Worldwide PC shipments will continue to fall this year, but the downturn is slowing, according to a study published yesterday by IDC. The market research firm said that shipments of desktop and portable PCs are likely to fall by 6 percent this year, which is slightly better than its earlier forecast of 6.1 percent.

Although a change of 0.1 percent might seem negligible, it could mean the difference between a million units shipped, and could also affect vendor rankings. It also means the forecast will unlikely turn to be more pessimistic than anticipated.

The changed forecast stems from a recovery surge in Western Europe, as well as slightly better-than-expected sales in other markets. Favorable factors for the PC market include slowing tablet demand and steadying economic indicators that are contributing to more stable PC shipments in mature markets.

In addition, Windows XP replacement activity, that has boosted shipments in the past several quarters, is also expected to remain a positive factor in the near future.

However, the outlook for PCs is still bleak in absolute figures. IDC expects 129.7 million desktops to ship this year, down from 136.7 million in 2013. On the other hand, shipments of portable PCs will reach 166.6 million, down from 178.4 million.

By 2018, portable PC shipments are expected to be just slightly up at 168.3 million, while desktop shipments will fall even further to 119 million, the report notes. The research firm expects refresh projects and continued growth in underserved areas to bring modest growth in emerging PC markets by 2016.

It should be noted that IDC's figure takes into account shipments of PCs from manufacturers to stores, and not stores to consumers.