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back to article PC sales continue meteoric death plunge through 3rd quarter, drop another 8.6 per cent

The latest figures from Gartner on PC sales will make dispiriting reading for manufacturers; sales for the third quarter are down 8.6 per cent overall, with European sales down nearly 14 per cent. "The third quarter is often referred to as the 'back-to-school' quarter for PC sales, and sales this quarter dropped to their lowest …

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The elephant in the room

Most kids might want am iThingy or an Android tablet... But the main reason PCs ain't selling is still Windows 8. Otherwise the fall would have happened last year!

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Re: The elephant in the room

PC sales have been declining for three years now. Can't blame that on Windows 8.

It is tablets (and to a lesser extent smartphones) that allow people to get their content fix. As a result people can keep their aging PC longer since they don't use it as often, or a multiple PC household can downsize to fewer/one PC.

I'm surprised there are still people who deny this. I guess based on your wording you think tablets are toys and that only PCs can accomplish any proper tasks. For you, maybe that's true, but for a lot of average people, browsing the web, reading email, visiting Facebook and so are what they consider a PC's 'proper tasks'. No advantage to using a PC for any of that.

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Re: The elephant in the room @DougS

Actually, even with smartphones and tablets, I still have demand for PCs at home. Mostly because homework and work stuff can't be done on a tablet, and that's a 17 y/o kid talking, the same demographic where tablets are "da thing of da yoof".

PCs (or Macs, which these days are just fancy PCs with a nice OS) are still needed for real work and I'm not the only one thinking that. Otherwise our clients would have switched to tablets. Yes, the PC lifecycle is now much larger than it used to be, but that was already true by 2007, thus my main PC having hardware dating from that age. Tablets have been eating away at the PC market for years, but the slump took a nosedive (even by analyst predictions) with the release of Windows 8, which is what I was pointing out. Everyone except Microsoft sees it; their attempt to halt the tablet takeover is actually accelerating it!

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Re: The elephant in the room

The pc market stagnated and wasted it's time marketing itself more expensive.

I spent ~£300 in 2007 for a mid level PC, that included hard drives, sound card, DVD drives, etc... This year I'm looking to update it. Just the motherboard, CPU, RAM and GPU are looking to cost £300 and the components only seem to give a 50-75% increase on what I have. It seems alot for a small gain on existing hardware.

It is like ultrabooks, all I wanted was a Netbook with a 1080p screen. Rather than give me that at £200 manufacturer want to sell me a £600 ultrabook. So I bought an Asus Transformer for alot less.

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Re: The elephant in the room

The *other* elephant in the room is NSA PRISM program.

It showed Microsoft cooperating with NSA since 2007, tapping their online services, breaking their own encryption. Microsoft provides 0-day exploits to NSA, who use them in their Fox Acid malware servers to capture PCs.

I find it dumb/incompetent that Microsoft is focussing on Skype as their unique selling point, when surely that's the epitomy of spyware.

So yeh, they reap what they sow.

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Re: The elephant in the room

"But the main reason PCs ain't selling is still Windows 8."

Downvoted for knee-jerk "I hate Microsoft" reaction, rather than looking at how people actually use PCs/devices...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The elephant in the room

Yep, it's all been replaced by better things.

The PC is no longer needed for gaming. A PS4 does a better job with less hassle.

The PC is no longer needed for content consumption. A Nexus7/Nexus10/£59 Asda tablet does a better job with less hassle.

The ONLY area a PC is needed is as content creation, and Windows 8 is a total disaster-zone when it comes to this.

Microsoft have screwed up the PC market, by introducing Metro, and trying to push the PC back to where it's no longer needed, at the expense of usability in it's only true remaining area where is used to be half decent.

If someone wants to clean up, start selling PC's with Windows 7. There is a huge market of people involved in content creation, that are resisting upgrading because of Windows 8.

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Re: The elephant in the room

I think it is by-and-large true to say tablets are toys and that only PCs can accomplish any proper tasks.

Phones/tablets = content consumption

PCs = content generation

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Re: The elephant in the room @ AC 08:18

The PC is no longer needed for gaming. A PS4 does a better job with less hassle.

Really, your going to trot this out? A PS4 IS a PC. Have you even looked at the "consoles" of today. Just an underpowered PC (especially when it come to gaming). The "new" consoles do not even beat hardware that a real gamer has let alone struggling to beat old hardware like mine.

The PC is no longer needed for content consumption. A Nexus7/Nexus10/£59 Asda tablet does a better job with less hassle.

