Latest OS share data shows Windows still dominating in PCs

Latest OS share data shows Windows still dominating in PCs

Summary: The latest monthly OS share numbers from NetMarketShare show few surprises. XP continues to slide, Windows 8 is very slowly gaining traction, and Microsoft still dominates usage in the declining market for traditional PCs. But the numbers show a few unexpected trends.


It’s the beginning of a new month, which means it’s time for a new batch of data from NetMarketShare on the usage share of desktop operating systems. Not coincidentally, that also means it’s time for the tech blogosphere to stare at the numbers for a few microseconds, deliver some snap judgments, and move on to the next shiny thing.

I prefer to dig a little deeper. Minor changes in monthly usage shares are mostly noise. It’s the trends that matter more. And because I’ve been collating these monthly figures at regular intervals for the past six years, I have that trend data close at hand, in handy graphical format.


The number that every other tech reporter will focus on today is the share for Windows 8. If you read that Windows 8’s share of usage is up to 3.17 percent, give that reporter a failing grade. The actual number is slightly higher, because you have to add in 0.12 percent for Windows 8 Touch and another 0.02 percent for Windows RT Touch (which NetMarketShare lumps into the Windows 8 bucket). At the current trajectory, Windows 8 is likely to pass 10 percent share by its first birthday this fall.

[Update: A note on those percentages. That 0.12 percent figure is presumably when NetMarketShare detected that a touch browser (Internet Explorer 10) was being used on Windows 8. That number shoiuld be compared to the total Windows 8 number of 3.17 percent. That means that roughly 4 percent of Windows 8 traffic is coming via touch, with an indeterminate amount of traffic coming via conventional desktop browsers on a touch-enabled Windows 8 PC. The actual percentage of touch-enabled PCs is therefore at least 4 percent and probably higher.]

How accurate is that 3.3 percent figure? Who knows? It could be off significantly in either direction, and any math one tries to do with these numbers is fuzzy at best. But taken at face value, with appropriately large error bars, that percent would be equal to about 50 million Windows 8 PCs in use in a world with an installed base of 1.5 billion PCs and Macs running Windows, desktop Linux, or OS X.

Here are my takeaways from the new data:

  • Windows XP (38.73 percent) continues its steady decline, but its share of web usage is still remarkably high for a product that will reach its official end of life in just over a year.
  • Windows Vista (4.99 percent) is nearly invisible, with a share that has finally (if barely) dropped below 5 percent. Despite its decline, Vista is still used more than any individual version of OS X.
  • Windows 7 (44.73 percent) appears to have taken on the unofficial role as the Long-Term Support version of Windows, replacing XP. Note the green and blue lines that dominate this chart. Every other operating system, from Microsoft or its rivals, is in the sub-10 percent range, making them experimental, transitional, or part of a market niche. Of the entries on that chart, Windows 8 is the only one that I expect to break through the 10 percent barrier, and even at that Windows 8 might turn out to be transitional.
  • Windows 8 (3.31 percent) is slowly (very slowly) gaining traction. It’s worth noting that Windows 7’s steady increase in usage flatlined as soon as Windows 8 was released.

On traditional PCs and Macs, Microsoft still owns an overwhelming market share, with 91.8 percent of all traffic coming from Windows-based machines. Among non-Microsoft operating systems, both OS X and Linux have stalled since October 2011, hovering around 6.9 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

With the general decline of the PC market, that could just mean that Apple has focused more of its energy on mobile devices (which are not included in these numbers). In my personal stats, I've noticed that nearly 20 percent of all traffic over the past few months has been from mobile devices, and that percentage continues to grow. 

In looking at the numbers, I noticed one trend you probably won’t see discussed elsewhere. Pundits obsess over upgrade rates for Microsoft Windows versions, but they almost never mention OS X. So here are a few Mac facts to chew on:

  • Despite its $19.99 price tag, only 38.3 percent of all Mac users are running the most recent OS X release, Mountain Lion, which was released eight months ago. Most of those were included with new Macs.
  • More Mac users are running the 2009 Snow Leopard (27 percent of Mac users) than the 2011 Lion (26.2 percent).
  • Surprisingly, 35.5 percent of all Mac users are running versions of OS X that are officially unsupported by Apple. That places them at a higher risk of contracting malware delivered through flaws in the Java browser plugin, which was shipped with every version of OS X until Snow Leopard.

