Consumer preference for tablets and smartphones sent first quarter global PC shipments down 14 percent to 76.3 million units, according to new numbers from IDC. IDC said the extent of the annual contraction marked the worst quarter since IDC began tracking the PC market quarterly in 1994. 

The results also marked the fourth consecutive quarter of year-on-year shipment declines.

Bob O'Donnell, IDC program vice president of clients and displays, said in a statement that Windows 8 failed to provide a boost to the PC market, and may have even slowed the market.

"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," O'Donnell wrote. 

Here in the United States, the PC market continued to declined, contracting 12.7 percent annually, with a sequential drop of 18.3 percent. With this latest figure, the United States is now in its tenth consecutive quarter of year-on-year contraction, excluding a 2 percent annual growth in the third quarter of 2011.

David Daoud, IDC research director of personal computing said that while the decline wasn't surprising the magnitude of the contraction was.  

"The industry is going through a critical crossroads, and strategic choices will have to be made as to how to compete with the proliferation of alternative devices and remain relevant to the consumer," Daoud wrote. "Vendors will have to revisit their organizational structures and go to market strategies, as well as their supply chain, distribution, and product portfolios in the face of shrinking demand and looming consolidation."

Of all the PC makers, HP remained the top vendor but posted a substantial double-digit decline in shipments. HP's worldwide shipments fell more than 23 percent over the same quarter last year. 

Apple fared better than the overall U.S. market, but still saw shipments drop 7.5 percent over the same quarter last year, as its own PCs also face competition from iPads.