Global PC sales dive in move towards tablets

Microsoft's Windows 8 software appears to be driving buyers away from PCs and toward smartphones and tablets, research firm IDC said last night. Global shipments of PCs fell 14 per cent in the first three months this year, it said, the sharpest plunge since the firm started tracking the industry in 1994.

Consumers, especially in the US, are gravitating toward tablets and smartphones rather than upgrading their home PCs, presenting the biggest challenge to the personal computer since the IBM PC was released in 1981.

In an attempt to keep the PC relevant, Microsoft released a radical new version of Windows in October, with a completely new look. "Unfortunately, it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only didn't provide a positive boost to the PC market, but appears to have slowed the market," said IDC vice-president Bob O'Donnell.

The newest version of Windows is designed to work well with touch-sensitive screens, but the displays add to the cost of a PC. Together, the changes and higher prices "have made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices," he added. Representatives of Microsoft Corp. were not immediately available for comment.

Hewlett-Packard Co., the world's largest maker of PCs, saw a 24 per cent drop in shipments in the first quarter compared with the same period a year ago. The industry's No. 2, China's Lenovo Group, is benefiting from sales to first-time buyers in China and other developing countries. As a result, it held sales steady, alone among the world's top 5 PC makers, according to IDC's figures.

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