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Saturday, 13 April 2013

Microsoft Windows XP, Office 2003: Sounding the Alarm for Their Sunset

Microsoft urges businesses to upgrade as it prepares to cut support for its 11-year-old OS within a year. Time is running out.

On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will end support for its venerable Windows XP desktop operating system, along with Office 2003. In a year, users will face the choice of upgrading to more recent versions or risk running software that will no longer be patched to counter newly unearthed vulnerabilities and the security threats that inevitably follow.In a post in The Official Microsoft Blog, editor Jeff Meisner detailed what the impending support cut-off date means for XP and Office 2003 users."Starting April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer provide support for Windows XP users. This means that customers and partners will no longer receive security updates to the operating system or be able to leverage tech support from Microsoft after this time," wrote Meisner.The solution, he said, is an upgrade away. "Moving away from Windows XP to a more modern platform in Windows 7 and Windows 8 will ready your IT infrastructure for future technology solutions and growth of your company," added Meisner.

But this is easier said than done. Recent data from Web traffic analytics firm Net Applications indicates that despite its age, XP remains a popular OS.

In March 2013, Windows XP was second only to Windows 7 in Net Applications' OS rankings. XP maintained its grip on 38.73 percent of the OS market in March, shedding just 0.26 percentage points from the previous month. By comparison, Windows 7 holds 44.73 percent of the OS market while Windows 8 makes up just 3.31 percent (including Windows RT).
Windows XP owes its longevity to several factors, some of which Microsoft had no control over. An economic downturn put the brakes on upgrades for many consumers, and XP's popularity in emerging markets helped keep the user base robust. Despite a splashy debut, its successor, Windows Vista, failed to catch on, cementing XP's place atop the OS market.
Eager to put the Windows XP era to bed, the software behemoth is pleading with companies to start making upgrade plans for the sake of their IT budgets and the security of their corporate data.
"While end of support for Windows XP is still one year away, the migration process can take some time and may be costlier the longer you stay on Windows XP, ultimately putting your business at risk. The security landscape is ever-changing and new threats are coming to fruition every day, so it is critical that businesses ensure they protect their data and IP against the latest threats by deploying a modern Windows platform," wrote Windows senior director Erwin Visser in an April 8 blog post.
To sweeten the deal—at least for smaller enterprises—Visser revealed a promotion, which Microsoft referred to as its Get2Modern offer. From now until June 30, small and midsized businesses can save up to 15 percent on up to 249 licenses of Windows 8 Pro and Office 2013 Standard, each.

Averail Access Management Platform Aimed at BYOD Businesses

Access is a cloud-based platform, and does not store content in the cloud, connecting to the places where business documents are already stored.
Secure mobile content service provider Averail announced the market availability of Access, a mobile content security platform designed to offer mobile access to business content for the enterprise by leveraging existing infrastructure.Access combines a Web-based management portal for administrators to control content on mobile devices with an application deployed on these devices that enables employees to browse, manage, share and search for files located in enterprise content repositories behind a firewall or in the cloud.The platform offers a level of content controls, providing granular policies and protection by safeguarding mobile content on the mobile device with 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) security managed by the enterprise. Access does not copy or sync content, which the company says eliminates the need to deploy new or redundant storage for mobile employees. The Access mobile application for the Apple iPad lets employees browse, manage and edit business documents, such as documents stored in Microsoft SharePoint, Office 365 or Dropbox."We're all aware of the dangers of BYOD [bring your own device] and the possible breach of security that's potentially rampant as a result," Ben Hoffman, an IDC analyst, said in a statement. "Enterprise IT is playing catch-up. Lots of companies have jumped on the bandwagon to offer up their solutions and services."

Still, up until now, many companies have tackled extensive IT admin control over the device itself, but few companies have succeeded at addressing the problem around comprehensive content management, Hoffman said. He called Averail "a strong entrant into this space."

