Free upgrades pay off for Apple and Microsoft in November

Free upgrades pay off for Apple and Microsoft in November

Summary: Latest worldwide usage figures for PC/Mac operating systems and browsers show little change in November, a traditionally slow month. But a close look at the numbers shows that the free Windows 8.1 and OS X Mavericks upgrades were a hit.


In tech terms, October and November are the doldrums, that quiet period after students return to school and before the holiday shopping frenzy begins.

So it’s not surprising that the latest NetMarketShare numbers on worldwide operating-system usage barely changed in November. Windows usage overall is essentially unchanged, with Windows 8.x and Windows 7 up slightly at the expense of the fading Vista and XP. Collectively, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 accounted for 9.3 percent of web usage in November, with XP still hovering above the 30 percent mark as the clock ticks closer to its end-of-support date. (See the chart at the end of this post.)

In the browser space, the three leading desktop browsers barely budged, with Internet Explorer at 58.36 percent, Firefox at 18.54 percent, and Google Chrome at 15.44 percent.

There were a few interesting bits of statistical data buried in this month’s data dump, though. Both Microsoft and Apple released upgrades to their flagship operating systems in late October. Windows 8.1 is free to Windows 8 users, and OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) is free to users of OS X 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard), 10.7 (Lion), and 10.8 (Mountain Lion).

So how have those free upgrades gone? After one full month, Apple and Microsoft have successfully convinced roughly 30 percent of their respective installed bases to upgrade. (The exact numbers: 28.4 percent for Windows 8+, 33.9 percent for OS X 10.6+.) This chart shows the percentage of the installed base for each month for the relevant operating system families.


Data provided by > Net Applications

If price isn’t a barrier to an upgrade for either platform, why isn’t the number 100 percent? The obvious reason is that users are rightfully gun-shy of big upgrades like this. The upgrade process is never guaranteed to be successful, even on the much more tightly controlled Apple hardware platform. In Apple’s case, Mavericks came with an assortment of bugs and issues that had even Apple loyalists urging a wait-and-see attitude.

Both companies have a profound interest in moving their customers to the newest version. Support costs drop and managing security is by definition easier if you can concentrate on a single version instead of supporting four major Windows versions, as Microsoft is currently doing.

You can expect to see the shares of Windows 8.1 and OS X Mavericks rise over the next few months. When I update this chart next month, I expect to see the Windows 8.1 numbers significantly higher, as Microsoft and its hardware partners sell tens of millions of new PCs in the holiday season, most of them running Windows 8.1.

But the dream of both companies—of operating systems that update automatically and are never out of date—is still another major release or two away. User inertia and (for Windows users) corporate conservatism will guarantee that.

A quick check of the other big metrics company, StatCounter, shows impressive gains for Windows 8.1 as well, although the percentages differ from the NetMarketShare numbers. StatCounter has the combined share of Windows 8 and 8.1 at 8.6 percent, with roughly 1 in 8 Windows 8 users having upgraded by the end of November.

StatCounter includes mobile operating systems and game consoles in its figures, so it's difficult to compare directly with NetMarketShare numbers. Excluding those operating systems and normalizing the numbers to include only Windows/OS X/Linux/Chrome OS, the share for Windows 8 and 8.1 combined is 9.3 percent, exactly the same as NetMarketShare's report. (StatCounter doesn’t break out figures for OS X versions, so that comparison isn’t possible.)

StatCounter's November figures are also encouraging for the XP-must-die crowd, with XP checking in at 19.3 percent. Both companies show Windows 8 usage outstripping all versions of OS X combined, and the NetMarketShare numbers show that Windows 8.1 alone is used more than any single version of OS X. Oh, and one final tidbit: Chrome OS, which powers Google's Chromebooks, still doesn't appear in sufficient numbers to make the NetMarketShare reports, but StatCounter shows the web-centric Google OS with a 0.05 percent share of usage worldwide, behind PlayStation but ahead of Windows 2000 and Nintendo.

