New usage stats show Windows holding steady as PC sales drop

New usage stats show Windows holding steady as PC sales drop

Summary: The latest numbers from NetMarketShare show that the PC market might be slowing, but it's not changing much. Windows 8 is growing its share as people replace their old PCs, and despite vocal threats, no one appears to have replaced their Windows PC with a Mac or Linux.


It’s the first day of a new month, which means it’s time for tech journalists to obsess over the latest release of NetMarketShare monthly statistics from Net Applications.

And by zeroing in on microscopic changes in percentages, they will miss the point.


Although Net Applications refers to its monthly numbers as “market share reports,” they really represent usage share, which isn’t the same as market share. Market share measures sales and/or shipments in a given period. It’s a snapshot of the buying choices people make in competitive markets.

Usage share measures the behavior of the installed base. In the mature PC market, which consists of approximately 1.5 billion desktop and portable PCs, newcomers have an uphill battle to even get on the board. Measuring usage share provides an indirect measure of sales, but it takes work to tease out the larger trends.

After looking carefully at the data for May 2013, I can conclude one thing with confidence: Not much has changed in the past couple of months.

Here are the key takeaways:

  • Windows 8 is slowly but steadily increasing its share of usage worldwide. In May, according to the NetMarketShare statistics, Windows 8 usage increased from 3.8 percent to 4.3 percent. That pace has remained about the same since February, the first full month after Microsoft’s discounted upgrade offer ended. Since then, NetMarketShare says Windows 8 usage has increased by an average of about 0.5 percent per month.
  • Windows 7 growth stopped on a dime with the release of Windows 8. In October 2012, Windows 7 usage was at 44.7 percent. In May, seven months later, it’s up an inconsequential amount, to 44.8 percent. Earlier this year I called Windows 7 the “Long-Term Support version of Windows.” I predict it will remain popular, especially in enterprises, for years to come.
  • Windows Vista and Windows XP are declining slowly. Collectively, these two versions shared about 46.5 percent of the worldwide usage share in October of last year, before Windows 8 launched. Seven months later, they represent 42.2 percent. That adds up to a 4.3 percent drop, which just happens to match the share of Windows 8 perfectly.
  • Windows users aren’t deserting the platform for OS X and Linux. Last October, OS X and Linux usage added up to 8.3 percent. Seven months after the launch of Windows 8, the combined share has not budged and is still at 8.3 percent.
  • Chrome OS still hasn’t achieved enough usage to appear on the monthly NetMarketShare reports.

In short, the market appears to be in a holding pattern.

Desktop browser usage shares (which aren’t as closely tied to new PC purchases) have also remained mostly unchanged in recent months. For May, NetMarketShare reports that Internet Explorer held a 56 percent share, compared to 20.6 percent for Firefox and 15.7 percent for Chrome. Compared to last October, that’s a slight positive shift for Internet Explorer, which was at 54.1 percent, and for Firefox, which increased from an even 20 percent. NetMarketShare reports a noticeable drop in worldwide usage for Chrome, which had been at 18.6 percent.

The most-watched item in these monthly reports, of course, is Windows 8, which has now been on sale for just over seven months.

Are this month’s figures good news or bad news for Microsoft? Neither, really. The initial bump from early adopters and enthusiasts happened in the first three months after the launch of Windows 8, when Microsoft offered a dramatically discounted upgrade to Windows 8 Pro.

Just about everyone who intended to upgrade to Windows 8 has already done so. That leaves the replacement PC market. Roughly 650 million people who own Windows 7 PCs that are three years old or newer have no plans to change their hardware or software any time soon. Those who are replacing older PCs are, in general, buying new machines with Windows 8 preinstalled, although they’re grumbling a bit more than usual.

Going forward, the fate of Windows 8 is tied to sales of new hardware, including both traditional PCs and new mobile devices like tablets, hybrids, and Ultrabooks.

The traditional PC market is, to put it mildly, not doing well. In the first quarter of this year, PC sales dropped by 14 percent compared to the same period last year. People are still buying PCs, but they’re holding on to them longer and increasingly choosing smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices to handle computing tasks they used to perform with the PC.

Microsoft built Windows 8 so that it could power those nontraditional mobile devices, calculating that it could make up for the decline in traditional PC sales with shipments of new Windows 8-powered devices in the tablet category. But touch-enabled Windows laptops and tablets are just beginning to appear in the market, and they still make up less than 30 percent of Windows PCs on the market.

All that could change later this year. The next wave of Windows 8 devices will be made up of smaller tablets like the Acer Iconia W3-810, which sports an 8.1-inch screen. Windows 8 was designed with 10-inch screens in mind, with a strong bias in favor of landscape orientation. Windows 8.1 specifically supports lower resolutions and alternative aspect ratios. It also makes other changes to the behavior of apps that should make it a good selection for those mini-tablets.

