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Windows 8 a further drain on flagging PC sales

IDC said global PC shipments fell 14 percent in the first quarter as shoppers turned to smartphones and tablets.

Kin Cheung/Associated Press

IDC said global PC shipments fell 14 percent in the first quarter as shoppers turned to smartphones and tablets.

SAN FRANCISCO — The ailing personal computer market is getting weaker, and it’s starting to look like it will never fully recover as a new generation of mobile devices reshapes the way people use technology.

The latest evidence of the PC’s infirmity emerged Wednesday with the release of two somber reports showing unprecedented declines in the sales of desktop and laptop machines in the first quarter.

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If that news weren't troubling enough for PC makers, it appears that a pivotal makeover of Microsoft’s Windows operating system seems to have done more harm than good since the software was released last October.

‘‘This is horrific news for PCs,’’ said BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis. ‘‘It’s all about mobile computing now.’’

First-quarter shipments of PCs fell 14 percent from the same time last year, according to International Data Corp. That’s the deepest quarterly drop since the firm started tracking the industry in 1994. Another research firm, Gartner Inc., pegged the first-quarter decline at 11 percent.

The deviation stemmed from the firms’ slightly different definitions of PCs.

No matter how things are parsed, this is clearly the worst shape that the PC market has been in since IBM Corp. released a desktop machine in 1981.

In an attempt to keep the PC relevant, Microsoft released a radical new version of Windows last fall. Windows 8 has a completely new look that’s similar to the design of the software running the most popular smartphones and tablet computers. The overhaul requires a relearning process, a leap that many consumers and corporate buyers aren’t ready to take.

All signs so far point to Windows 8 being a flop.

‘‘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.

The newest version of Windows is designed to work well with touchscreens, but the displays add to the cost of a PC.

Representatives of Microsoft Corp. were not immediately available for comment.

Microsoft shares fell 63 cents, or 2 percent, to $29.65 in extended trading, after the release of the report. They had gained 67 cents in regular trading.

Hewlett-Packard Co., 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 number two player, 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 five PC makers, according to IDC’s figures .

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