Here is the desktop OS share chart from NetMarketShare.


Data provided by Net Applications

And here is the operating system chart from StatCounter. As I explain earlier, these figures mix desktop OSes, mobile platforms, and game consoles, so the numbers can't be directly compared to those from NetMarketShare. 


Data provided by StatCounter

Topics: Operating Systems, Apple, Microsoft, Windows 8

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


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • I see no reason to upgrade from windows 7

    To me it's still the perfect UI.
    • And that has nothing to do with this article

      Sigh. At least you're not a make-money-fast spammer.
      Ed Bott
      • iOS and Android?

        What are iOS and Android doing on that last chart? Are those tablets only?
        • No, StatCounter lumps them all together

          I explain that in the text above the last two charts.
          Ed Bott
          • I see no reason to upgrade from windows 7

            Long live Windows 7. I will live with this till I die. It's good.
            Tim Jordan
          • Android PCs are here.

            Regardles sof the data's origin, I saw an HP Android PC in Walmart last month while shopping for a new PC.

            The thing baffles me. I wouldn't run Android on a desktop PC any more than I'd run WIndows 8 or any other tablet OS on one. But it was dirt cheap compared to other offerings. I suppose given a large screen (around 17"), a mouse and keybaord, the average casual user might find it useful enough to post on Facebook, send two emails per week, and watch movies on Netflix.
          • Huh?

            Windows 8 is NOT a tablet OS.

            I guess you've never even used it. Just because it has a tiled start screen does not make it a tablet OS.

            It has a full desktop. You can have it boot to the desktop if you want. You can run everything you can run on Windows 7 on it. It has all the normal windows desktop programs and settings etc.

            I wish people would stop posting misleading information about something they know nothing about to the bazillion forums out here.

            Those that really don't know might believe your totally inaccurate assertions.
            Bob Lindabury
          • I ran the Win8.1 preview for several months

            So I do have some idea of what Windows 8.1 is. In fact, it's still sitting there in a partition awaiting to be deleted.

            Item: no start menu. Let alone how to run a program, I've lost a convenient one-stop place to access: programs, recent items, recently run programs, music, images, control panel, file explorer, this PC, etc. Not to mention shutdown/sleep controls.

            Item: all the things mentioned above are still there, naturally, but scattered all over the landscape.

            Item: the damned "charms" bar keeps popping up when it's not wanted (it's never wanted). And it should come deactivated by default on the desktop, since it's pretty useless there to begin with.

            Item: the lock screen is a tablet feature, baked into the desktop by main force and very hard to eradicate.

            Item: you cannot customize the taskbar to your liking. It's transparent, but there's no transparent theme in the desktop to compliment it.

            Item: the start screen lacks basic features like folders, making it an even paler imitation of the "all programs" section of the start menu than it was to begin with.

            Item: by default all or most file types run on the Metro/Modern/Whatever-it's-called interface, not on the desktop.

            A rump desktop is not a full-featured desktop. Ergo Windows 8.1, like Windows 8 before it, is not a dekstop operating system.
          • Windows 8.1 or RT?

            Nareed, I will have to agree with Bob Lindabury. Windows 8 and 8.1 have a file folder like Windows 7 desktop. It looks the same and works the same. You can customize the taskbar to your liking with the programs (real programs, not apps) add shortcut to the desktop, just like Windows 7, etc. I even have a icon on the taskbar for Control Panel. What I can deduct from your post is that your are using Windows RT running on ARM chip. While the RT have a desktop it cannot do the same as Windows 8. From your writing it sound more like RT to me than Windows 8. While both looks the same, they are not the same.

            Windows 8/8.1 is a desktop AND a tablet OS.
          • I don't pin anything to the taskbar.


            You know, you should allow for differences of opinion. Windows 8.1 is not the Most Magnus Opus Parthicus Maximus(*) that some of its boosters make it out to be.

