Predicted nosedive in PC shipments spells trouble for Windows 8

IDC revised its projected PC shipment numbers way down, but we won't know the effect on Windows 8 sales until next quarter

Yesterday market research firm IDC reported that PC shipments in February took a nosedive worldwide, with China (which now accounts for 21 percent of new PC shipments) leading the plunge. Because of the lousy February, first-quarter 2013 worldwide PC shipments, which were expected to decline 7.7 percent year-on-year, are now targeted to drop 9.7 percent -- or more.

Our February monthly data suggest that we could see a drop touching double-digits in the first quarter [2013] and a mid-single-digit decline in the second quarter before we see any recovery in the second half of the year.

Lest you think IDC is sticking to its fantasy that PC shipments will bound back in the second half of 2013, consider its reformulation of that earlier forecast:

Even getting to positive growth in the second half of 2013 will take some attractive new PC designs and more competitive pricing relative to tablets and other products.

In early 2013, IDC predicted a 2.8 percent increase in worldwide PC shipments for 2013. Two months later the prediction has changed to a 1.3 percent loss, and I bet it'll go way down next month.

I'll stick to the forecast I made earlier this month: I see double-digit declines in worldwide PC shipments in 2013. Not a 2.8 percent increase, not a 1.3 percent loss -- more than 10 percent down. Unless IDC changes its definition of "PC," of course.

The only saving grace? Some smart manufacturers -- like Lenovo -- are bowing to corporate wishes and (according to unnamed sources quoted at The Channel) now deliver more new PCs with Windows 7 installed than Windows 8. That could make a difference.

What does all this mean for Windows 8? Consider the following: China is the world's largest PC market. Lenovo's going gangbusters in China; indeed, it's poised to overtake Hewlett-Packard as the world's biggest PC manufacturer. A significant percentage of all the Lenovo PCs sold in Asia don't have Windows pre-installed.

Nevertheless, I predict Microsoft's going to trot out fantabulous Windows 8 sales figures next month. Perhaps offering a discount on Windows 8/Office 2013 bundles -- as Best Buy did -- will help. Maybe the rumors are true and Microsoft will cut the price of Windows 8 and/or Windows RT for manufacturers. But after this quarter, Microsoft will lose one of its major accounting tricks for shifting sales numbers, and starting next quarter -- April through June -- we should see Win8 sales figures that are closer to reality.

We won't really have any indication of actual Windows 8 sales levels until next quarter -- unless Microsoft starts fudging next quarter for Windows Blue sales.

This story, "Predicted nosedive in PC shipments spells trouble for Windows 8," was originally published at 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 on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.