The cloud-based platform does not store content in the cloud, but instead connects to the places where business documents are already stored, providing direct access through authentication. The platform was also designed for those with strict corporate governance or regulatory requirements over information, such as financial, health care or insurance professionals, a company release noted.
"Today's workforce has gone mobile, but business content has not. To stay productive, employees are finding workarounds that can compromise corporate security," Averail CEO Marc Olesen said in a statement. "IT not only has the challenge of securing and managing the devices employees are bringing into the enterprise, they also must securely mobilize business content. Averail Access helps IT rein in content chaos, keeping sensitive enterprise content secure while delivering mobile productivity for employees."
Ninety percent of U.S. employees used their personal smartphones for work within the past year, yet only 46 percent believe their employers are prepared for any issues that could arise from BYOD, according to a March study in which a network of Cisco partners polled 1,000 consumers.
The survey indicated security issues go deeper than password protection and WiFi access. A large number of BYOD users don't even consider that their phones' Bluetooth discoverable modes may still be on, and 48 percent of work smartphone users haven't disabled the feature on their devices.

Small-Business Sales Rise, but Uncertainty Remains

Small-business sales increased 56 percent in the first quarter of 2013 as compared with the first quarter of 2012.

While the large jump in small-business transactions is a positive sign for the future, some uncertainty exists regarding the remainder of 2013, according to the latest report from Web-based business-for-sale marketplace BizBuySell.
Small-business sales increased 56 percent in the first quarter of 2013 compared with the first quarter of 2012, the survey found. In total, 1,897 closed transactions were reported in the first quarter of 2013, a "dramatic" bump over the 1,218 recorded in the same period of 2012. The figure, which represents the highest number of businesses sold in a quarter since the second quarter of 2008, is also the largest such increase since small-business sales bottomed out in mid-2008.
"Since the economic downturn in 2008, we've been waiting for a time when buyers and sellers finally felt ready to re-enter the business-for-sale market," Curtis Kroeker, group general manager of BizBuySell and BizQuest, said in a statement. "The continued strengthening of business performance, the resolution of the uncertainty of both the presidential election and (to a large degree) the fiscal cliff, and the strong stock market appear to be creating such an environment."
Business brokers were cautiously optimistic in the survey, with 54.2 percent of brokers expecting slight to significant improvement going forward, and another 13.4 percent said they expected no change from the current activity level. When asked what factor is most endangering economic recovery, 31.8 percent cited the national debt and ongoing political gridlock. Small-business and personal tax rates came in second, cited by 17.5 percent of respondents, while both small-business health care costs and ongoing long-term unemployment received 12.3 percent of votes each.

"A number of factors appeared to have fueled a spike in business sales this quarter," Kroeker continued. "We expect small-business health to continue to improve. However, time will tell if it will result in high transaction volumes for the rest of the year or if the market will return to the slow but steady road to recovery we saw in 2012."

As the stock market and overall economy have improved, so have the financials of small businesses across the country. The improved financial health of small businesses is enabling sellers to ask for more money from buyers. The report revealed the median asking price for businesses sold in the first quarter was $199,000, a 10.6 percent increase over the first quarter of 2012.
Issued quarterly, the company's Insights Report includes information on how business successions fared in the fourth quarter of 2012 and for the full calendar year for 2012. The report is based on listed businesses and by reports from business brokers on completed sales. In the final three weeks of December, small-business sales climbed 43.4 percent over the same period in 2011, and the report noted it is likely that many additional deals carried over to the first quarter of 2013.
"Small-business financial indicators have been on the rise for some time now, and with many of the metrics reaching levels not seen since the 2008/2009 downturn, there is little doubt the improved health is helping push the jump in small-business exit transactions," Kroeker concluded. "Hopefully this trend continues increasing owner confidence that they can get a good sale price and buyers excitement to join an improving small-business market."

SMBs Turn to Smartphones, Tablets to Run Their Business

The survey revealed 40 percent of respondents prefer doing business on the Apple iPhone, iPad or iPad mini.

