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PC market not as bad as previously thought, IDC says

Market researcher revises its prediction for global PC shipments in 2014, but it still expects a decline.

Chromebooks expected to help buoy PC shipments in 2014.. CNET

The outlook for the global PC market is bleak, but not quite as bad as previously predicted, according to a revised forecast released Wednesday.

Worldwide PC shipments will decline by 3.7 percent in 2014, market researcher IDC predicted Wednesday, an improvement over the 6 percent decline the analyst firm predicted for the market in June. PC makers are now expected to ship 303 million units this year, down from last year's 315 million, IDC said.

Business spending is still the main market driver, but IDC said its revision was based on upgrades after the end of support for Windows XP, growing sales of Chromebooks in the education sector, and declining competition from large tablets.

"Programs to reduce PC prices, such as Windows 8.1 with Bing, have helped to improve PC shipments in some segments," Jay Chou, IDC senior research analyst, said in a release.

"Coupled with a shift toward more mobile PCs, the market has seen a quickened pace of innovation and a focus on price points," Chou said. "Nevertheless, the prospects for significant PC growth in the long term remain tenuous, as users increasingly see PCs as only one of several computing devices."

PC demand could get a boost next year from the Windows "Threshold" operating system, which is expected to be christened "Windows 9" when it's released in the spring of 2015. While IDC cautioned that it was hard to gauge the impact of the new OS until more is known about its advantages over Windows 8, Threshold is expected to include features designed to improve Windows' usability on nontouch devices.

Despite the revised prediction for 2014 PC shipments, IDC doesn't expect a rebound in the near future. Its outlook for global PC shipments in 2018 is 291 million units, suggesting a narrower rate of decline for the next four years.