Oh, and one more interesting fact worth passing along. One widely discussed operating system isn’t visible in the NetMarketShare numbers. There’s no entry for Chrome OS at all. A spokesperson for the company tells me those numbers will be included in an update to their tracking stats, coming soon.

Net Market Share publishes snapshots of PC usage based on data from 160 million visits per month to its large collection of sites (the exact methodology is here). Its monthly reports on operating system versions contain a wealth of detailed information about even the most obscure OSes. Their stats for mobile platforms are tracked separately.

Topics: PCs, Apple, Linux, Windows, 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
  • But Ed, I FEEL like Windows 8 isn't doing well

    And my feelings on the matter are far more important than your facts. /s

    Kudos to Microsoft.
    • Ha right?

      It's already passed up Linux and will have passed up OSX by Xmas for sure.
      • RedSoldat and all the kids in play school

        just love all the flashing tiles in Metro
        Over and Out
        • :)

          ooo ... flashing tiles!
        • LOL - I stopped playing with colored blocks when I was 6

          You could have shoved a dead cat into a PC and made 3.4% market share off the consumer market for PCs.

          Windows 8 = Vista

          Windows 7 is the real operating system until MS figures out people don't want to run a inefficient mobile OS on a desktop. I wish they would hurry up and copy Apple's model, they are behind schedule.
          • cut it out....

            please do us all a favor....a shut up with all the inefficient talk. you don't like the new interface cool we get it. but let's face it you have neither the skill or talent to produce a operating system.

            i guess you are a linux person, well linux has tried and tried over the last 25 years at least and can get into 1% of the total consumer market. you know why because there are no serious programs for linux that everyday people use. they have alternatives but face it they aren't serious contenders. so in reality microsofts new ui is more efficent and productive then linux.
            Tyrelle Watts
          • I was with you until...

            You started trash talking my OS. Yeah, Windows 8 get's a lot of unneeded scorn, but you can't just claim Linux is trash. I can be a whole lot more productive on a Linux system than a Windows one. And name ONE application that isn't a serious contender? I prefer Libreoffice to the new MS Office, Gimp can do everything I personally need in an image editing suite (Maybe not a real graphics artist, but I wouldn't know about that), and Terminator makes CMD.exe look like a joke.
          • I agree with you about productivity on Linux vs. Windows hog

            I'v used a stop watch and spent one hour on windows and then after 20 minutes on Linux all my work is finished.

            Of course many of the minutes using Windows is spent waiting for the slow MS DOS file system and the registry to actually work.

            So since time is money, Linux saves me a lot of money.
          • Wrong Tyrelle

            Linux was first released in 1991, wasn't available to more than a few who compiled it themselves until 1995. So, Linux isn't 25 years old. That milestone won't be here until 2016.

            Oh, and the 1% figure is bogus. Real usage taken from on line sites give usage as closer to 12% for Linux. The figures given are only what shipped with the hardware. Most Linux users buy the Windows boxes, as the annoying programs shipped as a "service". (Even Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer hate that annoyance). The presence of this unwanted software lowers the cost of the computer by around $80.00, which is more than the $30.00 Microsoft usually charges the OEMs. That means that a Windows box is usually $50.00 less expensive than a bare metal box.

            But don't worry, about 10% of those Linux users are 'Dual Booters' as I am. We Dual Booters use both Windows and Linux on the same computer.

            Microsoft doesn't care, as they can still sell the OS, often 'bundled' with the Office package they sell. That we don't use it makes no difference to them. They've already been paid. (That's the Microsoft tax.)
          • MS didn't used to care...

            ...and it would be logical for MS not to care (a sale is a sale), but then we have the whole SecureBoot controversy.
            John L. Ries
          • Total BS

            Till this day I have never met anyone in my life that has bought a Windows box and replaced it with Linux straight away. You will get the odd person who will do it when the box is over 5 years old and ready for the bin. The last real big presence of Linux on the desktop was during the netbook boom and that was really annoying due to the sheer number of people coming up to me asking for XP to be installed over Linux.