More than one in three small business owners (36 percent) use three or more mobile devices to run their business, according to a survey commissioned by eVoice, a virtual phone number service for small and midsize businesses (SMBs), from j2 Global.
The survey revealed 40 percent of respondents prefer doing business on the iPhone, iPad or iPad mini, and texting is on the rise for small businesses, as 58 percent of respondents text for business at least once a month. Only 33 percent of survey respondents still listen to voicemail from business contacts, and just 18 percent of respondents will listen to voicemail from an unknown number.
"In an increasingly mobile work world, small businesses are finding themselves juggling multiple devices and maneuvering the grey area between their personal and professional lives," Mike Pugh, j2 global vice president of marketing, said in a statement. "With virtual phone systems, small businesses are able to stay connected no matter the device they're using and can do business anytime, anywhere while keeping personal contact information private."

According to the survey, 75 percent of respondents won't share their personal mobile phone number with staff, 81 percent with partners or investors and 82 percent with vendors, reinforcing small businesses owners' desire to filter their personal phone numbers for business contacts. The results also revealed women are 8 percent more likely than men to share their personal mobile phone number.

Small business that use mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and notebooks feel that they have had a positive effect on their companies' productivity, according to a recent Sage North America survey of 490 U.S.-based SMBs. Just 1 percent of businesses using mobile devices felt it had a negative impact on the company's productivity, compared with 85 percent of respondents who said the technology had a positive impact on their business.

According to the 2013 AT&T Small Business Technology Poll also released in March, mobile devices are not only popular among small businesses, but also essential to their success. The survey of 1,000 small businesses nationwide found 98 percent of respondents use some form of wireless technologies in their operations, and two-thirds (66 percent) of small businesses polled indicate that they could not survive—or it would be a major challenge to survive—without it.
It’s not just a growing trend among small businesses—the explosion of mobile devices is a worldwide phenomenon. A recent Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast update projects that by the end of this year, there will be more mobile-connected devices than there are people on Earth, and by 2017 there will be nearly 1.4 mobile devices per capita.

Small-Business Owner Optimism Slides: NFIB

Job creation in the small-business sector was perhaps the only bright spot in the March report.

Small-business optimism ended its slow climb, declining 1.3 points and landing at 89.5 in the March index of the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), after three months of sustained growth, suggesting small-business owners are unable to maintain their positive feelings about growth and the U.S. economy. 
Of the 10 index components, two increased, two were unchanged and six declined. Among the greatest declines were labor market indicators, inventory investment plans and sales expectations. In the 44 months of economic expansion since the beginning of the recovery in July 2009, the index has averaged 90.7, putting the March reading below the mean for this period.
Job creation in the small-business sector was perhaps the only bright spot in the March report, as it was the fourth consecutive month of positive job growth. Owners reported increasing employment an average of 0.19 workers per firm in the month of March—the best reading NFIB has recorded in a year. For the 47 percent of owners who hired or tried to hire in the last three months, 36 percent (77 percent of those trying to hire or hiring) reported few or no qualified applicants for open positions.
However, only 4 percent of owners surveyed characterized the current period as a good time to expand facilities, and the net percent of owners expecting better business conditions in six months was negative 28 percent, unchanged from February but 7 points better than December, the report found.

"After another false start, small-business confidence has sputtered and stalled again. For the sector that produces half the private GDP and employs half the private sector workforce—the fact that they are not growing, not hiring, not borrowing and not expanding like they should be is evidence enough that uncertainty is slowing the economy," NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg said in a statement.

"Virtually no owners think the current period is a good time to expand, because they simply don't know what the future holds," Dunkelberg said. "So why invest? And with the lack of any sustainable fiscal policy or a federal budget, no one's banking that Washington will be at the forefront of any meaningful change. Overall, it appears that there will be little growth coming from the small business half of the economy; as the world economy slows, even big business may suffer."
When it comes to business investment, owners are still in what the report terms "maintenance mode." The frequency of reported capital outlays over the past six months rose one point to 57 percent, rising steadily since January, though by very small amounts. The percentage of owners planning capital outlays in the next three to six months was unchanged at 25 percent.
The report also found that with spending growth weak and excess capacity still widespread, there are few opportunities for small-business owners to raise prices. Seventeen percent of the NFIB owners reported reducing their average selling prices in the past three months (up 1point), and 18 percent reported price increases (down 3points). Seasonally adjusted, the net percent of owners raising selling prices was a negative 1percent, down 3 points. In the months to come, a net 17 percent of owners plan to raise average prices (down 6 points), the report said. 

