Windows 8's uptake stumbled last month, and the perception-plagued operating system flirted with falling behind the tempo of the Windows Vista flop of seven years ago, according to data released Tuesday.
Net Applications' June numbers put the combined user share of Windows 8 and 8.1 at 12.5% of the world's desktop and notebook systems, a one-tenth of a percentage point drop from May. Although Windows 8's growth had stalled for two straight months earlier this year, June was the first time the OS lost user share since the initial edition debuted in October 2012.
Windows 8 accounted for 13.7% of the personal computers running some flavor of Microsoft's Windows. The difference between the numbers for all personal computers and only those running Windows was due to Windows powering 91.5% of all personal computers, not 100%.
The decline of Windows 8's user share did not necessarily mean that masses of people suddenly tossed their hardware into the trash or downgraded their PCs to an older OS. Instead, Net Applications' data is an estimate of the relative strength of the operating systems powering devices that went online during a given month.
Even so, in that measurement Windows 8 came dangerously close -- the closest since its launch -- to the sluggish uptake pace of Windows Vista, the 2007 release that was widely panned at the time, and in hindsight has been labeled one of Microsoft's biggest failures.
At the point in Vista's post-release timeline that corresponded to June, the operating system ran on 12.8% of all personal computers -- a larger percentage than Windows 8's last month -- and on 13.5% of all Windows PCs. The latter is the most credible, as it accounts for the slightly-greater dominance of Windows itself at the time. (When Vista was in its 20th month after launch, Windows powered 94.9% of all personal computers.)
While Windows 8 lost user share in June, Windows 7 gained another half of a percentage point to close the month with 50.6%. It was the fourth straight month that the 2009 operating system has gained ground, not really surprising since most experts have said that the recent boom in commercial computer sales has been because companies have hustled to dump XP for Windows 7, not the newer Windows 8.
In fact, Windows 7 has grown 50% more than Windows 8 in the past six months.
Windows XP fell off Microsoft's support list in April. Since then, Microsoft has issued just one public security update for the 13-year-old OS, and that on May 1.
Speaking of Windows XP, the aged operating system's user share was flat last month at 25.3% of all personal computers, and 27.7% of only those running Windows. The stabilization came after three consecutive months of large declines.
Computerworld now projects that Windows XP will still be running between 19.4% and 20.6% of the world's personal computers at the end of 2014.
Another analytics company, Ireland's StatCounter, had different numbers for Windows. StatCounter's figures are often at odds with those from Net Applications because they measure with dissimilar methodologies: StatCounter tallies "usage share" by counting page views to show how active users of each OS are on the Web, while Net Applications estimates "user share" by tallying unique visitors, which more closely resembles user base than does StatCounter's data.
StatCounter pegged June's Windows 8 and 8.1 usage share at 14.3%, Windows 7's at 55%, XP's at 16.3% and Vista's at 3.4%.
In one comparison, however, StatCounter's data was even more depressing for Redmond than Net Applications': In the 20th month after Vista's launch, StatCounter pegged Vista's usage share at 17.1%, significantly more than Windows 8's share of 14.3% at the same post-launch point.
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.