Microsoft

Making sense of the decline of Windows 8 market share

According to data from Net Market Share, Windows XP actually gained market share last month, and Windows 8 as a whole lost some users.

Windows market share

Things don't seem to be going well for Microsoft -- at least not in the Windows operating system department. According to the latest data from Net Market Share, Windows 8 as a whole (merging Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 together) declined slightly, while Windows XP -- an OS that officially expired almost three months ago -- gained market share. What's going on here?

This isn't a cause and effect or one-to-one relationship where Windows 8 users are abandoning the OS and reverting to Windows XP. I'm sure that's the case for some users, but the reality is that there are a few factors to consider.

First and foremost, Net Market Share is measuring OS market share based on the operating systems used to visit the various websites and internet resources it monitors. It's not based on sales, and Net Market Share has no way to determine how many people installed Windows XP or replaced Windows 8 with some other operating system in a given month.

All Net Market Share is reporting is, for the past month, an increase in Windows XP systems visiting the sites it monitors and a decline in Windows 8 systems. To put it another way, it's possible that there are far fewer PCs with Windows XP this month than last, and far more PCs with Windows 8 / 8.1 this month than last, but the numbers of each browsing the internet are not an accurate representation. That said, I respect the Net Market Share data, and I frequently use Net Market Share as a source for this sort of information, so it seems reasonable to accept the data at face value.

Taking a closer look at the data, the increase in Windows XP is only four hundredths of a percentage point -- from 25.27% in May to 25.31% in June. In other words, the "gain" makes for a nice, sensational headline, but it amounts essentially to a rounding error. It would be fair to say that Windows XP was stagnant, which in and of itself says something because an expired OS shouldn't just be declining -- it should be in free fall mode.

Now, let's look at the Windows 8 side of the equation. Windows 8.1 actually had a gain in market share. It didn't exactly skyrocket, but the rise in Windows 8.1 is six and a half times that of Windows XP.

Windows 8 dropped. That makes sense, because the rise in Windows 8.1 should be largely a reflection of Windows 8 systems upgrading. However, Windows 8 dropped 0.36 percentage points -- a tenth of a percent more than the rise in Windows 8.1. When you combine the two, the net result is that Windows 8 / 8.1 as a whole declined in market share by 0.1 percentage points.

It's also worth pointing out that Windows 7 actually had the largest gain of the bunch -- rising nearly half a percentage point between May and June to end the month with 50.55% of the desktop OS market. Meanwhile, Mac OS X 10.9 had the most dramatic decline -- falling 0.2 percentage points from 4.15% to 3.95% of the market.

Looking at Windows as a whole vs. Mac OS X as a whole, things look pretty good from Microsoft's perspective. Windows dominates the landscape with more than 90% of the desktop OS market share, and it enjoyed a small increase from last month. Mac OS X, on the other hand, fell more than Windows gained -- apparently losing some market share to Linux as well.

I think it's fair to say that Windows 8 / 8.1 is not winning over the hearts of PC users like Microsoft wishes it would, and that Windows XP -- like Internet Explorer 6 -- refuses to die. Saying that Windows XP gained, and Windows 8 / 8.1 lost market share is technically true, and it makes for alluring headlines, but it over-dramatizes the reality.

I've been using Windows since Windows 3.0, and I've been using Windows 8 since before the public beta was even available. There is a lot I like about Windows 8 / 8.1, and very little -- if anything -- that I dislike enough to whine about. It's just Windows.

Despite the hype and rhetoric online, there's certainly nothing about Windows 8 / 8.1 that makes it difficult -- never mind impossible -- to use with a traditional monitor, mouse, and keyboard. Regardless of the much-despised Windows 8 Start Screen and the Modern / Metro UI, there's nothing preventing people from using Windows 8 exactly as they've used Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, or any other version of Windows.

I hope Windows XP will be extinct sooner rather than later, but I doubt things will change significantly for Windows 8 / 8.1. That isn't a direct reflection of Windows 8, though. With speculation already ramping up that Windows 9 -- codenamed "Threshold" -- could be available in early 2015, I think Windows 8 has had enough negative press (whether warranted or not) that most of the potential Windows customers are committed to sitting out until the next version.

About

Tony Bradley is a principal analyst with Bradley Strategy Group. He is a respected authority on technology, and information security. He writes regularly for Forbes, and PCWorld, and contributes to a wide variety of online and print media outlets. He...

10 comments
dpbakeril
dpbakeril

"Saying that Windows XP gained, and Windows 8 / 8.1 lost market share is technically true, and it makes for alluring headlines, but it over-dramatizes the reality."


Technically true of the sites being monitored I'm sure, but definitely not an accurate representation of market share or any other worthwhile data outside of Net Market Share.  It just gives you the chance to put out another misleading headline while looking for some dramatization without a basis in reality, so true of media writers these day.

scratchbaker
scratchbaker

I just bought a new laptop with Win7 Professional installed BY CHOICE. It replaced an XP SP3 laptop whose display died, It took me 2 days to set it up so it looks like the Win95 UI I liked then and still prefer now. If you think I want to have to spend even more time doing the same with Win8, Go Fish. It took a bit more time to get the Win7 laptop to network with my XP SP3 desktop which just doesn't need upgrading. 