AirTight Launches WiFi Management Platform

Each user can create multiple dashboards with custom layouts, and choose from widgets to populate the dashboards with needed information.


Secure WiFi solutions specialist AirTight Networks introduced its next-generation HTML5 user interface, a scalable platform designed to help simplify management of WiFi networks and wireless IPS (WIPS) networks for organizations with limited IT resources. 
The AirTight Management Console has been designed to comply with UI standards for Web 3.0 and cloud applications and is usable on a wide variety of Web browsers, operating systems and devices, including Google’s Android platform, Apple iPads and iOS devices and other tablets.
To help simplify user interaction and reduce the time it takes to accomplish a particular task, the entire administration workflow, from managing service set identifier (SSID) profiles and radio properties to defining WIPS policies, creating user accounts and scheduling reports, is streamlined with a hierarchical tile-based organization.
In addition, AirTight's hierarchical location-based policy definition and administration allows consistent policies to be pushed across all or selected group of locations with one click, and everything from dashboards, devices and alerts to role-based administration and reporting can be viewed in the context of the selected location.
"As this latest announcement from AirTight shows, WLAN management belongs in the cloud," Craig Mathias, a principal with the wireless and mobile advisory firm Farpoint Group, said in a statement. "Highly distributed operations clearly benefit from a cloud-based management strategy. AirTight is also pointing the way with a highly customizable UI, multi-platform support, HTML5, and the integration of wireless security and access under a single management console."

Another feature is a configurable dashboard that allows individual users to create a personal workspace and optimize the information display depending on their needs and screen size. Each user can create multiple dashboards, each with a custom layout, and choose from more than 25 widgets to populate the dashboards with the information they need. 
The platform also provides network administrators with a selection of widgets that offer users an assortment of statistics and trends on WiFi performance and wireless security at multiple levels, from access points (APs,) to clients, SSIDs and locations, as well as specific and elastic time durations that can range from hours to months.
"IT management involves so many aspects that it is vital for supporting tools to present simple and intuitive user interfaces, yet still offer the details necessary for the management task to be executed effectively,” Rob Bamforth, principal analyst with IT analytics firm Quocirca, said in a statement. "Customization and configurability are key for IT managers to be able to set out what is most important for their day to day needs."
AirTight WiFi, which was first launched in 2010, is part of the company’s Cloud Services portfolio of products and services, which includes AirTight WIPS. The HTML5 UI is available as part of the AirTight Cloud Services, a company release noted.
"Until now, WLAN administration has required highly skilled IT staff, often needing extensive training and certification by WLAN vendors to use their products,” Kaustubh Phanse, chief evangelist at AirTight, said in a statement. “AirTight wanted to change that and designed a management console that administrators could start using in mere minutes, on their own and get their job done as quickly and simply as possible.” 

iPhone Apps to Help You Plan the Perfect Summer Vacation

Now that the long, cold and dark winter of our discontent has passed, it's time to start looking forward to summer vacation and begin burnishing your list of exotic destinations. Apple's extensive App Store is there to help, featuring an incredible array of applications designed to help you make the most of your travel plans. From flight trackers to language translators, these apps will make your trip easier and more enjoyable, and the best part is that the majority of these apps are free, allowing you to splash out a bit more on a special hotel, meal or souvenir. Many of the free apps available on the site, such as Yelp, give you insider access and tips to the very best restaurants, hotels and attractions for where you are going. Other apps, such as TripIt, help ensure you never forget your beach towel, sunglasses or anything else you might need. While these apps can't guarantee your travel plans will be hassle-free, they can help provide peace of mind when you're on the road, in the air or on the sand. What are you waiting for? Warm breezes, fancy cocktails and culture shock are just around the corner. See what the world holds for you and your travel partners.

