Look for the Windows 8 Grinch this holiday season

As PC sales head to Hades and Windows 8 adoption numbers totally discombobulate, brace for PC doom and gloom over the tide of Yule

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Every indication I see says that Windows 8 is crashing and burning -- and dragging the PC market down with it. It wouldn't surprise me a bit to see another double-digit fall in PC shipments for 2014. (Unless IDC and Gartner start re-defining the term "PC," in which case everything's made up and the points don't matter.) Remember, we're talking about shipments, not real sales net of returns -- a number that would be much more interesting and probably more frightening.

Putting all anecdotal evidence aside for the moment, Windows 8's tumultuous belly flop couldn't be better demonstrated than in the statistics just released by NetMarketShare. Yesterday, Serdar Yegulalp explained -- quite correctly -- that the tiny bump in Windows 8 and 8.1 Internet usage between September and November isn't all that unusual historically. Windows XP, for example, grew at a similarly somber rate at that stage in its development.

But the numbers don't add up ...

Roughly 350 million PCs were shipped worldwide in 2012, according to IDC, with 315 million projected for this year. While the monthly shipment data isn't available, it's reasonable to assume that 20 million-or-so PCs shipped in October and a similar number in November. In theory, every new PC that's sold ships with Windows 8, although Software Assurance licensees can request Windows 7. So the bump in Windows 8 and 8.1 by a mere 0.3 percent usage points represents the combined effect of 40 to 50 million new PCs going into service over those two months. No matter how you slice it, that isn't possible -- unless Windows 8 users are boycotting the Internet en masse.

The discrepancy arises because a) many companies don't want Windows 8, b) many PC manufacturers in many parts of the world don't ship new machines with any operating system, and c) many owners of new PCs install Windows 7 -- legit or pirate version -- as quickly as they can. That's why Windows 7 usage is up marginally.

Perhaps IDG and Gartner are right and the Grinch will spare Windows Whoville this Christmas. Perhaps we're in for a tiny decline in 2014, in preparation for a return to a pre-2008-style uptick in PC shipments by 2017.

Somehow, I doubt it. Oh, the Who-manity.

This story, "Look for the Windows 8 Grinch this holiday season," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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