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PC market won't stink as much this year, says Gartner

Worldside shipments of PCs will still drop in 2014 but not as badly as they did last year. And ultramobiles will provide a bit of a boost.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The PC market will stage a small revival this year, according to Gartner.

Peering into its crystal ball, the research firm said Monday that global PC shipments will decline by only 2.9 percent in 2014. That may not sound like a huge cause for celebration. But the outlook is better than last year's drop of 9.5 percent. Gartner's PC figures include desktops, notebooks, and premium "ultramobile" devices.

The PC market has been on a downward spiral for the past few years as more consumers have opted for smartphones and tablets over traditional desktops and laptops. Many people have also been hanging onto their PCs longer rather than refreshing them every couple of years. And the lackluster appeal of Windows 8 failed to give consumers much of a reason to rush out and buy a new computer. So why will 2014 be kinder and gentler to the PC industry? Thank the business community.

"Business upgrades from Windows XP and the general business replacement cycle will lessen the downward trend, especially in Western Europe," Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal said in a statement. "This year, we anticipate nearly 60 million professional PC replacements in mature markets."


Shipments of traditional desktops and laptops will drop from 296.1 million last year to 276.2 million this year and to 261.6 million next year. But ultramobiles will grab more customers, according to Gartner, with shipments rising from 21.5 million in 2013 to 32.2 million in 2014 and 55 million in 2015. An ultramobile, or ultrabook, is defined as a thin, compact, lightweight laptop designed to be used on the go. Apple's MacBook Air is one example.

Tablet shipments, meanwhile, will rise by 24 percent to reach 256 million units. Mobile phone shipments are projected to hit 1.9 billion units this year, up 3.1 percent from 2013. Smartphones will continue to eat up more of the market, as Gartner expects them to account for 66 percent of all global mobile phone shipments this year, rising to 88 percent by 2018.