Analysts had expected PC shipments to be depressed in the third quarter, and consumers delayed purchases and channel partners liquidated inventory in advance of the Oct. 26 release of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system. But the magnitude of the decline was greater than most analysts had predicted.
"PCs are going through a severe slump," said Jay Chou, senior research analyst for IDC's Worldwide PC Tracker. "The industry had already weathered a rough second quarter, and now the third quarter was even worse."
According to Chou, while the global economy and questions about PC market saturation and delayed replacement cycles are hampering the PC market, the main question of what will be the "it" product for PCs remain unanswered. OEMs are responding to changing consumer preferences by rolling out Ultrabooks and other ultrathin, low-power PCs that seek to bring features popular in tablets to products that more closely resemble traditional PCs. But so far, sales of these products have been underwhelming.
"While ultrabook prices have come down a little, there are still some significant challenges that will greet Windows 8 in the coming quarter," Chou said.
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According to Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, retailers were conservative in placing PC orders during the third quarter in response to weak back-to-school sales.
"By the end of September, retailers were focused on clearing out inventory in advance of the Windows 8 launch later this month," Kitagawa said. She added that the Windows 8 rollout had a minimal impact on third quarter PC sales to the enterprise market because the enterprise market will not adopt Windows 8 right away.
Both Gartner and IDC reported that Lenovo's third quarter PC shipments increased 10 percent compared with the year-ago quarter, while HP's shipments declined more than 16 percent year-to-year.
According to IHS, there are signs that the PC market could rebound strongly in 2013. Though IHS recently cut its forecast for Ultrabook sales in 2012 and 2013, the firm believes that Ultrabooks and other ultrathin PCs could revive the PC landscape and the addition of Windows 8 should also boost sales.