XP or Vista - Which is more at risk from Windows 7?

XP or Vista - Which is more at risk from Windows 7?

Summary: It's been around 30 months since Windows Vista hit the General Availability milestone, and in that time the OS has only managed to claw some 18% of the OS market share. Compare that weak market share to the aging Windows XP, which even today commands an impressive 73% market share. With Windows 7 now only a few weeks away from the General Availability milestone, it's interesting to wonder what effect 7 will have on XP and Vista market share.

SHARE:

It's been around 30 months since Windows Vista hit the General Availability milestone, and in that time the OS has only managed to claw some 18% of the OS market share. Compare that weak market share to the aging Windows XP, which even today commands an impressive 73% market share. With Windows 7 now only a few weeks away from the General Availability milestone, it's interesting to wonder what effect 7 will have on XP and Vista market share.

According to data collected by NetApplications, Windows 7 had already grabbed a 0.9% market share by the end of July. That's pretty impressive considering that the OS didn't hit the RTM milestone until the 22nd of July. To put things into perspective, the beta and RC code for Windows 7 already commands three times the market share that the iPhone does. It's also rapidly closing up on Mac OS X 10.4 (market share 1.03%), Linux (market share 1.05%) and Mac OS X 10.5 (market share 3.42%). People are interested in Windows 7, and there's little danger that the OS launch will fizzle as Vista did at launch .

What I'm going to be watching as soon as Windows 7 is released to an eagerly awaiting public is how the new OS affects earlier versions of Windows. Microsoft's hope is that 7 will be the OS that convinces those entrenched XP users (of which there are millions) that it's time to let go of the aging operating system and embrace the future. I fear that reality might be different. I wouldn't be surprised to see 7 aggressively cannibalize Vista's market share, bringing it down to under 10% in a matter of months, while leaving XP's market share in the high 60% region. After all, many of the folks who've stuck with XP have done so for a reason. Maybe they're not upgrading their hardware, or maybe they're worried about compatibility or performance issues. Whatever the reason, they've made the choice, and making a switch from XP to 7 is only marginally easier than switching from XP to Vista. Add to this the fact that the only upgrade path from XP to 7 involves a clean install, which while being the sensible option, is more hassle than most will want to put themselves through.

Windows 7 does have some aces up its sleeve. The main one is that it will run happily on netbooks, which means that the era of Microsoft having to keep shipping XP comes to an end. Since netbooks is a growth area, that will help buoy 7's market share. Microsoft has also offered 7 at some very deep discounts over the past few weeks, hoping to get sales in before any negative reviews start hitting the web. No matter how good 7 is, a certain level of negative coverage is guaranteed, and Microsoft is anticipating it in advance. That's also a good move because it means that 7 will have a fantastic launch week that Redmond can brag about in press releases and in ads.

A factor that Windows 7 will have to contend against is the soggy economy. Despite a roaring economy at the time, Vista never managed more than to hobble along. Home users worried about performance, business users kept wondering why they should bother to migrate, and everyone worried about compatibility. It's clear to me now that despite having plenty of time in the oven, Vista was far from ready at the time it was released. With hindsight, I think that Microsoft would have done better to have sat on Vista for another six to eight months, made it into a better OS, and have avoided much of the negative press it attracted over the past two and a half years.

Microsoft has worked hard to distance itself from Vista (to the point of not even mentioning the OS by name in ads) but I fear that huge swathes of Windows users will take a long time to forget how Microsoft tried to push a broken OS onto their PCs.

Topics: Software, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Windows

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

125 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • If you hate Vista I doubt you will rush out for Windows 7

    I think XP users will not be impressed with it. If you are in the we love Vista group then going to Windows 7 will be more likely.
    Randalllind
    • I expect Windows 7 to do very well for one simple reason

      The task bar. For the first time in quite a while, MS has actually gone and
      done some pretty good work on the interface and usability front. Of
      course, they took two steps backward with their asinine start menu and
      control panel changes, but the taskbar improvements will probably make
      up for it for most people.
      frgough
    • upgrade path

      i am pretty sure that only a small fraction of xp users will buy an
      upgrade to windows 7 because you have to make a clean install and
      have to reenter/reinstall your settings/programms/drivers. too much
      of a hassle for most. their upgrade path will be buying a new pc
      sometime in the next years.

      some vista users will upgrade, because installing will be easier (with
      an in place upgrade mostly possible) though pricing is again
      ridicilously complex and opaque.

      as much as an improvement windows 7 for windows users might be i
      doubt that a lot of people will use it soon. it will sell over beeing
      preinstalled on hardware but not as a software-update for xp/vista
      users. that's only for the few microsoft enthusiasts left (on this board
      and elsewhere).
      bannedfromzdnetagain
    • Which is more at risk, Linux or OSX?

      uhhh wait, I forgot Linux never got any market share. Ok, never mind.
      LBiege
      • hasn't got...

