STAMFORD, Conn. ( TheStreet) -- The worst of the recession may be over for PC makers, according to tech research firm Gartner, citing stronger demand in the U.S. and China.

Gartner predicts that worldwide PC shipments are on pace to reach 285 million units in 2009, a 2% decline from 2008, but more optimistic than the company's June forecast, which predicted a 6% decline.

"PC demand appears to be running much stronger than we expected in June, especially in the U.S. and China," said George Shiffler, Gartner's research director, in a statement. "Mobile PC shipments have regained substantial momentum, especially in emerging markets, and the decline in desk-based PC shipments is slowing down."

The figures spell good news for companies such as Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ), Dell ( DELL), Apple ( AAPL) and chipmaker Intel ( INTC), which recently predicted that the PC market could grow this year.

Despite recent bullish comments from Samsung and Intel, some of tech's biggest names have already taken defensive action, seeking out new non-PC revenue.

Dell, for example, recently spent $3.9 billion to acquire services giant Perot Systems ( PER) and H-P rebranded its EDS services business earlier this week.

Even in an increasingly positive PC market, however, Gartner does not expect global shipments to grow this year, except in a best-case scenario. Set against this backdrop, the launch of Microsoft's ( MSFT) Windows 7 is unlikely to provide a growth catalyst, according to the analyst firm.

"We don't expect the release of Windows 7 to significantly influence PC demand at year-end," said Shiffler, adding that there may be a "bump" in demand for homes and small businesses. "However, we aren't expecting most larger businesses to governments and educational institutions to express strong demand for the new operating system until late 2010."

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