The insistence of some tech writers to try to jam Win8 down people's throats is a waste of time (i.e., this article was a waste of time). Why not write about tips and tools to keep Win7 and XP users productive? I abandoned Windows Explorer in Win7 for XYexplorerFree and am much more productive than trying to suffer through the MS "improvement" over XP. MS has never paid attention to its users. Why would any sane person want to learn a new UI every few years? If auto manufacturers made you relearn how to drive every time you bought a new car, you'd probably spend more to keep your old one running, too.

gep2
gep2

I'm not at all surprised at the disdain for Windows 8.  For example, in recent years I've maintained corporate systems written using a VERY stable software product which runs fine natively on 32-bit OSes (like XP) but which only runs under Windows 7 within a Virtual PC (running XP inside).  To add insult to injury, Microsoft then decreed that they wouldn't support Virtual PC at all under Windows 8 (or 8.1).  I suppose that we could use VirtualBox or some other virtualization under Windows 8 (and that whole company I was supporting got sold and the new parent company switched their company's software solution anyhow), but when a company's entire data processing investment suddenly doesn't work on the new Microsoft OSes (and for no good reason other than that Microsoft decided to be asshole-ish), it is a major upheaval and there simply is no major benefit achieved from doing so.  


This software package was written starting back in the early 1980's, with major enhancements over almost thirty years, and still worked PERFECTLY for the company's needs.  


And although that specific company has moved on (their comment was that "you don't appreciate what you had, until you don't have it anymore..."), I still have a lot of my personal supporting systems written using those tools and which won't run (natively) under 64-bit Windows 7 or under Windows 8.  


For years, one of Microsoft's HUGE advantages was that companys' software investments in Microsoft solutions carried forward smoothly over long periods of time.  Microsoft seems to have forgotten that lesson, to their peril.


And if companies are forced through a costly and disruptive upheaval process... should they then REALLY keep following the company that forced that upon them?  Or should they start looking at Linux-type solutions where they aren't going to be forced off of something, that works for them, again in the future?


Once burned, twice shy.


Metro Critic
Metro Critic

What's there to make sense of? Windows 8 is an abomination of an operating system. The enterprise and SMB have refused to adopt it en mass, and the retail public has been fleeing it as fast as they can, holding on to their XP and W7 systems, and abandoning PCs by the millions in favor of simpler tablets. The fools running Microsoft did this to themselves when over two years ago tens of thousands of beta testers told them that this was exactly what was going to happen and Microsoft refused to listen. Windows 8 has helped to accelerate the existing trend away from PCs instead of saving it as they claimed would happen, and helped to take down every OEM hardware supplier and PC builder dependent on PC sales as well, again as thousands of us predicted.

kitekrazy
kitekrazy

"Despite the hype and rhetoric online, there's certainly nothing about Windows 8 / 8.1 that makes it difficult -- never mind impossible'"


  Changing the workflow while not improving it belongs in the bad developer hall of fame.  Most revenue comes from the non techie crowd (see Apple).  We don't realize how small our tech savy world really is and more so when people bring up Linux.

dave
dave

 I run a small computer business (Diacad Associates, Rumney NH).  Those who buy computers from big box stores (not from me!) often become dissatisfied with preloaded Windows 8/8.1 after trying to use it, and bring their computers to me for downgrading to Windows 7.  Even though they have to pay for a new license and my labor, they are willing to do it.  On custom machines I assemble, I install either Windows 7 or a user-friendly variant of Linux like Ubuntu or Mint.  So far, due to many factors, Linux is not yet a competitor in the US on the workstation or in the home, although it has seriously displaced Microsoft on the server level.  But for now, Microsoft holds an effective monopoly, able to put shoddy products on the market and then abandon them to force upgrades.  They deserve investigation under our antitrust laws.

cybershooters
cybershooters

NOW there isn't much stopping people from using Windows 8.1 but there WAS until the last major update a few months ago. There is still plenty of enterprise software that doesn't work properly with it. I can't help wondering if the slight increase in XP usage was caused by people installing it in Hyper-V on 8.1 Windows 8.1 is a very good OS once you get the hang of it, but the UI is terrible, I doubt the average user uses PowerShell like I do.

mike4401
mike4401

Windows 8 / 8.1 = poor productivity. People typically use desktop computers for more serious business type applications, home or commercial. Windows 8 turns your desktop into a always busy toy or entertainment device instead of a tool. Add all the current security and corruption issues Win 8 is an unsettling proposition.  As more businesses turn to Linux for desktops and servers it is just a matter of time before the home market follows. From what I see I in the business market place, I would expect the Microsoft desktop OS to drop at least 5% annually.  

gep2
gep2

@kitekrazy It's much like when Microsoft made the stupid shift in Microsoft Office to their ridiculous "ribbon" interface and disrupted literally millions of users who had become familiar and highly expert with the previous interface.  They inconvenienced millions of users, most of whom would have rather stayed with what they liked, and which worked for them.  The shift from Windows 7 to Windows 8 was much like that, again.  You would have THOUGHT that Microsoft would have learned from their earlier corporate blunders.

Gisabun
Gisabun

@dave  "..displaced Microsoft ..." - I don't think Microsoft was ever really competing in in some areas of the server market like web servers.

"...abandon them to force upgrades..." - Let me guess. You are talking about Windows XP and maybe Office 2003]? Get real. Microsoft gave Win XP users THIRTEEN years of support. Tell me which software vender offers even ten years of support to consumers [and businesses]? Apple gives 4-5 years max on OS X, less on iOS [as it is updated yearly]. Linux? Except the few TLS editions, most may not even last a year.

Oh and you gave no reason for the lower Win 8.x percentage [except for your clients].

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