NEW YORK - While Microsoft is touting next week's launch of Windows 8 as the savior of the computer industry, PC makers and analysts are increasingly skeptical that the new operating system will lure consumers away from tablets and smartphones.
Even Intel Corp., which makes the processors at the heart of 80 percent of personal computers, doubts that Windows 8 will have a big impact on sales. CEO Paul Otellini said this week that he's "very excited" about the new operating system but expects the usual holiday bounce in PC sales to be half of what it usually is. Clearly, PC makers are being cautious about building big stocks of Windows 8 PCs.
"We haven't had a chance to really judge how consumers will embrace this in the PC space or not," Otellini said on a conference call with reporters and analysts.
In this June 18, file photo, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer comments on the Windows 8 operating system.
Research firm IHS iSuppli expects the industry to ship 349 million PCs this year, down 1 percent from last year's all-time high. Although small, the decline would be the first since 2001.
In the U.S., a mature market where consumers are gobbling up tablets, PC sales have already been declining for two years.
Meanwhile, Apple has been doubling sales of iPad tablets every year since the first model was introduced in 2010. In the April to June period, Apple shipped 17 million iPads, while Hewlett-Packard Co., then the world's largest maker of PCs, shipped 13.6 million PCs, according to Gartner analysts.