Is Windows XP finally on the way out?
Based on the latest Net Applications analysis, that certainly seems the trend: Microsoft's aging warhorse now occupies some 49.69 percent of the operating system market, a slight tumble from majority status that nonetheless sparked a mighty buzz among tech publications and pundits.
Meanwhile, the research firm places Windows 7 market share at 27.92 percent, Windows Vista at 9.27 percent and Mac OS X 10.6 at 3.76 percent.
Those stats are somewhat mirrored by StatCounter, which gives Windows XP some 44.4 percent of the market, followed by Windows 7 with 35.94 percent, Windows Vista with 11.02 percent and Mac OS X with 6.31 percent.
Microsoft wants businesses and consumers to give up XP in the worst way. But after a decade in the wild, the operating system is stable and patched, with an interface and applications familiar to virtually anyone who works with computers on a daily basis. Moreover, a relatively anemic economy means less cash for businesses and consumers to spend on hardware and software upgrades, meaning more aging desktops and laptops running XP.
Microsoft Download Center even offers a Windows XP End Of Support Countdown Gadget, which ticks off the days until the operating system's official support ends in 2014. The company's latest browser, Internet Explorer 9, won't run on XP.
What's perhaps more troublesome to Microsoft than a couple million XP holdouts, though, is a newfound softness in Windows revenue. For its recently ended fourth fiscal quarter, Microsoft reported a 1 percent decline in revenue for its Windows and Windows Live Division. During a July 21 earnings call, executives attributed this dip to softening PC sales, but given Windows' place as a revenue driver, any decline is possibly disconcerting. Microsoft depends on traditional desktop software to yield the substantial revenue it needs until newer initiatives, including cloud offerings such as Office 365, begin enjoying significant sales.
Windows 7 has sold some 400 million licenses since its October 2009 release. Microsoft has similarly high hopes for the next version of its popular operating system, internally code-named "Windows 8." In place of the desktop and taskbar that defined so many previous Windows releases, this newest version will rely on color tiles designed to be equally tablet- and PC-friendly.
Indeed, the release of Windows 8 will give Microsoft the opportunity for a more substantive play in the tablet market, currently the playground of Apple's iPad and the growing family of Google Android tablets. Tablets running Windows occupy some 4.6 percent of that touch-screen market, according to new data from research firm Strategy Analytics.