The continuous decline in PC shipments that has been going on for the past two years may have come to an end, showing small signs of recovery in Q4 2014. Two market research companies however disagree about the numbers, but we'll explain in a bit why that doesn't matter.
Estimating global PC sales numbers isn't exactly hard science. Gartner says that shipments in the last three months of 2014 amounted to 83.7 million units - with US seeing the biggest growth, while IDC thinks it was more in the vicinity of 80.8 million total systems that were pushed to customers.
Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, attributes the 1% growth to the fact that "tablets have mostly penetrated some key markets, consumer spending is slowly shifting back to PCs." This trend was also confirmed earlier by eMarketer analysts.
IDC agrees that top PC makers have seen a boost in sales over the last quarter of 2014, but argues that the industry as a whole saw a 2.4% decline compared to the same period in 2013.
The different results reported by IDC are easy to explain since the two research firms have different ways to define what constitutes a PC. IDC for example doesn't count Windows tablet/hybrids such as the Surface Pro 3 but includes Chromebooks, while Gartner excludes any portables other than Windows tablets.
The overall PC market has stabilized in 2014 with Windows 8 and the ending of support for Windows XP, but we'll have to wait and see if Windows 10 finally pushes more growth when it comes out later this year.