Gartner: No help for the PC biz from Windows 10

Maybe next year, research firm says, as it downgrades forecast for both PC shipments and Windows

Windows 10 won't help the struggling PC business out of its multi-year slump in 2015, researcher Gartner said today. But it might next year.

"The release of Windows 10 on 29 July will contribute to a slowing professional demand for mobile PCs and premium ultra-mobiles in 2015, as lifetimes extend by three months," said Gartner analyst Ranjit Atwal in a statement Tuesday. "However, as suppliers and buyers adjust to new prices, Windows 10 could boost replacements during 2016."

From Gartner's perspective, the mere appearance of Windows 10 will result in delayed replacement PC purchases as enterprises and other large organizations put plans on hold as they begin evaluating the OS. "Testing on Windows 10, and not moving to Windows in the meantime," Atwal replied in an email when asked to explain how the new operating system will impact PC shipments this year.

Today's forecast of global device shipments -- the aggregate of personal computers, tablets and smartphones -- put numbers to Microsoft's fortunes.

According to Atwal, who provided Computerworld with data on shipments broken out by OS, Windows will power about 323 million devices shipped in 2015, a 1.5% year-over-year decline. The 323 million represented 13.2% of the total of 2.5 billion devices, the bulk of them smartphones, the majority of those running Google's Android. Gartner's previous forecast, released in March, pegged Windows at 331 million devices, or 13.3% of the total, signaling a slight retreat in the latest estimate.

With Microsoft still not banking significant numbers from Windows smartphones and tablets, PCs will remain responsible for most new devices. And as anyone who has followed the slings and arrows of the personal computer industry knows, the category has been in a slump since 2012.

That's not about to change.

Gartner set the traditional PC and new-age "ultra-mobile" categories at a combined 300 million shipments for 2015, a 4.4% decline from the year before. (Examples of ultra-mobiles by Gartner's definition include Apple's MacBook Air notebook and Microsoft's Surface Pro 2-in-1.)

Today's forecast was more pessimistic than those made three and six months ago, when the research firm said OEMs would ship 306 and 321 million PCs and ultra-mobiles, respectively.

That's been an ongoing trend for Gartner and its rival, IDC, whose optimistic prognostications have been repeatedly downgraded. In April 2013, for example, Gartner tagged 2014's PC shipments at 341 million; the actual tally last year was just 314 million. In that same forecast two years ago, Gartner said that Windows would power 459 million devices in 2015, expecting great things from Windows 8 on tablets; now it's betting on only 323 million, a 30% reduction.

Macro factors are also to blame for weak PC shipments, Gartner argued, citing the strong dollar and thus higher prices in foreign markets. To insulate themselves from the currency fluctuations, U.S. OEMs have reduced their inventories by at least 5%, a practice Gartner sees continuing through at least year's end.

Device shipment predictions from Gartner Data: Gartner

Shipments of Windows-powered devices -- personal computers, 2-in-1s, tablets and smartphones -- will decline in 2015, then recover in 2016 and 2017, while Apple's iOS and OS X will beat Windows' pace in two out of the three years.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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