Windows 8 user share nose-dives in September

Windows 10 can't come fast enough for Microsoft as ailing Windows 8 falls by record amount.

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A day after Microsoft shoved Windows 8 into the background with its introduction of Windows 10, an analytics firm reported that Windows 8's user share plummeted by its largest amount ever.

September's numbers from Net Applications put the combined user share of Windows 8 and 8.1 at 12.3% of the world's desktop and notebook systems, a drop of 1.1 percentage points from August. Last month's slide was the third in the last four months, and more than 11 times the previous one-month record decline.

Windows 8 accounted for 13.3% of the personal computers running Windows, a plunge of 1.3 percentage points. The difference between the numbers for allpersonal computers and only those running Windows was due to the fact that Windows powered 92% of all personal computers in September, not 100%.

With its September plummet, Windows 8 fell even further behind the uptake tempo of Windows Vista, the 2007 OS that before Windows 8 was the flop benchmark.

windows 8 uptake Net Applications

Windows 8's user share (red) plunged in September, falling even further behind the post-launch uptake of Windows Vista (green).

At the point in Vista's post-release timeline that corresponded to September, the operating system ran on 14.9% of all personal computers and on 15.9% of all Windows PCs. The latter is the most credible comparison, because it accounts for the slightly greater dominance of Windows at the time. (When Vista was in its 23rd month after launch, Windows powered 93.9% of all personal computers.)

After narrowing the gap between itself and Vista's uptake in August, Windows 8 let the difference expand. The gap was 2.5 percentage points last month, five times that of the month before.

The decrease of Windows 8's user share -- a rough measurement of the number of personal computers running a specific operating system -- followed the introduction of Windows 10, Microsoft's name for its next major upgrade.

In an hour-long news conference Tuesday, a pair of Microsoft executives revealed a few core features of Windows 10, particularly for enterprise customers. They repeatedly pointed out how the new Windows 10 was more like Windows 7 -- the 2009 edition that by Net Applications' numbers accounted for 57.3% of all Windows last month -- than Windows 8.

"We're looking to find the balance, so that all those Windows 7 users get a familiar experience on the devices they already have," said Joe Belfiore, who leads the Windows design team.

When Belfiore and Terry Myerson, Microsoft's top Windows executive, mentioned Windows 8, it was rarely in a positive way.

Windows 10 "gives the familiarity of Windows 7 with some of the new benefits that exist in Windows 8," said Belfiore, putting the older in front of the newer. Moments later, he added, "We don't want that duality, we want users on PCs with mice and keyboards to have their familiar desktop UI."

The "duality" Belfiore referenced was the root of customers' resistance to Windows 8. In the 2012 OS, Microsoft created a mash of two user interfaces (UIs); one, the new "Modern," née "Metro," UI, was most easily navigated by touch, while the other, the more familiar classic desktop of Windows 7 and its predecessors, was best operated with a keyboard and mouse.

But customers balked at the dual UIs, calling the combination jarring and confusing. Enterprises have ignored Windows 8, in large part because they believed it would require extensive employee retraining. And analysts -- most pundits, too -- eventually dismissed the OS as a failure.

Net Applications' data, notably Windows 8's inability to keep up even with Vista's uptake -- much less the more quickly adopted Windows 7 -- supports the harsh criticism.

September numbers from the metrics company also had Windows XP, the OS Microsoft retired nearly six months ago, at a 23.9% user share of all personal computers and 26% of those running Windows, flat on both counts compared to the month before.

Computerworld continues to project that Windows XP will be running between 21% and 22% of the world's personal computers at the end of 2014.

Windows 10 won't impact XP's user share, as it's not slated to ship until mid-2015. As XP continues its slide, Windows 7 will be the prime beneficiary. In September, for example, Windows 7 gained 1.5 percentage points, the most since May 2012, although its gains seemed to come primarily at Windows 8's expense, not XP's.

Another analytics company, Ireland's StatCounter, had different numbers for Windows. StatCounter pegged September's Windows 8 and 8.1 usage share -- unlike Net Applications' data, StatCounter's represents how active users of each operating system are on the Web -- at 15.8%, Windows 7's at 54.9% and XP's at 14.4%.

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