It’s a longstanding tradition on the first day of each month for tech reporters to look at the latest releases from Net Applications and StatCounter, trying to sort out who’s ahead and who’s falling behind in the PC and mobile horse races.
This month, in desktop operating systems, the continuing story is the replacement cycle spurred by the end of support for Windows XP three months ago, evidenced by a sharp drop in XP usage and a slight increase in Windows 7's share of usage. Both analytics companies say the percentage of PCs running some version of Windows is still around 90 percent and essentially unchanged from a year ago.
In that time, both companies agree, Windows 8 and 8.1 combined now make up at least one out of every eight PCs in the world, somewhere just shy of 200 million. As I've explained many times in presenting these numbers, it's more important to look at trends than to focus on each month's statistical blips. Here’s a chart comparing the figures for the past year from both firms.
Using StatCounter’s figures, which are based on pageviews, Windows 8 is probably a month away from replacing Windows XP as the second-most-used PC operating system, behind Windows 7. The Net Applications (NetMarketShare) numbers, which purport to measure unique PCs, have XP still solidly in second place with Windows 8.x flat over the past quarter.
Meanwhile, StatCounter says Chromebooks account for 0.19 percent of worldwide usage, with Net Applications still reporting that Chrome OS usage is below the 0.01 percent threshold.
In the second horse race on the card, Net Applications says Chrome has displaced Firefox as the second most-popular browser in the market, 20.4 percent to 15.1 percent. Last year at this time, Firefox was ahead by roughly the same margin. Internet Explorer continues to hold its 50 percent share on the desktop. In an alternative universe, StatCounter says Chrome is used twice as much as second-place Internet Explorer, 48.7 percent to 23.5 percent, with Firefox in third at 19.2 percent.
And in the final race of the day, mobile operating systems, StatCounter says iOS is far ahead among tablets and Android has a commanding lead in smartphones and similar mobile devices, with nothing resembling a clear third-place contender. Net Applications, which combines Mobile and Tablet into a single group, says Android has now passed iOS by a fraction of a percent, with the two OSes combining to make up 89 percent of total usage.
Those mobile stats are highly unlikely to bear much more than a passing resemblance to actual device usage, largely because so little mobile usage happens in browsers, and web analytics companies can’t easily track app usage.
If you’re curious about why two analytics companies can have such wild results and how reliable their numbers really are, see “Net Market Share vs. StatCounter: Whose online measurements can you trust?”