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6/2/2014
02:10 PM
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Windows 8.1 Makes Gains, XP Hangs On

Windows 8.1 finally has more users than Windows 8, but both lag far behind Windows XP and Windows 7.

Surface Pro 3 Vs. World: Mobile Smackdown
Surface Pro 3 Vs. World: Mobile Smackdown
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Last month, more people used Windows 8.1 than Windows 8 -- the first time that's happened since the free update launched last fall. But Windows 7 remained the overall PC champion in May, expanding its share to just more than half the market. Ever-resilient Windows XP also placed ahead of Windows 8 and 8.1. Even though Microsoft has left it for dead, XP accounted for around a quarter of PC users last month.

The new figures, released by the web tracking firm Net Applications, reinforce that more XP holdouts have opted for Windows 7 than Windows 8. Now more than a decade old, Windows XP reached its end-of-support deadline in April, prompting millions to upgrade. Since January, Windows 7's market share has increased 2.6 percentage points, around 25% more than Windows 8 and 8.1's combined gain over the same period.

[Specific devices are over -- it's all about "personalized experiences" now. Read Microsoft's Nadella: We're In 'Post-PC' Era.]

Windows 7 held 50.06% of the PC market last month, up from 49.27% in April. Windows XP held on to 25.27% of users, down meaningfully from 26.29% in April and a sharp decline from 29.30% in January. Windows 8 slipped from 6.36% in April to 6.29% in May, while Windows 8.1 jumped from 5.88% to 6.35%. Combined, Windows 8/8.1 snared 12.64%, up from 12.24% in April and 10.49% at the start of the year.

(Source: Net Applications)
(Source: Net Applications)

Though finally starting to drop off, XP's sizable market share could mean millions of users rely on vulnerable machines. After terminating XP support in April, Microsoft gave the OS a one-time reprieve when it issued a security update in response to a new Internet Explorer bug. The company, which says most commercial XP customers have upgraded, has also discouraged users from implementing a recently discovered registry hack that enables XP-based PCs to procure updates for Windows Embedded POSReady 2009. The Embedded version is similar to XP and remains a supported product until 2019. However, Microsoft says updates designed for Embedded systems won't protect mainstream XP PCs -- a contention some online commentators have questioned.

Even if the hack were safe, Microsoft probably wouldn't admit it. After all, the company wants customers to upgrade to newer operating systems. But Wolfgang Kandek, CTO at the security vendor Qualys, agreed in an email that the hack probably isn't a wise option.

Users "have no way of knowing the side effects of these unauthorized and untested changes," he said. "It is a clever hack, and I am testing it on my virtual machines right now, but in production? Only if forced by higher powers."

Windows 8 and 8.1 also remain ongoing talking points. Windows 8 received poor marks from users and critics alike. Windows 8.1 incorporated several improvements, such as a boot-to-desktop mode, and earned better reviews. Nevertheless, user adoption has been slow. Even in May, Windows 8.1 snared only 50.2% of the combined Windows 8/8.1 share.

Still, Windows 8.1 posted a healthy jump from April to May, perhaps buoyed by a recent update designed to make the OS usable on nontouch hardware. However, the update still lacks one of users' most requested features: a Start menu like the one in Windows 7. Microsoft previewed a new Start menu in April, but it reportedly won't debut until 2015, possibly as part of Windows 9.

In the meantime, it remains to be seen if the recent update represents the start of a sustained Windows 8.1 upswing. The OS faces challenges due to not only its interface, but also opposition in China. Chinese authorities recently banned the use of Windows 8 on government devices. They cited post-XP security concerns, though political motivations are also ostensibly at play.

Overall, Net Applications found Windows operating systems accounted for 90.99% of the market, with Macs snaring 7.39% and Linux grabbing just 1.62%. Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks was the top version of Apple's OS, with 4.15% of the market. Though Windows remained dominant overall, Apple has been more successful than Microsoft in moving users to its newest platforms. OS X Mavericks was free to most Mac users and accounts for more than 56% of OS X users overall. Windows 8.1 accounts for about 50.2% of combined Windows 8/8.1 users and a little less than 7% of all Windows users.

IT is turbocharging BYOD, but mobile security practices lag behind the growing risk. Also in the Mobile Security issue of InformationWeek: These seven factors are shaping the future of identity as we move to a digital world (free registration required).

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
6/2/2014 | 9:18:45 PM
Microsoft shouldn't have to support everything it's ever produced
I think a very good case could be made that Windows XP should have been continued to be supported, given the large user base. But making the case that a software company must continue to support every product that it's ever produced would make the software business untenable. Some future Harvard Business Review case study will examine a company that attempted to do that -- and failed as a business. Software products should have a lifecycle. But when the product still has many millions of users, it's a gargantuan job to convince them that its lifecycle is over.
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
6/2/2014 | 6:49:26 PM
newest platforms
"Apple has been more successful than Microsoft in moving users to its newest platforms"

Not really by a huge margin though: 56% vs 50.2%.
Taking in consideration that Mavericks and 8.1 are free updates/download, I wonder why we don't see more people upgrading their systems.
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
6/2/2014 | 3:48:58 PM
Re: XP
The only reason is Microsoft's reason: They must continue to iterate in order to make money. In a subscription-based SaaS world, that doesn't make any sense. Going forward, I hope that Microsoft sees the err in its ways and just sell licensing for a period of time.

Then they can make users happy that want to stay on a previous OS. I like Windows 7, what's wrong with that?
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
6/2/2014 | 3:35:42 PM
XP
It's been said before, and I'll say it again. Other than the fact that Microsoft doesn't support it anymore, there is/was no reason for most of us to leave XP. Since Window 7, which I now use, is closest in look and feel to XP, that's what most others have chosen, too. Microsoft may have given a party, but very few people choose to attend.

I don't care that it's however old it is. For those of us who aren't professional developers, XP was perfectly adequate. As more and more of what most of us do is on the cloud anyway, the operating system itself is a smaller and smaller issue.

What I really resent that if you're big enough, like the British or Dutch governments, you get to stay with XP. What I really admire is China's move to Linux
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