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For PC manufacturers, 2013 was a tough year — but 2014 might be slightly better.

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Source: Gartner

Shipments of PCs fell 6.9 percent worldwide in Q4 2013 compared to the same period in the previous year, according to a new report by Gartner, marking the end to a year that saw what the research firm is calling the worst sales decline in the history of PCs.

Still, there’s a silver lining in that cloud: Gartner thinks that the decline in the PC market is closing in on hitting bottom in developed markets.

“Although PC shipments continued to decline in the worldwide market in the fourth quarter, we increasingly believe markets, such as the U.S., have bottomed out as the adjustment to the installed base slows,” Mikako Kitagawa, a Principal Analyst at Gartner said in the company’s report. “Strong growth in tablets continued to negatively impact PC growth in emerging markets. In emerging markets, the first connected device for consumers is most likely a smartphone, and their first computing device is a tablet. As a result, the adoption of PCs in emerging markets will be slower as consumers skip PCs for tablets.”

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But while things are looking up in the future, the present is pretty bleak. The decline of PC sales was even more marked in the U.S., which saw a 7.5 percent decline in PC shipments from 2012.

The skies aren’t universally falling, though. Apple, Dell, and Lenovo all saw gains in the U.S. Q4 2013, with Apple’s sales growing by more than 28 percent year over year. Companies are trying out new form factors, including “convertible” laptops that act as both PCs and tablets, as well as units that run Google’s Chrome OS, much to Microsoft’s frustration, in the hopes that new products will help carry them out of the tablet-induced sales doldrums.

What do you think: has the PC market hit bottom, or is there still a ways to go? Let us know in the comments.

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