Tablets conspire with 'good enough' PCs to nuke Windows 8

So, will that be a $399 tablet or $799 Windows 8 PC? The answer to that question is killing the PC upgrade cycle.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read
The Windows PCs out there are "good enough" and not in dire need of upgrades, IDC said.
The Windows PCs out there are "good enough" and not in dire need of upgrades, IDC said.

Maybe the PC isn't dead, but the upgrade cycle may be at death's door, according to an IDC analyst.

In the wake of very ugly numbers released today by market researchers IDC and Gartner, Windows 8 is getting a lot of the blame.

But there's more going on than just a lack of interest in Microsoft's latest operating system.

The problem begins with the tablet -- a market dominated by Apple's iPad and to a lesser extent Android tablets. "When you buy a tablet you use your PC 25 to 30 percent less. That's what the research tells us," IDC's Bob O'Donnell -- one of the author's of today's report -- said in a phone interview.

"If I use [the PC] less, my need to upgrade decreases," he said, referring to the consumer market.

That doesn't mean consumers will stop buying PCs. It just means purchases will happen a lot less often.

"We are truly in an era of good-enough computing. People are holding on to their machines longer," O'Donnell said.

He continued. "Eventually they do upgrade their PC, but they're going to wait."

Plus, there is no incentive to run out and buy a Windows 8 PC right anyway. The average selling price of a Windows laptop is $599, but touch-capable Windows 8 PCs and hybrids average about $799, according to O'Donnell.

"In the case of Windows 8, they'll wait until they can get a touch machine at a more reasonable price point," he said.

And here's another scary trend for PCs. Chinese consumers' apparent tendency to buy a tablet as their first "PC."

"The China [growth] numbers are off-the-charts low. Is it because those first time buyers are skipping a PC?"

If that is indeed a trend, things may get a lot uglier for Microsoft -- and Intel.