        Just as Windows 1.0, 2.0 /286 /386 and OS/2 didn't made a dent on Mac OS market share... until Windows 3.0 and 3.1 arrived.

        Times change my friend... Times change...
        cosuna
    • I'm still running W2K

      But I really like what I see in Win7RC1 I've compared it to Ubuntu on the same hardware (dual boot) and both are very good.

      To me Windows 7 will be to Vista as Windows 2000 was to Windows ME.

      I've avoided XP and have always regretted not paying extra to get Windows 2000 on my notebook. I've not upgraded my notebook because I hate XP and its still good enough for what I need a notebook for. Win7 will make be think about replacing it.

      I'd move from W2K to Win7 were it not for all the "activation" hassles. Because of this I'll stay with W2K at least until my current motherboard dies, Then it'll likely be a Ubuntu vs. Win7 decision. Other than video editing and running Microsoft development tools, Ubuntu is more than good enough for me.
      wkulecz
      • Activation Issues?

        Could you elaborate? Not having a go at you or anything, just curious what the issues you have are?
        ozguy
      • Activation hassles?

        So typing in a code is a hassle?
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
        • issue finding them

          Typing in 25+ random characters is a PITA, but the real issue is finding them all, not to mention all the time to be wasted re-installing everything.

          I am very happy with what I see in Win7 RC1, but the benefit for the cost (both time and money, but mostly time) is just not there for me to run out and buy it.

          The biggest strength of Linux is its trivial to maintain a backup every night and be up and running on a new system from the backup drive in less time than a long lunch would take -- both data and applications ready to go.
          wkulecz
    • Most XP users have no idea either way

      The great majority of these folks have only read what the trade-rags (present company excepted) have said about Vista. Most of that is simply untrue (and has been since mid-2007).

      They will move to Wndows 7 when their hardware is no longer meeting their needs.

      The other big user of XP is in the enterprise and most in the enterprise have seen Windows 7 RC and have been working on their migration to Windows 7 for quite sometime.

      Windows XP users in the enterprise need to start thinking about moving to Windows 7 well ahead of the 2014 deadline for support. That is NOT that far away!
      M Wagner
      • Most XP users have no idea either way

        all i do is edit audio and video and browse the net.why do i need vista or windows 7 to do that with??
        bwchato
  • XP vs Vista

    I think Windows 7 will have the greatest effect on XP market share because thats what the OEMs will be shipping. XP will FINALLY get to go way of the dinosaur - as it should have a long time ago.

    Personally, I'll be sticking with Vista. I enjoy it and in using the RC for 7 - I see no compelling reason to upgrade, other than for the sake of upgrading. When Vista becomes close to its end of life - I may just make the switch full time to Linux (IF it plays nicer with hardware). I already use Linux [Fedora 11] on my netbook and laptop - the desktop is the next logical progression.
    JT82
    • XP vs Vista, followup

      I have to disagree with your opinion of XP. Beginning with SP1 it has become a good platform. As long as you keep it updated and use a good utility to clean out the registry and hard drive it is very stable.
      DLBarron
      • XP vs Vista, followup

        i pretty much just said the same thing in another post i just made
        bwchato
      • With your caveats, XP is very stable ...

        ... but it lacks the security features of Vista and Windows 7. Also many XP-compatible programs do not follow Microsoft programming standards (which is why they break under Vista - and will also break under Windows 7). It is also why so many XP-compatible programs HAVE TO BE RUN with ADMINISTRATOR rights.
        M Wagner
  • Adrian, please explain why...

    requiring a clean install from XP is "the sensible
    option":

    > the only upgrade path from XP to 7 involves a
    clean
    install, which while being the sensible option

    Millions of XP users are waiting.
    TriangleDoor
    • Millions of XP users apparently have never heard

      that any OS installation, in order to minimize potential data corruption risk, should be done on a clean slate.

      Didn't you get that memo?

      "The views expressed here are mine and do not reflect the official opinion of my employer or the organization through which the Internet was accessed."
      gnesterenko
      • Nice try at evading an answer...

        combined with the expectable shillish ad-hominem
        ping.

        An in-place upgrade is available from Vista
        flavors to their Win7 counterparts. An in-place
        upgrade was available from XP to Vista.

        So I repeat: Millions of XP users are waiting to
        hear the reason why an in-place upgrade was
        "sensible" when going from XP to Vista, is
        "sensible" when going from Vista to Win7, but
        now is magically <i>not</i> "sensible" when
        going from XP to Win7.

        TriangleDoor
        • Subjective

          I think I see what you are saying-but in my experience, you should NEVER do an "upgrade" of an OS. You should always do a clean install.

          Now about the sensible aspect, I'm not so sure about that.

          *typed on a Windows XP machine with little reason to upgrade even if Windows 7 is decent*
          DonRupertBitByte
        • Reason: Microsoft change many things in the way that prevent this...

          ...nough said...
          cosuna