Windows 7 overtakes XP; Mac OS X steams ahead of Vista

Windows 7 overtakes XP; Mac OS X steams ahead of Vista

Summary: At long last, Microsoft Windows 7 has overtaken the 11-year-old Windows XP on Netmarketshare's web-based tracking network, while Mac OS X is now a percentage point ahead of Vista. There are also new numbers for mobile operating systems and browsers.


Microsoft Windows 7 has finally overtaken the 11-year-old Windows XP operating system on web-based market share figures from Netmarketshare. Also, Apple's Mac OS X has overtaken Windows Vista this summer, if all versions of Mac OS X are combined.

Windows 7 overtook Windows XP a long time ago on many individual websites and on other web-based trackers. However, Netmarketshare's numbers are balanced to reflect PC use in Asia, including China, where pirate copies of XP are in widespread use. Apart from that, XP has also hung on because of its use by government organisations and large enterprises that are slow to spot trends and congenitally averse to change.

OS Market share graph to 31 August 2012

XP's market share has steadily eroded from 61.91 percent in September 2010 to 42.52 percent today, while Windows 7's share has grown from 17.64 percent to 42.76 percent over the same period. There's still not much in it, as the graph above from Netmarketshare shows.

Windows 7's share should continue to grow as it has now become the corporate standard, and enterprises have woken up to the fact that "Windows 7 is the new XP". It's a pity they didn't work this out three years earlier, because that might have saved them a substantial amount of time and money.

Over the same two years, Windows Vista's market share has more than halved from 13.75 percent to 6.15 percent. This decline enabled Apple's Mac OS to overtake Vista this summer, according to Netmarketshare's numbers. Mac OS X's market share now stands at 7.13 percent. This includes versions 10.8 (1.41 percent), 10.7 (2.45 percent), 10.6 (2.38 percent), 10.5 (0.70 percent), 10.4 (0.17 percent) and unspecified (0.02 percent).

Since October 2011, Windows' total market share has declined by .09 percentage points from 91.86 percent to 91.77 percent, while Mac OS X has grown by 0.19 percentage points from 6.94 percent to 7.13 percent. In a three-horse race, Linux has declined slightly from 1.19 percent to 1.10 percent. This may represent some open source supporters buying proprietary Macs, as described by Gnome co-founder Miguael de Icaza in a recent blog post, What Killed the Linux Desktop.

It's unlikely that Netmarketshare's numbers are anything like that accurate, but 92/7/1 is probably roughly right.

Apple rules on mobiles

When it comes to mobile/tablet operating systems, Netmarketshare has Apple's iOS growing from 61.50 percent to 65.94 percent, and Google Android growing from 18,86 percent to 20.93 percent since October 2011. The losers include Java ME (8.37 percent), BlackBerry (1.9 percent) and Symbian (1.44 percent). Netmarketshare credits Windows Phone with 0.62 percent and Windows Mobile with 0.08 percent.

The mobile numbers are probably not a good guide to actual sales. The number of Windows PCs that are never used to browse the web must be relatively small, but huge numbers of mobile phones are not used for web browsing, including some that are quite capable of doing it.

And so to browsers

In the section for desktop browsers, Microsoft's Internet Explorer has increased its market share by almost a percentage point to 53.60 percent since October 2011. Google Chrome's market share has grown by more than two points to 19.13 percent, while Firefox's has fallen to 20.05 percent, just barely ahead. Apple's Safari has also lost a little market share, falling from 5.43 percent to 5.10 percent over the year.

However, IE has not sustained the growth it showed in the year's first quarter, and its market share has fallen by half a point from its 54.09 percent share in April 2012. This is a poor performance given the dramatic improvements to IE9 and IE10.

As you'd expect, Safari dominates in mobile/tablet browsing with a market share of 66.53 percent, ahead of Android (19.97 percent) and Opera Mini (8.59 percent).

For security reasons, Apple does not allow rival browsers to access the fast Nitro JavaScript engine that mobile Safari uses, giving Safari a significant performance advantage. Further, Apple does not allow users to set another browser as the default. Its lead is therefore likely to survive for some time.


Topics: Operating Systems, Browser

Jack Schofield

About Jack Schofield

Jack Schofield spent the 1970s editing photography magazines before becoming editor of an early UK computer magazine, Practical Computing. In 1983, he started writing a weekly computer column for the Guardian, and joined the staff to launch the newspaper's weekly computer supplement in 1985. This section launched the Guardian’s first website and, in 2001, its first real blog. When the printed section was dropped after 25 years and a couple of reincarnations, he felt it was a time for a change....

