Windows 7 Still Chasing Windows XP, Despite 350 Million Licenses Sold

Microsoft may have sold 350 million Windows 7 licenses, but the operating system still lags behind Windows XP in worldwide adoption.

Microsoft is claiming that more than 350 million Windows 7 licenses have sold in the 18 months since the operating system's release.

Despite its push into newer areas such as smartphones and cloud computing, Microsoft still relies on legacy platforms like Windows for much of its bottom-line revenue. In an April 22 posting on The Windows Blog, a company spokesperson claimed that, based on analyst information, "more than 90 percent" of businesses are undergoing some sort of Windows 7 migration.

To further spread Windows 7, though, Microsoft needs to persuade businesses and consumers to give up Windows XP, the decade-old operating system that's become something of a warhorse. According to analytics firm Net Applications, Windows XP holds 54.39 percent of the worldwide operating-system market, followed by Windows 7 with 24.7 percent, the much-maligned Windows Vista-whose tech-graveyard tombstone might as well read, "Let's Try to Forget"-with 10.56 percent, and then Mac OS X 10.6 with 3.50 percent.

Those numbers are roughly mirrored by StatCounter, which places Windows XP at 47.32 percent of the worldwide market, followed by Windows 7 with 20.6 percent, Windows Vista with 13.66 percent, and Mac OS X with 6.53 percent. In the United States, Windows 7 at 30.84 percent seems on the verge of overcoming Windows XP at 32.17 percent.

But make no mistake about it: Despite the large numbers of people still relying on Windows XP for their daily computing, Microsoft wants people transitioned to the new operating system. Microsoft Download Center now offers a Windows XP End Of Support Countdown Gadget, which counts down the days until the operating system's official support ends in 2014. Meanwhile, Microsoft's latest browser, Internet Explorer 9, won't run on XP.

As some poet once said, "The only person who likes change is a wet baby." After a decade as the operating system of choice, Windows XP is stable and patched, with an interface and applications familiar to virtually anyone who works with computers on a daily basis. More to the point, a relatively anemic economy means less cash for larger businesses (and at least some consumers) to upgrade their hardware and software, meaning more aging desktops and laptops in circulation running XP.

In the year or so after Windows 7's initial release, Microsoft pushed a series of promotions and discounts designed to increase its new baby's adoption rate. Manufacturers jumped onboard immediately, seeing a broad array of new machines loaded with some version of Windows 7. But consumers and businesses have remained somewhat wary, forcing analyst firms like Gartner to periodically lower their forecasts for PC sales.

However, other analysts expect Windows 7 adoption to pick up in coming years, as more and more businesses engage in a tech refresh. "IT managers worldwide are preparing for a significant desktop transformation over the next three years," Benjamin Gray and Christian Kane, analysts with Forrester Research, wrote in a November 2010 report. "This desk transformation ... also involves empowering their workforce with more modern browsers, office suite and productivity applications, connectivity options and security controls."

Within three years, Windows 7 could very well overtake XP-given it maintains its robust adoption rate.