Windows turns table on Mac OS X, gains share

Only third time in last 12 months that Microsoft's share climbed

Microsoft Windows climbed out of its rut last month to gain market share, Web measurement company NetApplications.com said today.

Windows' increase in usage share for February was almost exactly mirrored by a decline of Apple's Mac OS X.

Overall, Windows accounted for 92.1% of the operating systems that powered machines visiting the 40,000-plus sites that NetApplications monitors for clients of its analytics service. Although the increase was slight -- just 0.1 of a percentage point boost -- it was the largest Windows had posted since June 2009. Windows has gained share in just three of the last 12 months.

As has been the trend, both Windows XP and Vista were down last month, while Windows 7 continued to grow. Windows XP slipped to 65.5%, down 0.7 of a percentage point, the smallest drop since last September. Vista, meanwhile, lost 1 percentage point to end at 16.5%. Vista has now lost usage share four months in a row, and in five of the last six months, with February's decline setting a record for the 2007 operating system.

Meanwhile, Windows 7 continued to climb. The newest edition ended February with an 8.9% share, up 1.4 points. At its current pace, Windows 7 will crack the 10% mark during the third week of March.

Last month was also the first time since Windows 7's launch that Windows Vista lost more share than Windows XP. Even so, XP has slid 75% more than Vista in the last three months, not surprising since the eight-year-old-and-counting operating system is the most popular on the planet by a large margin, making it more likely that people are replacing XP -- not Vista-- with Windows 7.

Since Windows 7's release, XP's share has dropped more than twice as much as Vista's.

Mac OS X's usage share slipped 0.1 of a percentage point last month. According to NetApplications, Apple's operating system has lost share three of the last four months, and is down about 5% from its October 2009 high. The fall is no indicator of Mac sales, of course, but only of the relative share each operating system controls. In January, Apple announced it had sold a single-quarter record 3.4 million Macs worldwide.

NetApplications measures operating system usage by analyzing the pool of about 160 million unique visitors each month to its clients' sites. February's operating system data can be found on the NetApplications.com site.

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Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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