Windows 8 Surpasses 10 Percent Market Share

By Pedro Hernandez  |  Print this article Print

Microsoft's flagship OS makes gains but faces an uphill battle in displacing its soon-to-be retired predecessor, Windows XP.

Windows 8 crossed a big milestone in December 2013 by capturing more than 10 percent of the desktop operating system market.

More than a full year since the company launched Windows 8—and several weeks after it released the highly anticipated Windows 8.1 update—Microsoft has finally managed to push the tablet-friendly OS into double-digit territory, according to new data from NetMarketShare. Windows 8.x captured 10.49 percent of the desktop OS market last month. By comparison, the OS made up 9.3 percent of the market in November 2013.

Windows 8 is Microsoft's answer to a user IT landscape in transition. Besieged by explosive tablet sales and a dwindling PC market, the company crafted a touch-friendly OS that could also run traditional Windows software (save for the ARM-compatible Windows RT offshoot). NetMarketShare's data shows that the software giant's bold bet may be starting to pay off.

In some respects, Microsoft is a victim of its own success. Windows 7 continued to lead the OS race in December with 47.52 percent of the market, a 0.88 percent gain over the previous month. Windows XP, which faces a support cutoff in April, remained popular with 28.98 percent, a 2.24 percent drop from November.

Windows 8.x has a lot of ground to cover and only a few months left. Microsoft will end support for Windows XP (and Office 2003) April 8, 2014. As the deadline approaches, the company has been increasingly vocal about the need to upgrade to a modern OS, namely Windows 7 or 8.x.

Last fall, Microsoft warned of the likelihood of a massive spike in malware targeting Windows XP after the company retires the OS. Age is a factor, according to Tim Rains, director of Microsoft Trustworthy Computing. "Microsoft Windows XP was released almost 12 years ago, which is an eternity in technology terms," he wrote in an Oct. 29 Microsoft on the Issues blog post.

Rains went on to describe the dangers of running the antiquated OS and argued that "inevitably there is a tipping point where dated software and hardware can no longer defend against modern-day threats and increasingly sophisticated cyber-criminals." The company's own data showed that "Windows XP, Vista 7 and 8 "all had roughly similar malware encounter rates—between 12 and 20 percent."

Windows XP, despite continued support for the moment, "had an infection rate that was six times higher than Windows 8," Rains said.

Apple's latest edition of Mac OS X, version 10.9 "Mavericks" captured 2.79 percent of the desktop OS market last month. The free OS update, which runs on hardware as far back as iMacs and MacBooks from 2007, includes "proper" multi-monitor support, a RAM-optimizing compressed memory feature and new energy management capabilities that help stretch battery life.

Linux clings to a sliver of the desktop OS market with $1.73 percent share, a small 0.17 percent increase compared with November.

Originally published on www.eweek.com.