Marshall thought that PC shipments could decline as much as 10% to 20% over the next three to five years before stabilizing.
Dell's Gladden also mentioned upgrades to Windows 7 — by Microsoft's estimate, a third of enterprise computers still run the 12-year-old Windows XP — as a ray of hope. "I think you continue to see Windows 7 [upgrades] on the commercial side of the business," Gladden said. "It's driving a refresh cycle."
That flew in the face of earlier Dell assertions: In the March filing with the SEC, Dell said "unexpected slowdowns in enterprise Windows 7 upgrades" was another contributor to its poor PC sales performance.
While some analysts have predicted that the last-minute rush to push Windows XP out the door will boost PC sales in 2013, most believe that migrations have little chance of shaking the industry out of its funk. "Replacements for Windows XP won't be enough to offset the declines on the consumer side," said David Daoud, an analyst with IDC, in an interview last month.
Windows 8.1, which critics have characterized as a retreat — or at best, a relaunch — of Windows 8 forced by the operating system's lackluster sales, and which Microsoft has said is evolutionary and a response to customer feedback, will probably have little to no impact on corporate PC purchases, the part of the market where Dell is strongest, as corporations will largely shun the OS.
Nonetheless, Gladden reiterated Dell's support for Windows, following previous statements by the company that it won't abandon Windows 8 or Microsoft's tablet-oriented offshoot, Windows RT. "It becomes a broader opportunity around touch and how that plays out in the corporate customer base, whether it's tablets or whether it's the next-generation Windows 8 kind of devices," said Gladden. "So, again, it's really up to us to create that opportunity and that ecosystem to drive that growth going forward."
In the first calendar quarter of 2013, Dell was the world's third-largest PC seller, according to IDC, which estimated the Round Rock, Texas company shipped 9 million systems in that period, about 11% fewer than the same quarter of 2012.
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