Windows 7, Mac OS X gain market share

As Mac stares at 10%, Windows overall posts record three-month drop

Although the beta of Windows 7 quickly grabbed one-tenth of 1% of the operating system market share last month, Microsoft Corp.'s operating system continued its downward trend, a Web measurement company reported yesterday.

Meanwhile, Apple Inc.'s Mac OS X posted gains for the third month in a row, edging even closer to a 10% share, according to data from Net Applications Inc.

In January, 88.3% of the people who browsed the Web sites that Net Applications monitors did so using machines powered by Windows, a 0.42 percentage point drop from December. In the past 90 days, Windows has lost 2.2 percentage points, its steepest three-month slide in the four years that Net Applications has collected operating system data via the Web.

The three-month decline was twice as large as the previous record, set between December 2006 through February 2007, when Windows lost 1.1 percentage points.

On the bright side, Windows 7's public kickoff last month was a success, said Net Applications. Prior to release of the beta on Jan. 10, the successor to Vista accounted for just 0.03% of the total operating system market share. After Windows 7 beta's launch -- problem-plagued though it was -- the average daily share jumped to 0.14%.

Over the weekend, Windows 7's share peaked at 0.22%.

That jibes with Net Applications' take. The company pointed out that throughout the month, Windows 7's use rose on weekends, then fell as users surfed the Web from work, where the beta was less likely to be installed. "Similar to Windows Vista, Windows 7 usage share is showing a pattern of being much higher on weekends than on weekdays," the company said in a note on its Web site. "Beta users are taking the time and effort to install it on their home computers, since corporations generally prohibit beta operating systems to be used in production environments."

Micosoft said last week that Windows 7's next milestone will be a "release candidate" -- it will not do a second beta -- but it did not spell out a timetable.

But while Windows slid, Mac OS continued to gain share. Although January's increase of 0.3 of a percentage point was less than half the record boost that Mac OS X got in December, it marked the third month running that Apple's operating system grew its market share.

Just as Windows set a record for a three-month decline, Mac OS X set a record for a three-month increase between November 2008 and January 2009. Those months' combined gain of 1.7 percentage points was 70% larger than the earlier record, a 1 percentage point boost that Mac OS X received in September-November 2006.

Mac OS X ended January with a 9.9% market share.

Last month, Net Applications argued that some of Windows' larger-than-usual decline in December could be because of the holidays, which decreased the number of workdays -- and thus the use of Windows, which dominates business computing. January's data, however, showed Windows continuing to slide. Even in a typical work month, January's drop of 0.42 of a percentage point was significantly larger than the 12-month average drop of 0.27 of a percentage point.

As has long been the case, Windows XP accounted for the bulk of Windows' market share decline. During January, the seven-year-old operating system lost 1.5 percentage points. Windows Vista, meanwhile, gained 1.4 percentage points to end the month at 22.5%, its highest market share ever by Net Applications' numbers.

Net Applications' operating system market-share data can be found on the company's Web site.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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