If those devices are priced right, they could be a big success. In the meantime, nothing is likely to change next month, or the month after that.

Topics: Operating Systems, Apple, Linux, Microsoft, Windows, Windows 8

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  • Windows 7 growth stopped on a dime with the release of Windows 8

    Only because it was cut off at retail not because Windows 8 is so wonderfull.
    Over and Out
    • Windows 7 growth stopped on a dime with the release of Windows 8

      Sure you know everything Mr Linux.
      • linux is the power

        linux does not have billions in advertising
        and also does not come pre installed on most PCs
        and also does not control its monopoly bribing and buying other companies!

        and mac are expensive!

        although Linux is much more stable than windows, it loses in dissemination and manipulation power!
        Josy Vieira
        • standard excuses

          If Linux were better, it would win.

          Supercomputers, definite win.
          Servers, numbers are hard to come by, but seems to be slightly higher or neck and neck with Windows.

          Tablets - Android seems to qualify as Linux here, beating tar out of Windows.

          Desktop - Windows wins hands down. Basically, Linux doesn't do what people want, namely, run their favorite program without an emulator.

          Standard excuses, Linux desktop didn't win because the community could never make it do what people want. Windows did exactly that.
          • linux

            first thing most people do not know what is linux

            linux and windows is better compared to the problem is that the range of applications for windows is much higher!!
            The windows by itself does not win!! it depends on its range of applications to make Linux!!
            Josy Vieira
          • That excuse doesn't hold water...

            since, most of the applications that Windows runs now, were developed in the last 10 years, and Linux developers had the same opportunity to create similar applications, but, nobody was going to buy or get Linux, because, it's still not what people wanted 10 years ago, or 20 years ago, or even now.

            The applications excuse is pretty asinine.

            Windows by itself wins, because, people still want it. Windows with the millions of applications is even more desirable.

            Linux by itself loses every time, and would be as useful as dog poop on my lawn; it helps, but is highly undesirable. Then, Linux with its slew of applications is still not desirable. Applications-wise, the Linux people had as much time as the people who design for Windows. So, your excuse is pretty silly.
          • first to mass market share bears better

            I think first beats better. Most desktop users can't consider Linux because their applications don't run. I don't think windows is a great hit with consumers ... They seem to have abandoned Windows complexity for iOS as soon as they had the chance. Linus as an OS is 'better' in more ways than it's not ( and OS X is hands down the best desktop OS) but better is not good enough. For years this was an insurmountable problem for Windows competitors. Now the same cruel market logic is Microsoft's bane because it seems out of the mobile race and without any chance of monetising it apart from a few dollars per android handset in patent licences.
          • "They seem to have abandoned Windows complexity"

            Did you actually read the article? No change in market share.
        • As a Mint convert...

          I can tell you that you have no idea what you are talking about. Linux is ABSOLUTELY NOT more stable than Windows.

          I chose to migrate over to this distro of Linux for reasons other than stability or security. In fact, I am one of those rare Windows users who have never (and I mean absolutely never) had a virus.

          I also just simply did not have any stability issues with Windows 7 on any of my laptops or desktops. For the masses, Windows 7 is the very best desktop OS ever created, period.

          So don't even go down that road that Linux is more stable, it isn't. Broken packages, constantly having issues with the "official" nVidia drivers, power management issues, quirky and inconsistent issues with the Mate desktop, programs that don't launch forcing me to kill the process to then relaunch (heck, Package Manager freezes quite often).

          I am okay with some of these struggles as I continue to adapt to Linux. But this OS is not ready for prime time for the masses, pure and simple.
          • I call BS...

            Oh I understand that you are having "problems". However, those problems also exist in the Windows world. However, in the Windows world we just get "used" to it. You know it is a "trick" to do so that you don't have problems in the future. You don't mention these problems because you do them without even knowing about it. It is auto-pilot type of stuff.

            Here is a simple example; USB devices that fail if you plug them into the wrong port. People just get into the habit of plugging it into the right port. Wifi adapters that do not always work and you shut them off and turn them on a few times so that you can log onto the network. The automatic restart reflex if something goes wrong, even if it is something simple. These are auto-habits that we do without even thinking about it.

            I have some issues as well, for example nVidia drivers, so I don't load them and things work out ok. Or get yourself an AMD driver and it works better. The fact that you have things freezing all the time makes me wonder what you are using and doing. I have been using Linux quite a while and that type of error means that your hardware is flaky, or it is one of those Windows SoC jobs.

            There is a breed of computer that works only with Windows. There are so optimized that only a specific version of Windows works, and they are not updated as they tend to be cheap machines. I am wondering if you have one of these types of machines. Linux will work like crap because the drivers that Linux thinks it is, are not as the configuration is special.

