PC sales in Western Europe plummeted in the first quarter in the biggest decline the continent has ever seen -- more than 20 percent. And one key reason for the drop is that European users simply don't like Windows 8.
Gartner reports that sales of PCs in Western Europe fell 20.5 percent in the first quarter compared to a year previous. Every country and every segment of the market saw serious declines. Shipments of mobile PCs fell by 24.6 percent and desktop PCs by 13.8 percent. Shipments for the "professional" PC market dropped 17.2 percent, and those to the consumer PC market declined 23.7 percent.
In Germany, PC shipments fell for the eleventh straight quarter, with a decrease of 20 percent compared to the year previous. France saw a drop of 25.3 percent, and in the U.K., shipments fell 15.8 percent.
Overall Acer was hit the worst, with a 36.8 percent drop in sales, with HP not far behind, at 31.7 percent. Dell fell 14.7 percent. Lenovo bucked the trend with a 7.2 percent increase in sales, while Apple eked out a slight gain at 0.8 percent growth. The sales of all other PC vendors dropped 18.7 percent.
One cause of the drop was the usual suspect: tablet and smartphone sales. But Gartner said that Windows 8 didn't help things, with European users unhappy with the operating system. Meike Escherich, principal research analyst at Gartner, said:
"The first quarter of 2013 brought the worst quarterly decline in Western Europe since Gartner started tracking PC shipments in this region. Wide availability of Windows 8-based PCs could not boost consumer PC purchases during the quarter. Although the new Metro-style user interface suits new form factors, users wonder about its suitability for traditional PCs -- non-touchscreen desktops and notebooks."
In that, European users are no different than users anywhere else in the world. Last month, IDC reported that PC sales had their biggest worldwide drop ever in the first quarter, 13.9 percent. Bob O'Donnell, IDC Program Vice President, Clients and Displays, was even harsher than Escherich about the effect of Windows 8 on sales:
"At this point, unfortunately, it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only failed to provide a positive boost to the PC market, but appears to have slowed the market. While some consumers appreciate the new form factors and touch capabilities of Windows 8, the radical changes to the UI, removal of the familiar Start button, and the costs associated with touch have made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices. Microsoft will have to make some very tough decisions moving forward if it wants to help reinvigorate the PC market."
These two reports make it very clear why the upcoming Windows 8.1 update (previously called Windows Blue) is so important for Microsoft. Microsoft has finally admitted that people really do want to use the Desktop, and the update is expected make it easier for those with non-touch devices to use Windows. Some version of the Start button may even be included. Sacre bleu!
Fixing Windows 8 won't bring robust growth to the PC market. But it could certainly stem the historic drop in PC sales. And for now, that would be enough to make Microsoft pleased.