Windows 7 Present on 42% of PCs by End of 2011: Gartner

Microsoft's Windows 7 will become the leading operating system worldwide by the end of 2011, according to research firm Gartner.

Microsoft's Windows 7 is primed to become the world's leading operating system by the end of 2011, according to a new research report from Gartner.

Windows 7's expected presence on 42 percent of PCs in use by the end of the year should come as no surprise, considering how the operating system comes loaded on the vast majority of new PCs shipped by Microsoft's manufacturing partners. On top of that, Microsoft has spent years encouraging businesses large and small to upgrade to Windows 7, something that's been helped by growth in IT budgets over the past several quarters.

"Steady improvements in IT budgets in 2010 and 2011 are helping to accelerate the deployment of Windows 7 in enterprise markets in the U.S. and Asia/Pacific, where Windows 7 migrations started in large volume in [the fourth quarter of 2010]," Annette Jump, a research director at Gartner, wrote in an Aug. 9 research note. However, she added that political turbulence and economic slowdowns in areas like Japan and parts of the Middle East will "lead to slightly late and slow deployment for Windows 7 across those regions."

Microsoft rival Apple has also enjoyed an uptick in adoption over the past year, with Mac OS shipped on some 4 percent of new PCs worldwide. Gartner predicts that market share will rise to 5.2 percent of new PCs in 2015. The Linux OS, meanwhile, "is expected to remain a niche over the next five years with its share below 2 percent."

Nor does Gartner expect Chrome OS, Android or Hewlett-Packard's webOS to gain substantial market share in the coming years.

Microsoft is already prepping its sequel to Windows 7, 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. Windows 8 will also 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.

According to a recent Net Applications analysis, Windows XP occupies some 49.69 percent of the operating system market, followed by Windows 7 with 27.92 percent, Windows Vista with 9.27 percent, and Mac OS X 10.6 with 3.76 percent.

Those figures have been echoed 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 has sold some 400 million Windows 7 licenses since the operating system's October 2009 release.

Follow Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter