Microsoft can expect Windows device shipments to bounce back over the next two years after suffering a dip in 2013, according to research firm Gartner.
Gartner said that worldwide device shipments for Windows had dropped from 2012's total of 346 million to 327 million in 2013. However, it forecasts a growth of over 10 per cent to 360 million devices in 2014, and a further 18 per cent rise in 2015 to 423 million, which would represent an increase of nearly a third (29 per cent) on the 2013 figures.
If true, the rise of Windows device shipments would spell the end of a slump for Microsoft, but its rivals are also predicted to grow. In the mobile market, Android is forecast to rise from 877 million worldwide device shipments in 2013 to 1.2 billion in 2015. Apple's iOS and Mac OS device shipments are expected to rise from 266 million in 2013 to 397 million in 2015. Google's Chrome had a modest 1.8 million device shipments worldwide in 2013, but this is to grow by more than four-fold to eight million in 2015, according to Gartner.
BlackBerry's slide is expected to continue from 24 million shipments in 2013 to less than half that figure in 2015 - with only 10 million devices predicted to be shipped.
Meanwhile, Windows 8.1 is to get its first update, which aims to bring the code in the PC and mobile operating system platforms into closer alignment, so that it is easier for developers to build apps that can run consistently on both platforms.
Screenshots of the latest update, dubbed Upgrade 1, were released by Russian Windows leaker "WZor". However, the screenshots do not show any new features. WZor said that Microsoft's key OEM partners will get to test the latest upgrade later this month, with a manufacturing release in March, and public availability through Windows Update billed for April 2014.
Microsoft is considering bringing back the old-style Start Menu, but there is no indication that this will be a part of the update, which is likely to include only minor changes.