I totally agree, these devices were made with consumption in mind. The ease of use and mobility makes casual consumption much better on these devices. And as that is what most people do this and the fact that PCs from years ago are still powerful enough is why sales are falling. No need to replace unless your a gamer (or Content Creation etc.).

If people are resisting upgrading because of Windows 8 then more fool them. It runs better than 7. Although I personally like the Metro interface (it needs some polish in certain areas) MS should have released 8 and given people the option to choose their interface.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: The elephant in the room

Downvoted for the head in the sand comment.

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Stop

Re: The elephant in the room

It is tablets (and to a lesser extent smartphones) that allow people to get their content fix. As a result people can keep their aging PC longer since they don't use it as often, or a multiple PC household can downsize to fewer/one PC.

I'm surprised there are still people who deny this.

I don't think most people do deny that.

What they do deny is that this means that in the future people will want to use only phones and tablets and that the desktop PC market is therefore dead. What is happening is that people are spending their limited domestic IT budget on new shiny gadgets rather than upgrade the PC, but once most people have a phone and a tablet that they like they will again have money for a new PC.

However, I'm sure some people are saying "If I buy a new PC it'l come with that festering heap of poo called Windows 8 ... so I think I'll buy an iPad instead this year and hope that Windows 9 will be OK".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The elephant in the room

" the desktop PC market is therefore dead. "

Anyone who says it's dead is daft.

Anyone who thinks the domestic and commercial PC market will not be shrinking year on year for the foreseeable future is equally daft.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The elephant in the room @DougS

The highest ever quarterly sales of PCs were in the third quarter of 2011 when 96 million sold.

This year's third quarter PC sales described in the article were 80 million.

Next year I would anticipate that figure to go down to around 70 million.

Smart phones and tablets are more "personal" than the traditional PC because they are always with you, instant on, genuinely portable and the batteries last all day.

Simplicity and ease of use helps too.

From a devloper point of view, there are expected to be 1.2bn of these new "personal" device sold in 2013 compared with 330m traditional PCs.

Email is gradually evaporating onto Facebook and equivalents, best consumed on new PCs. Likewise games are evaporating into the Internet. It is easier for a developer to become rich from writing viral mobile apps rather than traditional shrink-wrapped PC applications - which I expect may worry Microsoft most of all.

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@DanielB Re: The elephant in the room @DougS

I'm not saying the PC market will go to zero, only that it will continue to decline because some people who formerly needed a PC to do what they do now can do it with a tablet or a smartphone, and others need fewer PCs in their home than they previously did. Or those who have only one use it less often, and therefore will consider it less of a priority to upgrade.

All these things reduce demand for PCs, and account for the sales drop and will continue to account for further sales drops. They won't go to zero, or anywhere close to zero, but just because you still have demand for PCs in your home doesn't mean that my reasoning is wrong. Reg readers aren't typical, nor does the fact that some people have just as many PCs as they used to imply that the same is true for everyone.

At least now we've gone from denying there is a sales drop and claiming it was inaccurate data collection, to blaming the decline in PC sales on 'the economy', to acceptance that there really is a fall (since it is accelerating and becoming too large to ignore) Originally the claim was that after Windows 8 was released sales would jump up again, because the touch features, Ultrabooks etc. were something a lot of people were waiting for. When sales continued to drop, peopl try to blame it on Windows 8 sucking, ignoring that sales went up even following Vista's release! If Windows 9 comes out in a year or two and is seen as being at least as good as 7's release was, and PC sales continue to decline, I wonder what the excuse will be then? Or maybe it will be, "the fall in sales is over, they'll grow next year". Some people will always live in denial.

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Re: The elephant in the room

"PC sales have been declining for three years now. Can't blame that on Windows 8"

Delaying a computer purchase because a new OS is around the corner would seem reasonable.

Continuing to delay a computer purchase because what came round the corner is fugly also seems reasonable.

My main PC is coming up to 4 years old (just checked the SSD has racked up 22k7 power on hours). That is the longest time my main PC has not been replaced or significantly upgraded and my first PC came with MSDOS 1.1.

The main reason is that I have always maintained a x 2 performance increase is required to be really noticeable and worthwhile and spending a pile of money today would barely get me a x 2 increase.

If there was a new OS that I actually wanted to run then installing on a new PC would have some attraction, maybe enough to convince me to spend that pile of money.