            I was running Windows 8.1 preview, not Windows RT. I ran it on an X86 laptop, not an ARM-based anything.

            Nor do I like pining things on the taskbar. I might, if I could shove them all the way to the right, but I use the left side of the taskbar to monitor what I've got running at the time. The tiny pop-up windows are usless, as I often run several spreadhseets which look very much alike. I do ahve some quick launch icons, shoved all the way to the right (and wasn't it fun resurrecting them in Win7!)

            Yes, I know all this makes me a troglodyte who is afraid of change. So pelase don't bother pointing it out.

            (*) Win8.1 is more like Lucius Verus in that respect.
          • No start menu

            If you can use the WIndows 7 start menu, then you can most certainly use the Windows 8.1 start screen. In fact learning it would take less effort an energy than ranting about it on ZDNet.
            The one and only, Cylon Centurion
          • Of course I can use the Windows 8.1 start screen

            I can also use a manual can-opener in the kitchen, and drive a car without power steering, and wash a pile of dishes in the sink. I just choose to use an electric can-opener, power steering and a dishwasher.
      • Re: And that has nothing to do with this article....

        A curious reaction Ed. There is absolutely nothing wrong in this contributor voicing a preference for Windows 7. Whilst I am fully aware you are very pro Windows 8/8.1 you should respect the opinion of others.
        You should be targeting the true spammers such as Loverock and Owlnet.
        • This post isn't about Windows 7

          And these forums are not open for discussion of whatever topic strikes your fancy. Read the terms of service.

          PS: I am not a moderator. I can't delete any posts. I can ask, politely, that people try to stay on topic.
          Ed Bott
          • Re: This post isn't about Windows 7....

            I disagree. With the inclusion of the NetMarketShare Pie Chart in your article showing Windows 7 to be so dominant it attracts such related comment.
            It is not off topic as such. Just an individual or individuals stating that Windows 8.1 is not for everyone and that should be respected.
            Others however quoting Linux is off subject and have not been targeted by yourself in a similar manner which perhaps would have been more justified.
          • Win 7 Bias?

            I didn't get the impression your article was biased toward Win 7 at all. Yes, there was a chart showing Win 7's massive user base compared to all other OS's, but if you actually took the time to read each and every word of the article there's absolutely nothing there that screams, Windows 7 is the best OS that is, there was, and ever will be. I thought the article was on point in regards to the title of the article and kudos for doing that Ed. A lot of authors give a catchy title only to have an article about something else.
          • Re: Win 7 Bias?....

            Indeed but what I was trying to point out is that the NetMarketShare chart clearly indicates Windows 7 has the largest user base. Something Ed does not mention in his article perhaps with the blinkered opinion Windows 8.1 is naturally superior. Remember when Ed was a one man crusade telling us all how great Windows 8 was ?

            Windows 8/8.1 is primarily designed for the Tablet whereas Windows 7 is a true Desktop OS. That in itself is worth mention which is often overlooked now that Microsoft have attempted to right the wrongs of Windows 8.

            I have Windows 8.1 running on Parallels Desktop 9 on my iMac. It certainly performs better than Windows 7 in a virtual environment. So there is no Windows 7 bias coming from me.

            I was merely trying to get across to Ed that it would be prudent to respect other peoples opinions all 46.64% of them.
          • off topic

            Your dreaming again Ed
    • If you're not getting it for free...

      There is no need to upgrade to Windows 8.1 if you are not getting it for free and running Windows 7. If you have a XP machine, 8.1 is worth the upgrade. Actually if you are running XP, you really should just buy a new computer as there are some very reasonably priced machines.
      Rann Xeroxx
      • Why through out a computer?

        A computer is a computer. You can put Linux on it and it has new life. I agree Windows 7 is great but removing a computer from your cluster is not necessary. Your computer is not outdated. Windows is. Just put Linux on an old computer and it has new life.
        Tim Jordan