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Is Windows 8 killing PCs?
Microsoft's latest software innovation was supposed to give sales of traditional computers a lift by making them more like mobile devices, but that hasn't happened
Some PC users have had a difficult time adjusting to Windows 8.
Some PC users have had a difficult time adjusting to Windows 8. Mario Tama/Getty Images
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C sales took a nosedive in the first quarter of 2013, falling by 14 percent, and research firm IDC thinks it knows why. Microsoft's Windows 8 — which was introduced last year to make desktops and laptops more appealing by giving them some features popular on mobile devices — actually backfired, and depressed PC sales. "Some consumers appreciate the new form factors and touch capabilities of Windows 8," says IDC spokesman Bob O'Donnell says. But others were turned off by some of Microsoft's "radical changes" to its ubiquitous operating system, such as "the removal of the familiar Start button." And the cost of upgrading to a touchscreen to take full advantage of Windows 8 didn't help, either.  "It's brutal," O'Donnell says. "These are disastrous numbers. Huge."

"Microsoft made a big gamble in designing Windows 8 as an operating system" better suited for "tablets and touch than for traditional PCs," says Preston Gralla at Computerworld. The software has dueling interfaces that are only confusing people and making them reconsider whether they want to stick with PCs at all.

Microsoft hoped that familiarizing people with the touch interface would spur people to buy Windows 8 and Windows Rt tablets, but that hasn't happened. Now it appears that Windows 8 is helping to significantly depress sales of traditional PCs as well.

Microsoft should admit its mistake and redesign Windows 8 so that people want to buy PCs based on it. To keep Windows 8 the way it is will only hurt sales even more. [Computerworld]

Not so, says Ken Hess at ZDNet. "Windows 8 doesn't need saving any more than Windows 95 did." People are afraid of it because it's new, but they shouldn't be, he goes on. "Windows 8 is a good operating system that deserves a respected place in history alongside other innovative technology advances."

Let me put this in personal terms for you: Windows 8 is what you wanted. Seriously.

You wanted an operating system that would run on the hardware that you have now because you don't want to spend the money to upgrade. Done. You wanted an operating system that runs on a variety of hardware so that your user experience is the same on all devices. Done. You wanted an operating system that's easy to use. Done. You wanted an Apple-like experience with swipey icons and an app store. Done. You wanted an operating system that doesn't take a long time to boot up — hence all of the geeky tales of "going to get a cup of coffee while it boots." Done. [ZDNet]

Oh, "the PC market is dying" all right, says Clinton Stark at Stark Insider, and it's pointless to deny it. "The numbers tell a dire story." The decline reported by IDC so far this year was "the worst performance since... forever." Windows 8 isn't to blame, though. Tablets and smartphones are. And why shouldn't they be slaying the PC? They're cheaper, sexier, have longer battery life, and they are designed for the touch and app experience everyone loves, notes Stark:

Tablets have taken off like a (SpaceX) rocket ship. Led by Apple's groundbreaking iPad in 2010, then followed by all manner of Android competitors, the market for non-PC devices has possibly defied all expectation. The Tablet market is expected to grow almost 70 percent year-to-year in 2013 (Gartner). Meanwhile PC shipments will likely shrink about 7 percent. While PCs still sell more in absolute numbers over tablets (315 million vs. 197 million units), the trend is as obvious as a reality show script. [Stark Insider]

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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