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Windows 8 not likely to restart ailing PC market

Analysts say Microsoft's new OS may prompt some sales but not enough to boost the industry

Microsoft's launch of Windows 8 amid great fanfare yesterday left many users wondering whether the new operating system can prove a big boost to the ailing PC market.

Analysts said today that while Windows 8 may help keep the business afloat, it probably won't be enough to return the business to anywhere near its former glory.

"Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that Windows 8 will be enough to turn around PC sales," said Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT.

"At the end of the day, IT sales depend as much on customer confidence as they do on vendor innovation," King said. "Vendors can occasionally nudge a market in one direction or another, a bit like a tugboat guides a far larger ship. But no single company can drag broader markets along in its wake."

The PC industry has been struggling mightily in recent years under the weight of a sluggish worldwide economy and a growing consumer infatuation with trendy products like Apple's iPad.

Many analysts have said that while some enterprises have been holding off laptop and desktop purchase until Windows 8 comes out, others have been turning to tablets and smartphones as replacements for the traditional systems.

Robert Enderle, an analyst at the Enderle Group, said the PC business should get help from at least some some pent up demand from the companies waiting for the release of Windows 8.

"We do traditionally get a slowdown prior to a release," he said, adding that "Windows 8 is compelling. It could [help turn things around] but it will really depend on demand."

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, isn't as optimistic about a revitalization of the PC business, noting that the biggest drag on the business hasn't been the imminent shipping of Windows 8, it's been the economy and tablets.

"Windows 8 will help PC sales some, but won't be enough to make up for the lousy economy," said Moorhead.

King said Windows 8 could even hurt PC sales.

"Windows 8 is so new and so radically different than previous versions of Windows that it could spark as much resistance as curiosity," he said.

On the other hand, he noted that some research has found that Windows 8's "touch enablement tops the wish lists of most PC users. If that proves right, Microsoft and its OEM partners should reap the benefits."

The already battered PC market had been depending earlier on a growth spurt in new, so-called ultrabook computers that did not materialize. Researcher IHS iSuppli reported earlier this month that worldwide ultrabook shipments had fallen far short of expectations. The company lowered its ultrabook sales forecast from 22 million units in 2012 to 10.3 million.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is [email protected].

Read more about windows in Computerworld's Windows Topic Center.


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