NEW YORK Global shipments of PCs fell 14 percent in the first three months this year, the sharpest plunge since research firm IDC started tracking the industry in 1994.
The firm said Wednesday that the appeal of tablets and smartphones is pulling money away from PCs, but it also blames Microsoft's (MSFT) latest version of Windows, which has a new look and forces users to learn new ways to control their machines.
Microsoft launched Windows 8 on Oct. 26, hoping to revitalize the PC industry and borrow some of the excitement that surrounds tablets. PC shipments were already falling, but the latest report suggests the decline is speeding up.
"Unfortunately, it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only didn't provide a positive boost to the PC market, but appears to have slowed the market," IDC Vice President Bob O'Donnell said.
Windows 8 is designed to work well with touch-sensitive screens, but the displays add to the cost of a PC. Together, the changes and higher prices "have made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices," O'Donnell said.
Representatives of Microsoft were not immediately available for comment.
Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), the world's largest maker of PCs, saw a 24 percent drop in shipments in the first quarter compared with the same period a year ago. The industry's No. 2, China's Lenovo Group, is benefiting from sales to first-time buyers in China and other developing countries. As a result, it held sales steady, alone among the world's top 5 PC makers, according to IDC's figures.