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What the Latest OS Market Share Stats Reveal

Would you believe that Windows 7 has finally overtaken an OS, Windows XP, which is 11 years old? The mind boggles that XP has held on so long, and the Windows 7 advantage is hardly significant. The survey comes from Net Applications, which bases the Desktop Top Operating System Share Trend strictly on Web traffic.

But how are computers in offices that do not actually access anything but internal corporate networks considered, since they never go online?

In any case, assuming the figures are fairly accurate, we see Windows XP with a 42.5% share, and Windows 7 with a 42.76% share as of August of this year. The failed Windows Vista has but a 6% share. Apple has a 7.11% share, even though Macs have been doing much better lately. But older computers will continue to afford Windows a much larger share. As for Windows 8, which has been available in beta form for a while, its share was registered at 0.23%.

Yet another Web tracking company, StatCounter, declared Windows 7 the victor last year, and puts Microsoft’s current OS at a 50% share. So maybe these surveys only give, at best, an approximation of an overall trend.

Regardless, none of these tracking services will record any meaningful results for Windows 8 until November or December at the earliest, which means it will take a while to see just how well it’s doing. But again, that assumes the stats are close to the mark, which is not at all certain when results vary by over 7% between two widely reported surveys.

But the success of Windows XP is striking, and Microsoft’s failure to move another OS into dominance for so long clearly indicates that customers still remain extremely reluctant to upgrade.

I wouldn’t presume to guess how well Windows 8 will fare on the long haul. Certainly it represents a huge gamble on Microsoft’s part. Consider the vast changes that will require extensive customer retraining. Then compare the situation when Mac OS 9 was replaced by Mac OS X. Sure, the underlying OS was totally revamped, and software designed for one wouldn’t work on the other. But Apple did provide a Classic emulator to smooth the transition. Regardless, the techniques you learned to master the Classic Mac OS would still help you quickly get up to speed with Mac OS X. The Dock was front and center but quickly discovered, as was using System Preferences instead of the Control Panel.

I wrote books about the Classic and Unix-based Mac OS. Although all the screen shots had to be replaced, many of the underlying instructions could be held over from one to the other. A business that bought a new Mac wouldn’t suffer from high retraining costs, as opposed to a business buying a PC loaded with Windows 8.

Microsoft obviously depends on the enterprise for a large share of the company’s business. I really wonder why the drastic changes in Windows 8 were never considered as being a detriment for easy business adoption. That doesn’t make much sense.

Of course, Microsoft may only be hoping that businesses will just continue to migrate to Windows 7, and rely on Windows 8 as something to boast in ads for consumers. Microsoft will seem to be contemporary, and Apple, having made less drastic changes to OS X, will seem backwards rather than innovative.

Maybe it won’t matter that it’s easier to master and use a Mac, and yes I accept the fact that there are some usability concerns. But I also wonder how quickly Windows OEMs will rush to offer cheap or no-cost downgrades to Windows 7 for customers who complain.

It’s not that Windows 8 is arriving with anything near the buzz of Windows 7, let alone Windows Vista. That has to create a potential climate of fear within Microsoft. What if Windows 8 bombs? Is there a way to rush a new version of Windows that ditches the Modern UI — formerly known as Metro — and restores a Windows desktop that has been successful for years?

In response, Microsoft is likely to double down and throw more marketing dollars into pushing Windows 8. Windows 9 may fix some of the worst ills, but Microsoft may find that success isn’t guaranteed by marketing dollars alone. Consider the recent six billion dollar write-down because the purchase of an online marketing company several years ago failed to deliver the goods.

Today, Microsoft is still investing heavily in the Bing search engine, whose market share growth has come mostly at the expense of Yahoo! which is also powered by Bing. Google’s share remains consistent. But Microsoft is not ready to declare defeat. It worked with the Xbox, after all.

Where Microsoft might gain share is in the smartphone market. If Apple’s courtroom victory encourages handset makers to dump Android and switch to Windows Phone, maybe the stillborn mobile OS will have a new lease on life. But marketing dollars didn’t make a success out of the Nokia Lumia 900, so why expect that things will suddenly change even if more Windows Phone hardware appears on the market?

The possible failure of Windows 8, and Samsung’s loss in court may help Apple move more OS X and iOS hardware, at least in the short term. And surveys also show that most people who move to Apple aren’t inclined to switch to another platform. Is Microsoft listening? And who believes surveys anyway?