Microsoft faces a loss of relevance

The company is struggling to maintain its place in tech in the face of a badly received Windows upgrade, faltering mobile efforts and the spread of BYOD in its corporate base.

Microsoft Took another hard knock this month when top tech researchers laid much of the blame for dwindling first-quarter PC sales on the beleaguered Windows 8 operating system.

Estimates of first-quarter shipments, from both IDC and Gartner, paint a gloomy picture of the PC industry -- a sector that Microsoft still needs to be strong.

IDC said its estimate of a 14% decrease in worldwide PC shipments is the largest year-over-year decline it has ever seen in its nearly two decades of tracking those numbers. Gartner pegged the global PC downturn at 11%.

While a drop was expected, its size had one analyst searching for words. "It's brutal," said Bob O'Donnell of IDC. "These are disastrous numbers. Huge."

IDC cited a now-familiar litany of confusing Windows 8 traits that are causing users to shy away from new PCs: The bold-but-radical move to the tile-based "Modern" user interface; the removal of the Start button and menu from the "Classic" desktop UI; and a touch-first strategy.

IDC analyst David Daoud listed other factors, including the saturation of the PC market, especially in developed countries like the U.S., the fact that PCs bought since 2008 remain "good enough" for users, and stagnant economic conditions in some parts of the world.

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