Life is good!

It was a different CONTEXT Channel teleconference today. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and not only were the CONTEXT Distribution Panel revenues up 9.6% to €11.5bn in the second quarter of 2014 compared to the same period last year, for the first time in years we had good news about the PC market.

“But I thought PCs were dead?” I can hear you say. “Do they still exist?”

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and his unseasonal gift to PC makers the world over was to end support for Windows XP in April 2014. In the data tracked by CONTEXT covering distribution sales across Europe, the second quarter of the year saw desktop sales up 37%, workstations up 61%, barebone PCs up 107%, and even notebook PC sales up 12%. And most of this down to the fact that Microsoft’s workhorse operating system, Windows XP, had its life support system switched off in an attempt to force millions of happy users over to Windows 8.1.

In terms of hardware sales, it’s worked because many organisations are taking this opportunity to refresh their technology and get better and faster desktop PCs. But in terms of forcing the adoption of Windows 8.1, it hasn’t worked, and the customers are voting with their hardware suppliers by opting for the joint Windows 7 operating system with the option to upgrade to Windows 8.1.

In fact, the CONTEXT numbers as presented in today’s conference clearly show the Windows 8 share of all Windows-based operating systems declining from an average of 23% in March 2013 to around 10% this quarter, while the Windows 7/8 hybrid peaked at 60% share at the end of last year, and the new Windows 7/8.1 bundle at over 25% in June 2014, giving the combined products a total share of over 70%.

And be careful what you wish for… forcing users to change can have unexpected effects, things can happen that were not part of The Plan. For instance, a recent press report highlights an increased interest, from business users both large and small, in the virtual desktop. I’ll bet that was on nobody’s radar!

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