Ultramobile hybrids and Windows XP upgrades have slowed the bleeding, but the PC slump hasn't ended.
After slumping 9.5% last year, PC shipments will drop only 2.9% this year, according to the latest projections from Gartner. The research firm expects declining PC sales to level off thanks to both Windows XP customers who've upgraded to newer systems, and increased adoption of "ultramobile" laptops and hybrid devices.
"2014 will be marked by a relative revival of the global PC market," said Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal in a statement.
To say the predicted figure represents a PC revival, even a relative one, might be hyperbole. This year's predicted 2.9% drop is relative to last year's disastrous baseline. PC shipments, in other words, are still declining; they just aren't tumbling as rapidly as before.
Moreover, the 2.9% slip includes a number of devices that might not fit all users' notion of a PC. Gartner's overall PC figures include "premium ultramobile" devices, which the firm defines as models that maintain full data-processing capabilities but "extend the notebook usage model toward the tablet by refinement of physical characteristics" that include a light weight and portable size, a smaller screen than most notebooks offer, and instant-on capabilities. Gartner includes many Intel x86-based Windows tablets and Apple's MacBook Air in this category.
If premium ultramobiles are removed from the equation, Gartner expects traditional desktop and laptop PC shipments to drop 6.7% this year, and another 5.3% in 2015. The firm said 296.1 million traditional PCs shipped in 2013, but expects that number to drop to 261.7 million by 2015. At the same time, it expects premium ultramobiles to carve out a strong niche. The devices accounted for 21.5 million shipments in 2013, but Gartner predicts that figure will jump to 32.3 million this year, a 50.2% improvement. In 2015, Gartner expects premium ultramobiles to account for almost one-fifth of all PC shipments, with 55 million units overall.
This article continues on EE Times sister site InformationWeek.com.