The global PC market, during the first quarter of this year, had its "worst-ever quarter" since IDC began tracking quarterly PC sales in 1994, the research firm announced April 10.
While a middling economic climate could take some heat for the results, as could consumer interests shifting to smartphones and tablets, IDC analysts more than anything blamed Microsoft and its Windows 8 operating system. While the market had fingers crossed that the long-awaited new OS would usher in upgrades and device refreshes, it actually had the opposite effect, said IDC.
"At this point, unfortunately, it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only didn't provide a positive boost to the PC market, it's actually hurt the market," Bob O'Donnell, IDC program vice president, Clients and Displays, said in a statement.
O'Donnell said that while some consumers appreciate the new features and touch capabilities in Windows 8, "the radical changes to the [user interface], removal of the familiar Start button and the costs associated with touch PCs have made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices."
Jay Chou, a senior research analyst with IDC, added that users find Windows 8 to offer "a compromised experience that doesn't excel, either as a new mobile interface or in a classic desktop interface."
The result, Chou added, "is that many consumes are worried about upgrading to Windows 8, to say nothing of business users who are still just getting into Windows 7."
IDC Research Director David Daoud said that while he was unsurprised by the fall in shipments, he found the magnitude of their drop "surprising and worrisome."
"The industry is going through a critical crossroads, and strategic choices will have to be made as to how to compete appropriately with the proliferation of alternative devices," said Daoud.
He added that vendors will need to "revisit" their organizational structures and approaches to the supply chain, distribution and product portfolios.
The global PC market shipped 76.3 million units during the quarter, which was down 14 percent from a year ago.
Hewlett-Packard, falling 24 percent year-on-year, nonetheless led the worldwide market, with a 15.7 percent share. Lenovo, holding steady year-on-year, was hot on HP's heels, with a 15.3 percent share.
Dell, Acer and Asus each saw sales fall year-on-year, but maintained 11.8, 8.1 and 5.7 percent market shares, respectively.
In the United States, fifth-ranking Lenovo was again the only vendor to not experience negative annual growth. It managed to grow 13 percent, shipping 1.274 million units, for a 9 percent share, essentially tying it with fourth-place Toshiba, which shipped 1.279 million units for its own 9 percent share of the market.
HP finished first in the United States, with a 25 percent share, despite a negative 23 percent growth rate, followed by Dell, with a 22 percent share, and Apple, with a 10 percent share of the market.
IDC called the U.S. market "dismal," with its shipments at their lowest level since 2006.
While globally, Lenovo's shipments outpaced the market, its shipments in Asia declined, which accounted for its flat growth rate. In Asia, IDC again pointed to Windows 8. Its lukewarm reception there "hampered new shipments," said the report.
Microsoft, said IDC's O'Donnell, "is going to have to make some very tough decisions moving forward if they want to help reinvigorate the PC market."