Windows' future looked particularly depressing to Gartner, primarily because the operating system is almost entirely dependent on personal computer shipments, which remain in a slump that increasingly appears unstoppable.
Gartner acknowledged that shipments of PC-like devices will continue to contract. In 2016, the PC market will shrink by 8%, just two-tenths of a percentage point less than the 2015 fall. Yet Gartner was cautiously optimistic that PC shipments would scratch back into a just-barely-positive gain of 0.4% in 2017 and 3% in 2018.
But Gartner has called the bottom of the PC business before. In September 2015, for example, its forecast cited zero growth in PC shipments for 2016 -- the trough, in other words -- and a 4.5% increase in 2017.
Gartner's tallies include personal computers, tablets, hybrids and smartphones, but not other categories like smart watches or streaming devices such as Apple TV.
Shipments of devices powered by Microsoft's and Apple's operating systems will be quite close this year, but Apple should open a gap between it and its rival in 2017 and 2018.
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