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Windows 7 to pass XP in usage share this month

And could remain Microsoft's most popular operating system for years if Windows 8 falls flat

July 2, 2012 01:23 PM ET

Computerworld - Nearly three years after its launch, Windows 7 is poised to replace Windows XP as Microsoft's most popular operating system, a Web analytics company said Sunday.

According to Net Applications, a U.S. firm that tracks browser and operating system use by monitoring the number of unique users who visit the 40,000 websites of its customers, Windows 7 powered 41.6% of the computers that were online during June. Windows 7's share was 1.1 percentage points higher than the month before.

The 11-year-old Windows XP, meanwhile, accounted for 43.6% of all systems, a slide of 1.2 points.

The continuing climb of Windows 7 and the decline of Windows XP means that the former will probably pass the latter sometime this month, Net Applications said.

"Based on trends Windows 7 may surpass Windows XP in usage share [in July]," said Net Applications on its website Sunday.

Computerworld's projections confirm that.

If the pace of change over the last 12 months holds, Windows 7 will finish July with 42.7%, ahead of XP's 41.7%. Using an average of just the last three months -- a period of especially large declines by XP -- Windows 7 will wrap up July with a 42.9% share, while XP will drop to 41.5%.

Together, Windows XP and Windows 7 accounted for 92.4% of all Windows PCs that went online last month, said Net Applications. Windows Vista, the problematic upgrade Microsoft released in early 2007 -- and which never mustered more than a 19% global usage share -- accounted for just 7.3% of all Windows machines in June.

Estimates of Windows 7 gains have the OS capturing between 45.9% and 47% of all operating systems by October, the month when most analysts believe Microsoft will launch its successor, Windows 8.

But while the assumption was once that Windows 7 would inevitably decline in importance after Windows 8's launch -- that was what happened to Vista, which peaked in October 2009, the month of Windows 7's debut -- the theory may, in fact, be bogus.

Microsoft faces an uphill battle with the drastically-different Windows 8, at least in the enterprise. The consensus is that most businesses will pass on Windows 8, in part because they haven't wrapped up migrations to Windows 7, but also because of the consumer focus of the new edition and its "jarring" mash up of two distinct user interfaces (UIs).

Predicting Windows 7's usage share post-Windows 8 is risky, but Net Applications' numbers provide some clues.

If Windows 8's update is similar to Windows 7 -- Microsoft's most successful operating system ever, the company has crowed -- the new version will accumulate about 17% of the world's OS share in its first 12 months. Much of that increase would likely come from Windows XP, which is nearing its end of life.

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