Windows XP's share falls below 50%

Microsoft's decade-old OS officially hits minority status

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If XP continues the pace of the last three months, the OS will drop to 40% by the end of the first quarter in 2012, when Windows 7 is projected to reach 35%. The two should cross paths by the middle of next year.

Windows XP vs Windows 7
Projections of future usage share show Windows 7 will supplant XP as Microsoft's most-used edition by mid-2012. (Data: Net Applications.)

But with Windows 8 expected sometime in 2012 -- speculation on its release date has swung from the spring to the early fall -- Windows 7's moment in the spotlight may be brief. Assuming a third-quarter ship date for Windows 8 to match that of its predecessor, Windows 7 will top out at around 41% before its share starts to slide as consumers adopt the newest operating system.

Not that those projections are sacrosanct.

In June, one analyst said that it was possible corporations -- whose purchases of new Windows 7 computers has been the only thing keeping the PC industry from negative growth numbers -- would skip Windows 8, just as they did Vista, and concentrate on Windows 7.

That take dovetails with Microsoft's own recommendation. After the company unveiled parts of Windows 8 at a pair of technology conferences six weeks ago, it urged enterprises now deploying Windows 7 to stick with their plans.

But no matter how the future plays out, Microsoft's three-year release cycle for Windows means that XP will probably be the last edition to power an overwhelming majority of the world's PCs. The release schedule would prevent a duplication of the five-year lag between Windows XP's release in 2001 and Vista's debut in late 2006, one of the factors usually cited to explain XP's large-scale and long-term dominance.

Net Applications calculates operating system usage share with data obtained from more than 160 million unique visitors who browse 40,000 Web sites that the company monitors for clients. More OS statistics can be found on the company's site.

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 e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more articles by Gregg Keizer.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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