So Windows 8 is part of the problem. Faltering Moore's law is part of the problem. Tablets are a big part of the problem, although not for me. I got a couple of android tablets to play with, just checked and the both have flat batteries, I can hardly be arsed to charge them any more.

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Re: The elephant in the room

If you think that tablets and smart phones are not toys, try typing a 1000 page book on a tablet. Also, tablets and smart phones will always have the bottom end processors do to the fact that the faster processors will always generate more heat that can be safely handled. Upper end gaming and large databases will always need PC's. Also I enjoy watching a moving on my PC with it's 25 inch screen a whole lot more than watching that same Netflix movie on my Iphone 4 with it's tiny screen.

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Pint

Re: The elephant in the room

I heard Toshiba sell well over 90% of their laptops with Windows 7...clever Japs..

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Re: The elephant in the room

"If you think that tablets and smart phones are not toys, try typing a 1000 page book on a tablet. Also, tablets and smart phones will always have the bottom end processors do to the fact that the faster processors will always generate more heat that can be safely handled."

Have you people forgotten what industry you work in? Or has it been so long now that you truly do not realize?

I heard all these same arguments 30 years ago about the PC when it was a "microcomputer."

You wanna type a 1000 page book on your tablet? Get a bluetooth keyboard and have at it! Wanna watch a movie? Miracast or an HDMI cable throws that tablet image right up to your 60 inch television.

As far as procesors go (and this is really a large part of the decline of the PC), how much more power do you really need? Maybe a better way to put it is: how much more power does the average user really need? The reality is, with a few niche exceptions, we just don't need space heaters anymore.

Granted, there are a few issues to be solved in mobile (could I please have a local print subsystem!?), but those solutions are coming and the need for a PC is going.

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Re: The elephant in the room

henrydddd wrote

"I enjoy watching a moving on my PC "

--------------------------------------------------------------------

A moving what?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The elephant in the room @ AC 08:18

"A PS4 IS a PC"

No it's not. You can't just look at the CPU and GPU and decide it's a PC, and it will perform like a PC. That's like looking at the wheels and steering wheel and assuming you must be looking at a car..

The PS4 has no northbridge, and has no constraints on it to keep backwards compatibility with 1980's IBM PC standards.

The PS4 is also a standard configuration. that alone will trump anything the PC can do, and by itself will lead to a 2x + performance boost by code being to able to target a standard configuration.

Given the lack of any northbridge bottlenecks (or any of the other PC compliant bus bottlenecks), and a massive available bandwidth between the GPU and CPU thanks to the GDDR5, the PS4 will push out visuals that a current high end PC can only dream of. I suggest going back to burger flipping, rather than trying to pretend you are a technology expert based on what you read on some Internet gaming forum about console design.

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Pint

PCs are horrible

Sometimes necessary, but hugely inconvenient and with many annoying flaws. Too much maintenance. Like driving a tractor trailer to the store to buy milk. If I can use a tablet, I will.

Thing is, if they made a dozen simple changes to PCs (Windows), they'd solve this. I'd like to smack MS upside the head for not seeing the bleeding obvious. Oh god, please put me on a consumer panel...

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Re: PCs are horrible

"Sometimes necessary"

Well for anyone doing an actual job of creating something, tablets are pretty much useless. So if we want to the world to carry on existing as it is we're going to keep needing PCs (or Macs I guess).

"but hugely inconvenient and with many annoying flaws"

Not if you're creating something. Tablets are badly flawed from that point of view.

"Too much maintenance."

Not really, its just that the mobile platforms like iOS, Android and the like don't get updated often enough. Android in particular is truly dreadful; it's full of security horrors, and there's not much the average user can do to rectify them. PCs don't require too much maintenance; Android does too little. Apple, Microsoft and Blackberry all push out regular updates too, and as the hackers get their teeth into these platforms the need for regular update cycles will increase.

I suspect that the decline in the market is caused by two separate things. First, no one likes Windows 8; anyone with enough cash is probably going to buy a Mac instead. Second, most people only ever used PCs for content consumption, and having discovered that you can do that quite happily on a mobile device they suddenly find they don't need a PC.

Thing is, we will always need PCs, and they're only affordable because the market is so large. But if that market dwindles too much then PCs will start costing a lot of money. And where does that leave the people who actually need one for creating all that stuff that everyone else wants to watch, play or run?

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Re: PCs are horrible

I have two PCs (one for gaming). One came with Windows 8, the other had Windows 7. After installing Start8 and ModernMix, the Windows 8 machine became quite tolerable. It boots to the desktop, I have the start button and start menu back, and I never have to look at any horrible tiles or their unwanted app store.