T-Mobile iPhone 5, HTC First on AT&T Now Available

Two firsts became available April 12: the T-Mobile iPhone 5 and the first Facebook-as-home-page phone, the HTC First.

T-Mobile today begins selling the Apple iPhone 5—its first-ever iPhone in a market largely controlled by the Apple device—while over at AT&T, the HTC First, otherwise known as "the Facebook phone," is now available.
T-Mobile and HTC each badly need for the phones to be difference-makers.
T-Mobile has put itself on a track for a turnaround. Thanks to AT&T's failed attempt to purchase it in 2011, T-Mobile came into the money and spectrum it needed to begin developing a Long Term Evolution (LTE) network, and last month it finally launched the 4G flavor in seven cities. (As with the iPhone, it was the last of the top-four carriers to count the technology among its assets.)
T-Mobile now has a charismatic new CEO, John Legere, a more interesting marketing campaign and—in an industry that has essentially had two business models for selling smartphones, subsidized or prepaid—a new, more consumer-friendly way of selling phones.

And, of course, after years of rumors and months of waiting, it now also has the iPhone 5, and an updated model, at that. Legere, announcing March 26 that the device would go on sale today, said Apple had updated the device, enabling it to connect on more spectrum bands for an even better user experience.

It can be purchased, by consumers who qualify, for $99 down and 24 monthly payments of $20. It's being sold independent of a data plan, which is contract-free and so can be abandoned at any time. The phone can be upgraded at any time, and if you want to ditch it, there are options for walking away.
T-Mobile, during its fiscal 2012 fourth quarter, lost 515,000 postpaid subscribers. On April 3, it shared preliminary results from its first quarter, which suggest that the above changes are having an impact. During the first quarter, it lost 199,000 postpaid customers—a 61 percent improvement over the fourth quarter and its best branded postpaid churn percentage in four years.
"The best is yet to come!" Legere said in the April 3 statement.
HTC is hoping the same is true for it. Since its heyday with the Evo 4G in the early days of Android, HTC, despite making several nice phones, has been unable to compete against the Samsung PR machine and the Galaxy S line, which has enamored consumers with increasingly larger displays.
HTC's most recent superstar is the HTC One, which includes an impressive and unique camera that wound up being the undoing of HTC's fiscal first quarter. The camera couldn't be made quickly enough by suppliers, and instead of 80 markets during the first quarter the phone launched in just three and HTC posted its lowest profits since it began announcing them in 2004.  
On April 4, Facebook introduced the HTC First, calling it "the first and only smartphone built to feature Facebook Home, which puts your friends at the heart of your phone."
The First puts Facebook Friends' updates and photos on the devices home screen, so the social media feed is the first thing a user sees.
Ovum, which has forecast that social messaging cannibalization of SMS revenues will grow from $32.6 billion in 2013 to more than $86 billion in 2020, has called the First "a great experiment for Facebook," which will gain much if the First is successful and lose little if it's not.
HTC isn't in a great position to deal with a losing device, though if a "Facebook phone" resonates with users, Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu has written that Samsung could sign up to make the next one.
AT&T, for its part, has decided to put its weight behind the First. It's not only the exclusive provider of the phone, but it plans to make it its flagship phone for the spring, according to a report from Cnet. Despite selling the One, and having the Samsung Galaxy S 4 coming soon, AT&T "is promising to give [the First] its most prominent position in stores when it launches," said Cnet.
AT&T will sell the First for $99.99 with a new two-year contract.
Are you planning to buy either device? We welcome your comments below.

T-Mobile Merger Vote, Pushed to April 24, Looks Like a Done Deal

MetroPCS shareholders who objected to Deutsche Telekom's original terms for merging MetroPCS with T-Mobile say they're happy now.

