Windows 8 Climbs to 3 Percent of OS Market

Windows 8 is slowly but surely climbing up the desktop OS rankings, according to new statistics from Net Applications. The OS to beat: Windows 7.

Five months after its official launch, Windows 8 now accounts for more than 3 percent of the desktop operating system market, according to Web traffic analytics firm Net Applications.

In March, Windows 8 powered 3.17 percent of the PCs online, or 3.31 percent if Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets are also taken into account. At this rate, Windows 8 is roughly three to four months away from eclipsing the unpopular Windows Vista operating system and years away from catching up to Windows 7, if ever.

Windows 7 still leads the OS race with 44.73 percent of the market, and in a testament to its enduring popularity, it actually gained market share last month. By comparison, the OS accounted for 44.55 percent of the PCs that ventured online in February.

Microsoft claims that the rate of Windows 8 adoption closely matches that of Windows 7, the company's most popular operating system.

Windows 7 was a big moneymaker for the software giant. After its release, it helped boost revenues for several consecutive quarters, particularly after enterprises finally warmed to the OS.

As recently as the quarter that ended Dec. 31, 2012, Windows 7 dominated the enterprise desktop market. During an earnings call, Microsoft CFO Peter Klein said, "Windows 7 momentum in the enterprise continues and today, over 60 percent of enterprise desktops worldwide are on Windows 7."

Windows 8 also faces a challenge from Microsoft's other venerable operating system: Windows XP. The 11-year-old operating system clung to 38.73 percent of the OS market in March, Net Applications' data shows. While arguably past its prime, XP shows little sign of giving up its place in the OS hierarchy. From February to March, XP shed just 0.26 percentage points.

Microsoft's newest OS not only has to compete against its past, it has to contend with dwindling PC sales and the growing popularity of tablets such as Apple’s iPad and devices that run Google's Android mobile OS.

From uninspiring hardware to sluggish enterprise replacement cycles, several factors are leading to the decline of the PC. Add intense competition from the tablet makers, and PC makers face an uphill battle to win over consumers and get enterprises to invest in their wares.

Windows 8, with its blend of touch-enabled features and Windows 7's desktop software heritage, was meant to bridge the worlds of PC and tablet computing. Early users scoffed at Windows 8, and despite some initial buzz, sales of Microsoft's Windows 8- and RT-powered Surface tablets have been underwhelming.

Nonetheless, Microsoft is undeterred. In a break from past software update strategies, the company is readying its Windows 8 Blue upgrade for a release as soon as this summer.

Set to make an appearance at Microsoft's upcoming Build developer conference, Blue is re-energizing Windows 8. Already, the industry is anticipating the enhancements and optimizations that will accompany its launch. If they prove compelling, enterprises may finally begin to give up their wait-and-see attitude toward the OS and start snapping up Windows 8 PCs and tablets.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...