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Is the PC dead?

 According to a recent report, sales of personal computers saw double-digit declines as consumers seek tablets and smart phones.
According to a recent report, sales of personal computers saw double-digit declines as consumers seek tablets and smart phones.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A recent report showed PC sales down 14% and Apple desktop sales flat
  • Consumers increasingly are choosing smaller, cheaper tablets and smartphones
  • Microsoft's mobile-friendly Windows 8 has confused some users
  • But company is working on "Blue," that's reportedly more desktop friendly

(CNN) -- There's a devastating narrative being told about the PC these days: It's dying.

It's not a slow death either. Sales of traditional PCs are collapsing faster than anyone expected.

And this isn't just some vague perception from the anti-Microsoft crowd. This is backed up with real data, most notably in the latest IDC report released this month that says PC sales are down 14% year over year.

The entire market appears to be imploding, and it doesn't just apply to PCs running Windows. Even Apple's Mac computer sales are basically flat year over year, yet its iPad business continues to grow.

So what's going on here? Why aren't people buying regular laptops and desktops anymore?

There are a ton of theories floating around out there, but the consensus seems to be that PC makers still haven't figured out how to leverage the transition into mobile devices.

Perhaps the biggest blame falls on Microsoft. It made a huge gamble with the introduction of Windows 8, a radically different kind of operating system designed primarly for touchscreen devices. Windows 8 replaces your traditional desktop screen with a new touch-friendly start menu that has a lot of people confused.

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IDC's report sums it up nicely:

"While some consumers appreciate the new form factors and touch capabilities of Windows 8, the radical changes to the UI, removal of the familiar Start button, and the costs associated with touch have made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices. Microsoft will have to make some very tough decisions moving forward if it wants to help reinvigorate the PC market."

It's as if Microsoft is eating itself, trying to catch up with the mobile revolution while still packaging its new operating system in pricey hardware that's clearly declining in popularity with consumers. And because Windows 8 tablets are full PCs with expensive components, people are moving to cheaper tablets like the iPad Mini or ones based on Google's Android operating system.

After all, why buy a brand new expensive computer that's difficult to learn when you can get an easy-to-use tablet that can do most of the same stuff at a fraction of the price?

However, there is a small ray of hope for the Microsoft faithful.

Microsoft is gearing up to release a new version of Windows later this year, codenamed Windows Blue. According to several reports, Blue will give users the option to replace the new start screen with a traditional desktop by default. If the reports are true, it would be a smart move, and one that could help ease the transition into modern mobile computing.

The company is also toying around with the idea of making smaller, cheaper tablets that are much more popular with consumers. Microsoft recently issued a statement to its manufacturing partners that Windows 8 will now support smaller screens in the 7-inch range. Plus there are several reports that Microsoft will add such a tiny tablet to its Surface line of devices. You can expect to see a bunch of similar devices from other manufacturers later this year.

Let's be clear though. This game isn't over yet.

Apple hasn't won. Microsoft and Google haven't either. The personal computing industry has been turned on its head, and everyone is still noodling around with strategies on how to adapt. Even the way we define "PC" is changing, and we're getting to the point where there's almost no distinction between mobile and regular computing.

The PC as we know it may be dying, but the PC as it will be is just getting started.

Copyright © 2011 Business Insider.

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