T-Mobile's bid to buy MetroPCS is back on track.
John Paulson, head of Paulson and Co., a hedge fund that's MetroPCS' largest shareholder, has announced that he's pleased with changes to the terms of a deal that would merge MetroPCS, the nation's fifth-largest wireless mobile carrier, with Deutsche Telekom-owned T-Mobile, the nation's fourth-largest carrier.
"While Paulson needs to review the revised proxy statement before making a final decision, Paulson intends to vote for the merger as restructured, the firm said in an April 11 statement, according to Bloomberg.
MetroPCS shareholders were scheduled to vote on the deal April 12, but on April 10 the carrier pushed the vote to April 24 at 8 a.m. Central Time.

Paulson and other shareholders had complained that the terms of the deal favored Deutsche Telekom. Paulson asked that the interest rate proposed in the deal be lowered from 7 percent to 4.2 percent and that the new company's debt be reduced from $15 billion to $6.6 billion.

With the vote nearing, Deutsche Telekom agreed to sweeten the deal for MetroPCS, announcing April 11 that it would lower the interest rate by 50 basis points and the debt to $11.2 billion. It also increased the length of time during which it wouldn't sell shares of the new company from six to 18 months.
It called this its "best and final offer."
P. Schoenfeld Asset Management, a MetroPCS stakeholder that filed a proxy statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission urging other stakeholders to vote against the deal, was also pleased with the new terms. The firm "plans to drop its opposition to the merger," according to Bloomberg.
Bloomberg added that Roy Behren was also happy with the new terms. Behren manages MetroPCS' shareholder Merger Fund, which along with another shareholder, GS Master Trust, had sued MetroPCS executives for behaving "recklessly" and in "disregard for their duties."
Deutsche Telekom and MetroPCS announced Oct. 3, 2012, that the boards of each had unanimously approved a merger. MetroPCS would receive $1.5 billion in cash and a 26 percent share of the new company, compared to Deutsche Telekom's 74 percent.
The new company, they announced, would be the "value leader in wireless with the scale, spectrum, and financial and other resources to expand its geographic coverage, broaden choice amongst all types of customers, and continue to innovate, especially around the next-generation LTE network."
The deal was approved by the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Justice and the Committee on Foreign Investment. MetroPCS' shareholders are the final group whose approval is required for the deal to go through.
While the concession from the German carrier seemed to arrive at the 11th hour, it's actually the group in charge of calculating the votes, many of which were cast prior to April 12.
Bloomberg reported April 10 that with this "early warning" measure in place, Deutsche Telekom could "delay the final tally if victory appears unattainable."
It appears its victory will soon be assured.

T-Mobile iPhone Sales Jam Company Stores in Washington DC, Elsewhere

NEWS ANALYSIS: T-Mobile stores in the Washington, DC area reported huge crowds, long lines heavy demand for the T-Mobile version of the iPhone 5 and older models.
The woman at the Manassas, Virginia, T-Mobile store sounded frazzled. “We’re slammed,” she said, and suggested that if I wanted to buy an iPhone 5 from T-Mobile in the DC area, it might make sense to make an appointment.A salesperson at another T-Mobile store in the Washington suburbs said that the store had to borrow line management ropes and stands from a nearby Best Buy in order to handle the crowds. Another store reported very strong sales a salesperson there said that he was dreading when everyone gets off from work. “I don’t know what’s going to happen then. I hope we’re ready.”The sales staffs at the Washington-area T-Mobile stores said that the fact that they were in an area served by T-Mobile’s newly-launched

LTE seemed to spur a lot of sales. “Everybody wants to know how fast the LTE is,” one salesperson said. “All I know is that it’s really fast.”At each store that I contacted in the DC suburbs there seemed to be amazement at the response to theopening day of iPhone sales for T-Mobile. While at least some of the people working at these stores had at least witnessed the long lines of customers at Apple and AT&T stores in previous months, they’d never actually experienced anything like this.

So why the rush to buy an iPhone 5 from T-Mobile? After all, this phone has been out for six months. You’d think that everyone who wanted one would have it by now. Part of the reason is that T-Mobile is offering features that other carriers aren’t and part of the excitement is that T-Mobile is offering a much better dealthan anyone else including Apple.

