Windows 7 Passes Vista in Users, XP Still King

Microsoft's Windows 7 passed Windows Vista in terms of total users, according to analysis firm Net Applications, but Windows XP continues to dominate the overall operating system market.

Microsoft has finally washed the taste of Windows Vista out of its mouth, at least according to analysis firm Net Applications, which estimated that Windows 7's market share for July passed that of its much-maligned predecessor.

Windows 7's market share for July reached 14.46 percent, according to the firm, compared to 14.34 percent for Windows Vista. That represents a significant change from October 2009, when Windows 7 was released into a market where Vista ran on 18.83 percent of personal computers.

Net Applications noted, however, that "Windows XP is still the leading operating system by far, with double share of Vista and 7 combined." The firm estimated Windows XP's market share at 61.87 percent.

Meanwhile, Apple's Mac OS X 10.6 held 2.48 percent of the market, with Mac OS X 10.5 at 1.82 percent.

Microsoft seems determined to transition its customer base from the nearly decade-old Windows XP on Windows 7, with the company claiming that customers will benefit from the newer operating system's increased security and shinier user interface-although it also stands to make a substantial amount of money from such a move. Nonetheless, a number of businesses seem equally determined to preserve an operating system that, no matter how aged, is a well-integrated part of their IT infrastructure.

In July, Microsoft announced that Windows XP Professional users could keep their downgrade rights throughout the life cycle of Windows 7. Previously, those rights had been due to expire on July 12 with the availability of the Windows 7 SP1 beta.

"Our business customers have told us that removing end-users downgrade rights to Windows XP Professional could be confusing," Brandon LeBlanc, a spokesperson for Microsoft, wrote July 12 on The Windows Blog, "given the rights change would be made for new PCs preinstalled with Windows 7 and managing a hybrid environment with PCs that have different end-user rights based on date of purchase would be challenging to track."

To compensate for that, Microsoft extended the downgrade rights. "The OEM versions of Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate will continue to include downgrade rights to similar versions of Windows Vista and Windows XP Professional," LeBlanc wrote.

Microsoft's Windows franchise continues to drive a large part of the company's overall revenue. During a July 22 earnings call, Microsoft executives reported that 175 million Windows 7 licenses have been sold thus far, helping buoy the Windows division's bottom line to $4.5 billion, up from $3.2 billion during the same quarter last year. Overall, Microsoft posted stronger-than-expected revenues of $16.04 billion for the fourth fiscal quarter.