"Disappointing holiday sales, an underwhelming reception to Windows 8, and continuing economic malaise that further crimped IT budgets marked the face of the market during the second half of 2012, leading to a year-on-year decline of 8.3 [percent] in fourth-quarter shipments, the most substantial decline recorded for a holiday quarter," IDC noted.
The firm said that weakness in the fourth quarter caused it to also cut its view for 2013, though it's still optimistic about Windows 8 and new products later this year.
PC sales have been weak for quite some time, with quarterly results from computer and semiconductor makers reflecting the hard times. The sector is not only being hurt by the weak economy but also by consumers opting for mobile devices instead of traditional PCs. Microsoft's latest OS was expected to boost sales, but it so far appears to be struggling.
IDC noted that 2012 was the first year that emerging markets posted a PC volume decline. Shipments in developing regions are expected to rise this year, but less than 1 percent. That fact doesn't bode well for the PC industry, which has counted on emerging markets demand to buffer weakness in mature markets like the U.S.
"Growth in emerging regions has slowed considerably, and we continue to see constrained PC demand as buyers favor other devices for their mobility and convenience features," IDC analyst Loren Loverde said. "We still don't see tablets...as functional competitors to PCs -- but they are winning consumer dollars with mobility and consumer appeal nevertheless."
Unfortunately for Microsoft, Intel, and the PC makers, this likely isn't the last bad news for the PC sector.