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PC shipments nosedive worldwide

Shipments sunk last quarter as consumers continued to gravitate toward other devices. But increased purchases of Windows 10 PCs may provide a bounce toward year's end, say Gartner and IDC.

PC shipments stunk last quarter but could catch a break later this year.

The good old PC just can't catch a break.

Global shipments of personal computers tumbled in the first quarter from a year ago, research firms Gartner and IDC said Monday. Based on preliminary data, Gartner pegged the drop at 9.6 percent, while IDC tagged the fall at 11.5 percent. Last quarter was the sixth in a row of declines for PC shipments, Gartner said, and the first time since 2007 that shipments dropped below 65 million units.

The PC market has been plummeting for the past several years as more consumers have opted for smartphones and tablets over traditional desktops and laptops. At the same time, more people have hung onto their PCs longer rather than refreshing them every few years. Microsoft's launch last summer of a new Windows operating system -- normally a driver of PC sales -- hasn't helped much, at least not yet.

Gartner blamed the global downturn on a buildup in inventory from holiday sales in last year's fourth quarter and the weakening of local currencies against the US dollar. IDC tagged it to economic concerns, greater interest in detachable PCs that act as both laptop and tablet, and the free Windows 10 upgrade, which enabled consumers to hold off on new PC purchases.

All five of the top PC vendors -- Lenovo, HP, Dell, Apple and Asus -- saw declines in both shipments and market share, according to IDC.

Gartner differed slightly by estimating a small rise in shipments and share for both Apple and Asus. Lenovo remained the top dog last quarter despite a 7.2 percent drop in all regions except North America where its PC shipments surged by 14.6 percent from last year, according to Gartner.

Regardless of last quarter, good news may be coming.

Large companies are testing and evaluating Windows 10 with major deployments set to start at year's end, Gartner said. IDC also anticipates an upturn later in the year courtesy of Microsoft's new operating system.

"IDC still projects total business IT spending to grow compared to 2015," IDC Worldwide PC Tracker research manager Jay Chou said in a statement, "and as we head toward the end of 2016 things should start picking up in terms of Windows 10 pilots turning into actual PC purchases."