            The problem with Linux lovers is that they cannot grasp that even in IT industry there is only a tiny proportion of people who are actual geeks, now imagine how tiny that proportion is if you take the whole population into account. This is why Linux will never ever go mainstream on the desktop.
          • I beg to differ

            Most of the internet backbone is based on Linux/Unix/Solaris and a few others. NT is used more in businesses and larger corporations. I bought a laptop with MS on it and removed it the next day. Since then I have been using *nix OS's (that was 12 years ago). I do not wish to slam anyone on this toppic as it has been discussed before on many forums. MS has its advantages and so does Linux. Both have many disadvantages to them. MAC has a very good Desktop and Linux (Ubuntu) is really replacing many OS's on the market, why? Cos it is open source and free. If you like your OS then support it and dont slam others who use other OS's...its all about personal experience and preference. come on guys...lets work together to improve our world, not bring it down.
          • On that subject

            I hear there is a farmer in the Dell

            Which leads to the cat that takes the mouse.

            The secret to Dells is that the cheese stands alone!
          • We would like there to be a farmer in the Dell

            But the way things are going, Dell might get a strip miner instead.
            John L. Ries
          • Win 7 versus Win 8

            I have been pretty happy with Win 7 and since I have no touch screens on my desktop or laptop machines, I won't be upgrading to Win 8 anytime soon, certainly not until a service pack has been released. And maybe not even then, perhaps waiting until support for Win 7 disappears.
          • Touch Screens

            Anyone who still thinks Windows 8 REQUIRES a touch screen hasn't been paying attention to what others are posting all over the web.

            Due to my bio-chemical makeup, I can't use touch screens - including touchpads on notebooks/laptops. Windows 8 is fully keyboard friendly. There are a multitude of shortcut keys available to do almost everything a user may want to do. Windows 8 just isn't mouse friendly, but it can still be used to a great extent - if a person is willing to read all the how-to-make-windows 8-work articles available on ZDNet and elsewhere.

            If you're happy with Windows 7, just say so. There's no shame in that, and Windows 7 won't be going away any time soon. Just don't make false claims to support your preferences.
          • windows 8 vista

            Thats a silly comment. If you really understand the configuration you would know that windows 8 is really windows 7. The metro tiles is just a UI overlay on top of windows 7. Don't like the tiles, replace it with some other UI. Its not that hard unless you're an apple user who is used to being told how exactly to use a computer.

            Anyone with an android phone should realize that windows 8 just has a skin on top because your phone is more than likely to have some type of skin/launcher on top of stock android the way metro tiles is on top of windows 7.

            Last I check, apple has no integration between OS whatever and iOS. And there is a reason for that, they can't figure it out. They're just going to reach the point where they'll just say "oh well our market share of OSx is so small anyway and it never grows in any kind of significant way so we're just going to ditch it and everything from this point forward will be iOS only"
          • Your last paragraph (on apple) is silly

            Apple has been porting pieces from iOS to OS/X. The two are getting closer, and will continue to do so. Its going to require some decisions from Apple on where to end up, given how restricting iOS is compared to OS/X.
          • I Agree

            Apple has been slowly integrating their PC (desktop/laptop/notebook) OS and mobile device OSs as Microsoft had been doing. Chrome was also trying to make their OS compatible with all various types of computer devices. All Microsoft did was make a giant step instead of baby steps.
          • Don't like the tiles, replace it with some other UI?

            Wait, what?? In Windows 8 you can just stay in the desktop, if you don't like the tiles. No problem whatsoever.

            For those inexperienced with Windows 8, and I would wager that is most here making comments, whenever you install a new program that has several modules (such as TuneUp Utilities, for example) each module gets its own tile. What does that mean? Well, little grasshopper, that means I can go to the START (Metro) UI and click just the module I want instead of opening the program that has that module and trying to remember where in the hell it is within that program. That means I get where I want much faster and without hassle.

            I'm 65 years old and I upgraded all three of my children's Vista OS systems to Win 8 Pro, along with both my 32 and 64 bit Vista computers without any problems. I figure that if I'm smart enough to take advantage of Windows 8 and its features, there must be some young thinkers out there who have some guts to try it. As someone said, Windows 8 is really Windows 7 with the tiles START (Metro) UI added. What he didn't say is that Windows 8 is faster than Windows 7! Since when do computer users turn away increased speed because of some tiles?? Especially when they can ignore them if they really want to! When I read some of these comments all I hear are whiners complaining about nonsense.