Microsoft got some good news Sunday as metrics company Net Applications said Windows 8's user share in August is now larger than Vista's at the same point in the latter's post-launch timeline.
Windows 8's user share of all PCs running Windows, a tally that included Windows 8.1, the update slated to ship next month, jumped to 8.4% in August, Net Applications said Sunday. The 2.5-point gain was a single-month record for the struggling OS, and more than double the previous record set in June.
Ten months after its January 2007 retail debut, Windows Vista -- the operating system widely dubbed a flub and a flop -- accounted for 7.3% of all Windows PCs.
November 2007, the 10th month after Vista's debut, was the first month that Net Applications used a new methodology that weighted data by countries, an attempt to come up with more accurate estimates for markets, such as China, for which it had relatively little data.
Net Applications measures operating system user share by counting unique visitors to some 40,000 websites run by its customers.
In May, Vince Vizzaccaro, Net Applications' head of marketing, argued that it was futile to compare Windows 8's uptake with Vista's prior to the latter's November 2007 numbers because of the methodology change.
Computerworld had been comparing Windows 8 and Vista adoption using pre-November 2007 data for Vista -- comparisons that regularly put Windows 8 at the short end of the stick -- and offered its last update using Net Applications' figures on May 1.
Although Windows 8's 10-month user share is larger than Vista's, it remains far behind Windows 7's at the same point in the latter's roll-out. Ten months after Windows 7's October 2009 launch, the OS had accumulated a 17.3% share of all Windows PCs -- more than double Windows 8's.
Rival analytics firm StatCounter did not mark the same dramatic increase in Windows 8's share as did Net Applications. The Irish company, which measures operating system usage by counting the total page views of a much larger number of websites than does Net Applications, said Windows 8 gained about four-tenths of a percentage point to end August with a 7% share of all personal computers.
It was unclear what drove the massive increase in Net Applications' accounting of Windows 8's user share, although a small portion of the gain, about one-tenth, was due to the counting of Windows 8.1. According to Net Applications, Windows 8.1's share of all machines running Windows was about 0.3%.
Windows 8's 2.5-point increase was the second-largest one-month gain by a Microsoft operating system since late 2006, when Computerworld began recording Net Applications' data. It was especially impressive after a slow-down in Windows 8's adoption during July.
Windows 8 faces a much different environment than did either Vista or Windows 7, as those predecessors were released as PC shipments were on the rise, not in a historic slump. Nor did they have to contend with tablets as rivals for consumer and corporate attention and spending.
Microsoft will release Windows 8.1 on Oct. 17 to current Windows 8 customers, then follow with a retail debut -- and with systems running the update -- on Oct. 18. Windows 8.1 is essentially a redo meant to answer customer complaints about the radical changes in Windows 8, which split workspaces between two wildly-different user interfaces.
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 email@example.com.