Windows 8 market share bumps along at number 4, says new study

New evidence shows that Windows 8 isn't taking the world by storm: NetApplications reports that its February market share was 2.67%, behind Windows 7, Windows XP, and Windows Vista, and just barely ahead of Mac OS X 10.8.

NetApplications reports that Windows 7 was the most popular operating system, with a 44.55% market share, Windows XP was at 38.99%, and Windows Vista at 5.17%. Mac OS X 10.8 was just behind Windows 8's market share, and garnered a 2.61% market share.

Last month, Windows 8 had a 2.26% market share, so its growth is far from stellar. Mac OS X 10.8 last month came in with a 2.44% market share. That means that there's at least one piece of good news for Windows 8: In February it passed Mac OS X's market share.

All this is more evidence that it's going to be a long, hard slog for Windows 8 to gain serious market share. One problem is that people increasingly are turning to tablets instead of PCs for their second computer. So any new operating system, not just Windows 8, would have a tough time gaining market share. The other problem is inherent in Windows 8: It's a tablet operating system layered on top of an operating system for traditional PCs, and people are confused by it.

The newest figures show that Windows 8 will likely be more like Windows Vista than like Windows 7 or Windows XP -- a struggling operating system that never gains the widespread popularity that Microsoft had hoped for. And that means that Microsoft is facing a serious question about what to do about the next version of Windows. Continue with a dual-purpose operating system that people don't want? Admit its mistake and turn Windows back into an operating system built for traditional PCs, not tablets? Assume that eventually the world will catch up to Microsoft's vision, and that a new generation of tablet/PC hybrids will become popular, and so stay the course?

At this point, I wouldn't even venture to guess which way Microsoft will go. But it's clear that the next version of Windows will be make or break for Microsoft. Another clunker like Windows 8, and it may face real trouble.

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