Windows 8's uptake came unstuck last month and shoved into a forward gear for the first time since May, but the operating system trailed Windows Vista's tempo of six years ago, according to data published Monday.
August numbers from Web analytics firm Net Applications put the combined user share of Windows 8 and 8.1 at 13.4% of the world's desktop and notebook systems, an increase of nine-tenths of a percentage point from July. That gain was the first since May and the largest since April, and followed two straight months of declines -- the first ever for the operating system.
Windows 8 accounted for 14.6% of the personal computers running Microsoft's flagship Windows operating system, a one-month jump of a percentage point. The difference between the numbers for all personal computers and only those running Windows was due to the fact that Windows powers 91.6% of all personal computers, not 100%.
But even with its increase in August, Windows 8 still failed to keep up with the uptake tempo of Windows Vista, the 2007 flop that even Microsoft executives disparaged amongst themselves.
At the point in Vista's post-release timeline that corresponded to August, that system ran on 14.3% of all personal computers -- a larger percentage than Windows 8 had last month -- and on 15.1% of all Windows PCs. The latter is the most credible measure of comparison, because it accounts for the slightly-greater dominance of Windows at the time. (When Vista was in its 22nd month after launch, Windows powered 94.4% of all personal computers.)
But the gap between Windows 8's and Vista's uptakes did narrow in August. The difference was half a percentage point last month, compared to seven-tenths of a point the month before.
The increase of Windows 8's user share -- a rough measurement of the number of personal computers running a specific operating system -- cannot be traced with certainty to any one cause: There are too many variables. One possibility is that back-to-school sales of new PCs have been brisk enough to boost Windows 8/8.1's share. In August-September 2013, for example, Windows 8's user share surged by 3.5 percentage points.
Windows 8 is expected to be superseded by the next edition of Windows -- code-named Threshold -- in the first half of 2015.
While Windows 8 gained ground in August, Windows 7 remained flat at 51.2%. It was the first month in the last six that the 2009 operating system did not see its share grow.
Meanwhile, Windows XP's user share fell nine-tenths of a percentage point in August; it accounted for 23.9% of all personal computers and 26.1% of those running Windows. The decline was the second consecutive after a one-month pause in XP's gradual demise.
Computerworld now projects that Windows XP will still be running between 21% and 22% of the world's personal computers at the end of 2014.
It's improbable that XP's losses directly translated into gains by Windows 8, even though the two numbers were nearly identical. Instead, it's much more likely that some users migrated from XP to Windows 7, while a different group, albeit a similar number, upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1.
Another analytics company, Ireland's StatCounter, had different numbers for Windows. StatCounter's figures are typically different from those of Net Applications because the former tallies usage share by counting page views to show how active users of each operating system are on the Web.
StatCounter pegged July's Windows 8 and 8.1 usage share at 15.7%, Windows 7's at 55.7% and XP's at 14.3%.