In fact, Windows 8 is now so tolerable that I have upgraded the other machine.

As an added bonus, I will soon have access to DirectX 11.2, which is a Windows 8.1 exclusive.

As for tablets - good luck playing Battlefield 4 or using Visual Studio on your iPad or Android tablet.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: PCs are horrible

"where does that leave the people who actually need one for creating all that stuff that everyone else wants to watch, play or run?"

Using iThings?

No I'm not a worshipper at the Church of Jobs, I don't have or want a single iGadget, but the longer the Wintel vendors ignore the fact that a lot of Apple stuff is seen by ordinat people as being stuff that "just works", and Wintel stuff is seen as the domain of the IT department that "never quite works", the worse off the Wintel vendors will end up.

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Pint

Re: PCs are horrible

"...doing an actual job of creating something, tablets are pretty much useless."

Yes yes yes, you're right. I wasn't clear. I was referring to *home* but I forgot to make that clear. My bad - sorry.

At *work* one needs a PC. And we thankfully have IT staff to take care of them.

At home, Daddy is the IT staff. Boring!! Tedious!! Why can't I get on the Internet? Oh, another iTunes update coming through without asking, plugging up the narrow pipe.

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Windows

Where are all the denialists now?

"The PC isn't dead."

Ha!

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Stop

Re: Where are all the denialists now?

The PC isn't dead and never will be. It will evolve, as all tools do over time; and it will be (and is being) supplemented by other tools, such as tablets, etc; but there will always, always be a place for a computing tool with the most possible power, with a full-size keyboard for speed (hunt and peck simply will not do), and a full-size monitor (or some means of large display, whether that is a projection or a screen).

Will the overall numbers go down? Of course. Will the size of the PC boxes continue to shrink? Of course. Does that mean that everyone will completely migrate to hunt and peck keyboards, or speaking interfaces? That's ridiculous.

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Mushroom

Maybe Leo was right

Selling off the HP PC hardware business probably was the right call. It's a business in terminal decline, and selling it two years ago would have netted a peak valuation. Unless HP can find an alternative product for the PC business to sell, where will it be in 5 years time? Another loss making division they don't need, and can't sell (as nobody will buy it, unless it's almost given away), that will have to be closed down at significant cost?

He was still wrong about Autonomy though... that deal will never come right in a million years!

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Re: Maybe Leo was right

Unfortunately, the right call would have been for HP to get out of the PC business in the 1990s and not buy Compaq in the first place.

Still, better late than never (if they're lucky).

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Happy

Fuss about nothing?

I don't get this hang up with form factor?

To get the easy out of the way first: Businesses don't need any more from a PC than they did 5 or more years ago. So they don't need replacements (even when software companies try to force them). However, all of this new mobile IT-Kit is great for business transformation and they are buying a shed load of that. I think that the PC replacement cycle got much longer and fewer roles will need a PC (when a phablet will do).

As for consumers ... You could argue that the same has happened? Few new games appear to have necessitated a major upgrade in tech, in the last few years? My gaming rig is mostly 4 years old and still well able to cope.

But I'm not sure that's the major reason for the slide? ... Once up on a time, not so long ago, the only device you could buy was a PC. I always understood it to be great, because it was designed to allow a multitude of tasks to be performed. It could be as successfully used in accountancy as in graphics design, web surfing or playing games. It was the only box you needed, for whatever you wanted to do.

Except it only lived in that dimly lit temple (if you lived with your parents, in your bedroom), or in the room used only infrequently for other things - a spare bedroom, or that weird space between the kitchen-diner and the lounge - to be worshipped at, one at a time, by whichever member of the family was high priest for that couple of hours.

That's not how life worked before PCs. Only while PCs were the best/only way of accomplishing tasks. Now kit is much, much, much cheaper than it was - and much more portable, as with most products in most markets (stuff gets smaller) - people can go back to behaving more like they did before PCs ... but still use IT.

The only mob that appear to have been - and, worse, still are - surprised; are the companies who have-made/make most of their money selling only the massive, complex box that (still) needs a room of its own.

Couple with all of that, consumerism (to want more stuff), and it's pretty easy to see why people are acquiring 4 gadgets where once one sufficed (indeed, was the only option).

eBook Readers.

People keep telling me that my Kindle is a waste of money. I could do all that on the tablet that I don't own. And I could ... or on my notebook/PC/phone (but not on my Xbox); and I do own all those. But, if I want to read a book, only my Kindle doesn't suggest that I do something else instead.

