Five reasons Windows XP still rules the desktop

Microsoft may tout Windows 7's growth curve, but the truth is that Windows XP rules the desktop, and will do so for many years. The most recent report shows that Windows XP has more than twice the market share of Windows 7 and Windows Vista combined. Add Mac OS X to Windows Vista and 7 numbers, and XP still far outpaces them.

Net Applications reports that Windows XP had 61.87% of market share in July, compared to 14.46% for Windows 7, 14.34% for Windows Vista, 2.48% for Mac OS X 10.6, and 1.82% for Mac OS X 10.5. You can see the chart, below.

Windows XP market share

As Gregg Keizer reports in Computerworld, last month Windows 7 passed Windows Vista in market share and "has been on a fast pace to supplant Vista as Microsoft's -- and the world's -- No. 2 operating system."

But Windows XP, at nine years old ancient by operating system standards, still leads by a large margin, and will do so for many years. Here are five reasons XP will continue to rule the desktop.

It just plain works

Windows XP has proved to be an exceptionally stable operating system that makes efficient use of what is now considered low-end hardware. It's not prone to unexplained system crashes or oddball slowdowns. Year after year, it keeps plugging away. As the old Timex ad says, 'It takes a lickin and keeps on tickin'. Many people figure there's no reason to upgrade to a new operating system if their old one works fine.

Who needs frou-frou?

Windows 7 features some exceptional eye candy --- Windows Aero, Aero Flip 3D, live taskbar thumbnails, and smoother desktop animations. But does all that make you more productive or make life better at the keyboard?

For many people, the answer is clearly no. So they're staying with XP.

Two words: Web apps

In earlier days of computing, the most interesting and exciting apps were written for an operating system. In order to run them, you needed the newest operating system, and so were essentially forced to upgrade.

Today the most interesting apps for computers are on the Web, not the desktop. You don't need a fancy new operating system to take advantage of them. A browser and basic hardware work just fine. So people don't need to upgrade from XP if they want to run them.

Enterprises are conservative

Enterprises are by nature and necessity conservative organizations. They don't like to court risk. If they've built a computing infrastructure and applications around XP, they need a compelling reason to risk to upgrade to a newer operating system. Many have yet to find that compelling reason and are happy to stay with XP.

Smartphones are where the action is

Plenty of people want to be where the tech action is --- to be on the forefont of the newest apps, cutting-edge consumer hardware, and innovative services. That's no longer primarily the PC. Smartphones have supplanted the desktop computer as the most innovative platform. There's no excitement to upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7. There's plenty of excitement in getting a new Droid X or iPhone 4. So that's where people are spending their time and money, not on upgrading their operating systems.

Update: See how Microsoft is trying to get people to upgrade from Windows XP in my post "Microsoft's not-so-secret plan to cripple Windows XP."

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