            I avoid those machines like the plague as I know if a new version of Windows comes out they will never be supported. I tend to stick to machines that I know run Linux. BTW this lesson I did not learn from Linux, but from the original edition of Windows NT in 1992! From that software version on I learned only buy hardware that is open and flexible.
          • ALl of your examples...

            are hardware problems. WHat do you do when a usb device fails on linux? stare at it until it magically fixes itself? And don't you dare say that doesn't happen on linux.
          • Macs just work

            Because Apple is the only company that makes hardware and software together, their devices usually tend to work and are more reliable than anybody else's. Even with USB devices, with Windows running under Parallels in a virtual machine, I have never had trouble with USB or FireWire devices running either under OS X or Windows. Apple computers are more expensive, but they also work every time. I have yet to buy a peripheral device where the manufacturer claimed that it will work with Mac, that it did not. Manufacturers that write drivers for Mac have a big advantage, in that they only have a limited number of hardware configuration they must consider.
          • linux mint surely isn't

            try pclinuxos
          • Mint and NVidia is problematic

            I've also had my share of issues with NVidia and Mint (v14 I think, the one from last fall).

            First, when install was completed, first boot get to login screen, type username and password and... looped back to login screen. Tried a few more times, reboot, same thing.

            I then thought of trying the regular desktop instead of Cinnamon and was able to login... I then installed the proprietary driver and after a reboot Cinammon worked.

            Then try to tell NVidia control panel that my first monitor (where the taskbar is) is to be the one on the right... Impossible! When to specify using that control panel it's applied immediately but forgotten on next login. After a couple of hours of googling I found out there is an XML config file in which you can specify which monitor is the first and that was remembered.

            I really like to have Linux around, but I understand that it is not for people which do not have computer knowledge or desire to play with settings.

            Linux instability is mostly located in the desktop managers, not Linux itself. I suppose Windows has an advantage having only one desktop to deal with.
          • Incomplete and distorted knowledge of Linux

            While "lepoete73" is correct to a "small" degree, in that Linux Operating System (OS) is very stable and that "some" Desktop environments are less stable.

            However his/her lack of expertise and experience of Linux in the business or high productivity environments is obvious by statement of "liking to have Linux around", as it was a toy.

            Several studies by corporations like Merrill Lynch Financial Services and particularly IBM, Oracle,the City of Munich, Germany and more have shown positively and evidently that a properly configured Linux Desktop - as come standard in Ubuntu Business Desktop or LinuxMint Desktop for examples, require no more technical computer knowledge to operate efficiently and successfully than Microsoft Windows of any iteration. If fact Linux was even easier for some.

            I have installed "fairly standard" Linux desktops at Retirement Villages and Assisted Living Centers for users who are mostly over seventy years of age, and had not one who could not happily and easily use linux if they had previously used Windows or Mac OS X.

            It is imperative that those who are generally ignorant - meaning have little worthhile knowledge of Linux should refrain from making spurious comments on the software, like Ed Bott frequently does.
          • Not really a 'convert' then, are ya?

            I call BS as well.
            Broken packages? Isn't this a Loverock Davidson line? Power management issues? Really?
            Seriously, stay with Windows. Make your life easier staying with what you know... Linux doesn't care. But definitely don't call yourself a "Linux Convert". Your lack of knowledge and used of ancient FUD lines kicks the needle on my BS-ometer into the red.
        • Much more stable?

          How is that, I don't have any stability problems with any of my Windows 7 or 8 desktops or notebooks. Or my Windows Phone 8 Lumia. So, if Windows is stable how much more stable is Linux? None, you are just relying on old FUD to try to get someone, anyone to switch to Linux.
      • not everything

        only this particular subject, contrary to you, paid microsoft propagandist
  • it's better because

    1. it's free
    2. all the applications and functionality needed by 90% of the users out there is available through central repositories (think windows store, but without paying for anything).
    3. Apps and the OS are updated through the same process, you don't get your office update from one place, your accounting software update from another place, your pdf software update from a third place and your OS updates from a 4th, most of which are manual processes. Nearly every update does not require a reboot, unlike windows. I have a 64 bit mint 13 laptop that hasn't been restarted in 11 months. It was last "restarted" when we had a power failure during a storm last summer and the battery died.
    4. The OS isn't bloated, so it runs considerably faster on older machines than does a fresh install of windows.
  • Give me a break: "sudo apt-get install -f"??? Really?!?

    At this stage of OSes, Linux OSes, or anybody that work with Linux, would offer that as a solution? A command line operation in order to fix a problem that is supposedly "simple" to fix?

    If you Linux lovers don't get it yet, you never will.