The traditional PC isn't dead; a powerful, multi-use, complex box of stuff is going to be wanted, by some. But some is not all. And, for most functions that most people want to do, there's a more appropriate form factor available. And because those alternatives will most often be used in public, they are much more subject to the vagueries of fashion and branding than a box in your bedroom ever was.

Question: At the point a computer more powerful than your current desktop pc is smaller than the current iPhone and comes with holographic displays, keyboards and controllers; will it still be called a phone just because it can be used to make calls?

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Re: Fuss about nothing?

"Question: At the point a computer more powerful than your current desktop pc is smaller than the current iPhone and comes with holographic displays, keyboards and controllers; will it still be called a phone just because it can be used to make calls?"

For now, at least, yes. Consider the power of the current smartphone as compared to the desktop PC of ten years ago.

In time, phones and tablets will blur together almost completely (particularly as flexible displays become cost efficient). Then, maybe, we won't call them phones anymore. Or maybe the name is just stuck...

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All this fuss about Lenovo, HP and Dell. For me the Samsung ATIV Books look better. There's no chance I'd consider any Windows 8.x tablet rather than a 15" or larger clamshell laptop.

Gimme a tablet running ChromeOS, and I might jump. Otherwise, no interest in tiny screen tablets. Samsung again a possible answer with the Galaxy Note 3, but I'll wait for them to drop the faux leather.

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FAIL

PC decline, a function of Microsoft marketing

In my opinion, Microsoft is willfully killing the PC in hopes it will force PC users to tablets and they can scoop them up because of user familiarity with the Windows branding. Instead MS has pissed off all those would-be potential users.

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Silver badge

Multiple reasons

Win 8 (don't try and deny it)

Other devices (PC to Internet is no longer the monopoly)

Corporate spending still lagging

Longer life of PCs (bought mine 4 years, still see no need to buy a new one nor for at least another year and even then I'll just DIY upgrade)

Market cycle (I've this ever since the first IBM PCs)

So there are many reasons sales are declining. But is the PC dead? Don't bet on it.

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Re: Multiple reasons

Take up of desktop virtualisation and wider use of thin client technology within business will also be denting the traditional PC sale.

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I'd be curious to see if this is pre-built PC's only or custom PC's as well, HP and Dell have always been focused on the mass consumer market (and come preconfigured and filled with cr*p) so I could imagine they'd see a die off when more casual users no longer require them and use things like tablets instead.

Places like Overclockers and other third party manufacturers seem to be doing ok on a casual glance.

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German Ubuntu + Steam

I'd like to see the effect of Steam's Linux machine on the German market.

I think it's Munich that's pushing for Ubuntu.

Once you get a PC that has its own mass appeal content without restrictions or Windows 8 will that kick start an ailing market?

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Unhappy

Windows 8 tested

I just bought a HP laptop with Win 8 installed. Just thought I would share the experience.

No start button and no menu to find programs like in previous versions of windows.

Instead of this, you are presented with a screen suitable for touch screen operation with large icons for ALL of your installed programs all crammed into the same screen. Even after removing the stuff you don't care about, when looking for a program to launch, you have to visually search all of the icons for the one you want, which is incredibly unnecessary. If all you have is one or two programs like email and IE, then it's probably ok, but power users won't like it one bit.

The other option is to set the programs you want to run on the taskbar, like in Win7. That part is ok, except it shouldn't be necessary in the first place.

You can move back and forth between the screen full of program icons and a screen which looks much like the old Win7 screen, except it's missing the start button etc.

Shutting down or restarting: you can press the power button, but it doesn't give me any option to restart, shut down, etc like before. It just starts shutting down. That by itself wouldn't be a problem, except trying to find the option to shut down is a hassle. You have to move the mouse to a corner and wait a second or two for an option pane on the right to show up, which has several options.

Suffice it to say that these problems alone are enough to drive you up a wall! It's no wonder that people hate Win8 so much. Whoever was responsible for trying to "fix" something that wasn't broken in the first place ought to be fired. There wasn't a thing wrong with Win7 start button and the menus underneath it. If they had just given the user the option upon 1st startup to use the old familiar Win7 or use the touch-screen model, there would be no problems at all.

Win 8 runs good, it runs smooth, and some of the new tools seem to be better than Win7. If they can allow users to use a more Win7-like interface that they're already used to, they might have a winner; but Win8 as is is a huge loser IMO.

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