The T-Mobile deal works like this. If you want to buy an iPhone from T-Mobile, it will cost you $99 for the 16GB version, plus monthly payments to T-Mobile of $20 per month for 24 months. The net cost, since T-Mobile isn’t charging interest is $579 for an unlocked iPhone. You can buy the same phone, complete with a T-Mobile SIM from Apple, for $649. That’s a $70 discount.
On top of that, there’s no contract. While you still have to pay T-Mobile for the phone they sold you, it’s an unlocked phone, so you can use any GSM nano-SIM. Or you can use T-Mobile’s unlimited plan for $70 per month. That’s also cheaper than the competition.
In addition if you live in one of the areas with LTE (the Washington, DC area for example) then you get better data rates than you get from any other carrier.

IDC Reports 'Worst Ever' Q1 PC Sales, Points to Windows 8


IDC Reports 'Worst Ever' Q1 PC Sales, Points to Windows 8

PC sales during the first quarter were the lowest since IDC started keeping track. Mostly to blame, said the research firm, was Microsoft's Windows 8.
The global PC market, during the first quarter of this year, had its "worst-ever quarter" since IDC began tracking quarterly PC sales in 1994, the research firm announced April 10.While a middling economic climate could take some heat for the results, as could consumer interests shifting to smartphones and tablets, IDC analysts more than anything blamed Microsoft and its Windows 8 operating system. While the market had fingers crossed that the long-awaited new OS would usher in upgrades and device refreshes, it actually had the opposite effect, said IDC."At this point, unfortunately, it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only didn't provide a positive boost to the PC market, it's actually hurt the market," Bob O'Donnell, IDC program vice president, Clients and Displays, said in a statement.O'Donnell said that while some consumers appreciate the new features and touch capabilities in Windows 8, "the radical changes to the [user interface], removal of the familiar Start button and the costs associated with touch PCs have made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices."
Jay Chou, a senior research analyst with IDC, added that users find Windows 8 to offer "a compromised experience that doesn't excel, either as a new mobile interface or in a classic desktop interface."
The result, Chou added, "is that many consumes are worried about upgrading to Windows 8, to say nothing of business users who are still just getting into Windows 7."IDC Research Director David Daoud said that while he was unsurprised by the fall in shipments, he found the magnitude of their drop "surprising and worrisome.""The industry is going through a critical crossroads, and strategic choices will have to be made as to how to compete appropriately with the proliferation of alternative devices," said Daoud.He added that vendors will need to "revisit" their organizational structures and approaches to the supply chain, distribution and product portfolios.The global PC market shipped 76.3 million units during the quarter, which was down 14 percent from a year ago.Hewlett-Packard, falling 24 percent year-on-year, nonetheless led the worldwide market, with a 15.7 percent share. Lenovo, holding steady year-on-year, was hot on HP's heels, with a 15.3 percent share.Dell, Acer and Asus each saw sales fall year-on-year, but maintained 11.8, 8.1 and 5.7 percent market shares, respectively.In the United States, fifth-ranking Lenovo was again the only vendor to not experience negative annual growth. It managed to grow 13 percent, shipping 1.274 million units, for a 9 percent share, essentially tying it with fourth-place Toshiba, which shipped 1.279 million units for its own 9 percent share of the market.HP finished first in the United States, with a 25 percent share, despite a negative 23 percent growth rate, followed by Dell, with a 22 percent share, and Apple, with a 10 percent share of the market.IDC called the U.S. market "dismal," with its shipments at their lowest level since 2006.  While globally, Lenovo's shipments outpaced the market, its shipments in Asia declined, which accounted for its flat growth rate. In Asia, IDC again pointed to Windows 8. Its lukewarm reception there "hampered new shipments," said the report.Microsoft, said IDC's O'Donnell, "is going to have to make some very tough decisions moving forward if they want to help reinvigorate the PC market."