Windows 8 uptake: More like Vista than Windows 7

Falls further behind Windows 7's 2009 rocket ride

After a month on the market, Windows 8's usage uptake resembles 2007's Vista -- ultimately a poor performer for Microsoft -- rather than the eventually successful Windows 7, a Web measurement company said Saturday.

According to Net Applications, 1.2% of all Windows PCs ran Windows 8 during November, more than double its share the month before.

While Windows 8 uptake rate edged Vista's first full month -- that OS ended February 2007 with a 1% share of all Windows systems -- the new edition actually jumped less than the problem- and perception-plagued Vista. From January to February 2007, Vista increased its share more than five times, compared to the doubling of Windows 8.

The difference may have little to do with the two operating systems and all to do with economics and choice: The global economy was significantly more robust in early 2007 than it is now, and five years ago consumers had few alternatives to a PC, since smartphones and tablets were then just a gleam in engineers' eyes.

Windows 8's gains last month were lackluster compared to Windows 7's in late 2009. By the end of that upgrade's first full month at retail, it had captured 4.3% of all Windows.

Windows 8's November gain was its best-ever since Net Applications began tracking the new operating system. Even so, it fell further behind Windows 7's pace. In 2009, Windows 7 added 2 percentage points in its first month after launch, while Windows 8 added only seven-tenths of a point, less than a half as much.

In fact, Windows 8 may have trouble keeping pace with Vista. By the end of Vista's second month, it accounted for 2.2% of all copies of Windows. To equal that, Windows 8 will have to add another full percentage point to its share in December.

Net Applications' statistics corroborate other data that showed Windows 8 has not prompted consumers or businesses to buy new PCs. Last week, the NPD Group said that in the four weeks since Windows 8's Oct. 26 debut, U.S. consumer PC sales had dropped 21% compared to the same period in 2011.

NPD's conclusion: Windows 8's introduction not only failed to boost PC sales, but it also did nothing to slow the year-long slide.

The usage data also bolsters analysis of Microsoft's assertion that it sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses -- a number the company said is "in line" with Windows 7's first month. Experts did not dispute the 40 million, but noted that many of those licenses were tied to PCs that had not yet been sold to customers, and so Microsoft's number did not represent Windows 8's real-world use.

Other versions of Windows kept to their long-running trends.

Windows XP lost eight-tenths of a percentage point last month to fall under 40% for the first time since its early years. XP, which is slated for retirement in less than 500 days, accounted for 39.8% of all personal computers in November, or 44.5% of all Windows machines. Vista also slipped by one-tenth of a percentage point as its share continued to slip toward zero.

And Windows 7 remained flat, ending the month with a 44.7% share of all PCs and 48.9% of all Windows PCs. November was the first month since March that Windows 7's share did not add gain at least half a percentage point.

The bulk of Windows 8's increase last month came at the apparent expense of XP, but the data may be misleading. It's possible, for instance, that some, or even many, of the lost XP-powered systems were replaced by ones running Windows 7, and that because Window 8 upgrades are more likely to come from Windows 7, that there were two transfers of share last month: One from XP to Windows 7, another from Windows 7 to Windows 8.

Most analysts are now forecasting a weak reception for Windows 8, blaming the fragile global economy, the OS's confusing dual user interfaces, enterprise upgrade fatigue after migrating from XP to Windows 7, and competition from rivals' tablets, including Apple's iPad, for technology dollars.

Net Applications measures operating system usage by tracking unique visitors to approximately 40,000 sites it monitors for clients.

See more Computerworld Windows 8 launch coverage including news, reviews and blogs.

Windows 8's uptake trajectory matches 2007's Vista -- not a good sign -- rather than 2009's Windows 7. (Data: Net Applications.)

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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