Windows 8 uptake needle sticks as growth stalls

More bad news for Microsoft: Customers decline to ditch Windows XP in November

Windows 8's uptake stalled in November, while the now-aging Windows 7 continued to gain ground, a Web metrics company said Sunday.

According to Net Applications, Windows 8's share, which included the free Windows 8.1 update, remained at 10.2% of all Windows-powered computing devices last month. It was the first time since Windows 8's October 2012 launch that the operating system's uptake needle got stuck, and the third-consecutive month of slowing increases after a big jump in August 2013.

The uptake interruption may simply be that: a pause in purchases as customers waited to buy devices for gifts. Or it could indicate a more serious problem for Microsoft, which has committed to the radical overhaul of its world-leading OS, and to a new strategy revolving around devices and services rather than software.

Within the combined Windows 8 and 8.1 user share, the 2012 original's portion again declined as users flocked to this year's update: By the end of November, Windows 8.1 accounted for 28% of the total, up from the 19% in October.

With a month of running to stay in place, Windows 8 lost some of its lead over Windows Vista, the 2007 flop. When each operating system's share was compared 13 months after their respective launches, Vista accounted for 8.9% of all Windows PCs, having narrowed the gap between it and Windows 8 by seven-tenths of a percentage point.

Windows 8 remained far behind Windows 7 at the latter's 13-month mark. At that point, Windows 7 powered 21.7% of all Windows systems, and was still showing no sign of slowing customer adoption.

In fact, Windows 7 grew its user share last month, adding two-tenths of a percentage point to end November at 46.6% of all computer operating systems, and at 51.3% of those running a flavor of Windows.

Another troubling sign for Microsoft in Net Applications' November numbers was the continued deceleration of Windows XP's decline. The 12-year-old OS, which will be retired in April when Microsoft issues its final public security update, remained stuck at 31.2% of all computer operating systems, and slipped just one-tenth of a percentage point to 34.4% when only Windows machines were considered.

Microsoft has been aggressively urging customers to dump Windows XP before it hits retirement, citing, among other things, increased security risks. A discovery of a new unpatched vulnerability -- or "zero-day" bug -- in Windows XP, which was confirmed by Microsoft last week, added to that drumbeat.

Windows continued to run the overwhelming majority of personal computers -- 90.9% -- last month, an increase of two-tenths of a percentage point over October, while Apple's OS X slipped to 7.6% in November and Linux dropped half of one-tenth of a point to end the month under 1.6%.

Net Applications measures operating system user share by tracking unique visitors to approximately 40,000 sites that rely on its traffic analytics software.

Its numbers are often at odds with those from rival StatCounter, an Irish metric firm, because the two measure usage differently. While Net Applications tracks user share -- how many unique users run a specific operating system -- StatCounter tallies usage share, or how much browsing people running each individual OS do.

StatCounter's usage share for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 totaled 8.6% of all computers operating systems, or about seven-tenths of a point lower than Net Applications' similar figure.

CAPTION: The combined user share of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 stayed at 10.2% in November, the first time since the former's 2012 debut that the OS gained no ground. (Data: Net Applications.)

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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