Data Corp.

The researcher said that the expected launch of Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system and a flood of new ultrabook computers onto the market in the second half of 2012 should buoy sales from what is projected to be a sluggish first half of the year.

"2012 and 2013 will bring significant challenges for Microsoft and the PC community," said Jay Chou, IDC senior research analyst.

"The Wintel platform must evolve to accommodate user expectations of ubiquitous computing on a multitude of devices and physical settings,” he said. “Windows 8 and ultrabooks are a definitive step in the right direction to recapturing the relevance of the PC, but its promise of meshing a tablet experience in a PC body will likely entail a period of trial and error, thus the market will likely see modest growth in the near term."

IDC said that while PC makers struggled for much of 2011—hampered by an uncertain economic recovery and competition from tablets--worldwide shipments still grew by 1.8 percent for the year, although unit sales in the U.S. and European markets slipped by some 9 percent compared to 2010.

The worldwide PC market is expected to perform at a moderate 5 percent growth in 2012, with a stronger performance in some emerging markets, particularly in the second half of the year, said Bob O’Donnell, IDC vice president, clients and displays.

O’Donnell said that the restrained PC growth estimates owe mainly to the impact on the market of tablets, although IDC expects that Windows 8 will help the segment rebound.

"Many consumers are holding off making PC purchases at the moment because tablet devices like Apple's iPad are proving to be a powerful distraction," he said.

"However, end user surveys tell us that few people consider media tablets as replacements for their PCs, so later this year when there is a new Microsoft operating system, available in sleek new PC form factors, we believe consumer interest in PCs will begin to rebound," O’Donnell said.

TAGS: Microsoft,tablet,wintel,IDC,PC shipments

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