I finally understand some the hype around tablet devices. I gave a tablet and received one during the holidays and I’ve been attached at the hip with mine ever since. However, hour for hour, I still spend more time at and do more with my PC and use the tablet as a supplement.
Between setting up two tablets and one new PC in the past month, I’ve discovered I hate touchscreens and I’m still waiting for someone to tell me why Windows 8 is a good idea. It takes me three or four times as long to type anything onto tiny tablet touchscreens and typos run rampant. I sometimes have to tap commands two or three times on the tablets and I can’t find any familiar menus on Windows 8, so the PC is running with minimum efficiency at the moment. I’m not at all surprised that PC sales dropped in Q4.
IDC reports worldwide PC shipments totaled 89.8 million units in the fourth quarter of 2012, down 6.4 percent compared to the same quarter in 2011 and worse than the forecast decline of 4.4 percent. The analyst attributes the drop, in part, to unmet expectations of newer, cooler PCs and features. I disagree — the PC I bought in December has a bigger screen, a sleeker look, and is more lightweight than anything I’ve owned in the past, and it cost the same as an iPad mini. Too bad I gave up in frustration from customizing it. (For a different perspective, see Year of the Phablets.)
Here’s some additional analysis from IDC:
- Although the quarter marked the beginning of a new stage in the PC industry with the launch of Windows 8, its impact did not quickly change recently sluggish PC demand, and the PC market continued to take a back seat to competing devices and sustained economic woes. As a result, the fourth quarter of 2012 marked the first time in more than five years that the PC market has seen a year-on-year decline during the holiday season. The lackluster fourth quarter results were not entirely surprising given the spate of challenges the PC market faced over the course of 2012. IDC had expected the second half of 2012 to be difficult. Consumers as well as PC vendors and distribution channels continued to be diverted from PC sales by ongoing demand for tablets and smartphones. In addition, questions about the use of touch on Windows PCs vs. tablets slowed commercial spending on PCs. “Although the third quarter was focused on the clearing of Windows 7 inventory, preliminary research indicates the clearance did not significantly boost the uptake of Windows 8 systems in Q4,” said Jay Chou, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. “Lost in the shuffle to promote a touch-centric PC, vendors have not forcefully stressed other features that promote a more secure, reliable and efficient user experience. As Windows 8 matures, and other corresponding variables such as Ultrabook pricing continue to drop, hopefully the PC market can see a reset in both messaging and demand in 2013.”
I don’t think the PC vs. tablet choice is an either/or decision. Pricing has enabled consumers to own both — and then some. Tablets are still not as good as PCs for a lot of things (including writing). I’m certain some consumers that would have bought a PC last year opted for a tablet, but they are using the tablet for what it’s meant for: entertainment and mobile communications. There is still a huge base of PC users who don’t want their PCs to look and act like a smartphone or tablet.
I think the PC/tablet/smartphone market is pushing a convergence users aren’t ready for. I don’t want a touch-centric PC and even if Windows 8 was easy to use, I’d still resist it as a touch-only interface. I understand Windows’s desire for a single platform for phones, tablets, and PCs, but it doesn’t have to cater only to touch. If the PC market is resting its hopes on the maturation of Windows 8 to spur future sales — as IDC suggests — then indeed it will be facing a tough market through 2013.