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  • Where is Mac OS X

    I really don't see it :P
    • I think it's that yellow line

      that starts at the very bottom left and is moving up. unlike the article title though, it's well below vista levels.
      • Combinations

        The graph shows each OS version, but it was all OS X versions combined which went past Vista (or Vista went under.)

        Looking at the mix of OS X shares, it seems to me that unlike the 10.4/10.5 era, Mac users are more likely to stick with the OS X version that came with their machine.

        Approximately, among Mac users, 1/3 are on Lion, 1/3 are on Snow Leopard and 1/5th are on Mountain Lion. That 19% ML number is not bad for week 5. Leopard is under 10%. Tiger is 2% leaving 0.28% running everything before Tiger.

        Release years were ML: 2012, Lion: 2011, Snow Leopard: 2009, Leopard 2007, and Tiger was 2005.

        That's 97% uptake in operating systems released after 2007. Windows compares at 56% uptake of operating systems released since 2006. More rapid release cycles probably helps Apple as does the growth in their units sold.

        To be clear, from a money standpoint, it doesn't really matter which Windows version is running. There is something to be said, though, about spending money developing new apis only to have developers pass because the new os is not in use. That feels like an inefficiency and possibly a problem.

        Will Win7 hit 60% by Win8's release date? What is the average lifetime for a computer? It used to be 3 years, but I think it has extended out through the recession, hardware improvements, and that clock speeds are more stable than ten years ago. At 5 years average lifetime, we would expect 60% pc turnover in three years. So, does that suggest that Windows 7 is installed when bought?

        And, of course, these shares of install base will provide a more interesting way of looking at Windows 8's acceptance than does the license counts Microsoft will be touting. After all, those could just as well have been Windows 7 licenses and look at the all the money Microsoft could have saved on r&d.
        • you have to take into account

          that consumers and business do updates very differently. consumers might upgrade constantly, or they might stick to what's preinstalled, depending on what type of person they are. there's more motivation to get upgrades for macs because each upgrade is smaller, but cheap. windows on the other hand is very expensive, but a new windows only comes out every so often, and has constant free updates, so there's more motivation to stick to what is preinstalled.

          business on the other hand will have all (or most) of their computers running the same version, wait until there's a really compelling reason to upgrade, and do a massive upgrade of all the machines in the company all at once.
      • The yellow line is labled OS X 10.7

        which could be less then Vista alone, while OS X usage as a whole, including earlier versions, likely have passed Vista.
        John Zern
  • Still on xp at work

    My workplace still uses xp, and most businesses I visit also show the iconic blue bar and green start button. And I'm a "luddite" stayin on 7?
    D.J. 43
    • at my workplace

      we still have a computer running windows 95 :-o

      it's the only thing that will run a machine we have from the 80's
      • Same here.

        We use Borland C (old DOS version) that gives the wrong binary (not really wrong but not the same) when run on anything but Win95 and before.
    • It's taken 11 years for XP to be overtaken by it's own Microsoft

      Utterly pathetic.
      Cylon Centurion
  • Still on Windows XP at work too

    Although I have installed a personal copy of Windows 7 on the machine I use just for some sanity. Its not that I have a problem with Windows XP since it is locked down tight, but geez, its so old and long in the tooth. I am way more productive in Windows 7, Jump List stands out as one of the best examples of how much more functional the user experience is, Aero Snap is another one I use a lot. Not to mention, it performs just as well as XP on the same machine.
    • Run legacy apps in a virtualized environment

      Well you can always run Windows XP legagy apps in a virtual environment

      Software such as ThinServer XP makes it easy :)
      • XP Mode

        Or use the freely available XP Mode for Windows 7, which is basically a customised version of VirtualPC with a Windows XP image. There really is no excuse to be running XP as a host o/s anymore, that said work do this too (which is why my team have 2 computers each, the other runs on an external broadband connection with Windows 7 & hardware that isn't a decade old).
  • Not slow to spot trends . . .

    "because of its use by government organisations and large enterprises that are slow to spot trends and congenitally averse to change."

    I don't think they're slow to spot trends. Everybody who knows anything has long known that Windows 7 is Microsoft's next major OS, and it is doing well. They all know it's gonna happen.

    Adverse to change is more like it. Large businesses are slow. There's a lot of chain-of-command and red tape.

    And experience tells me that despite all of the talk about business automation, many businesses are still in the stone ages. Some are still using paper forms, and some are still passing around spreadsheets for business processes. And even after you've made everything as efficient as it can be on a fancy "cloud" based service, it may still pass through several hands before reaching its destination - in many cases, it's not the amount of automation that's the problem, it's that the business process itself bounces around so many times.

    After what I've seen, I can tell you the "cloud" is not the solution for all business problems. Some business processes are so broken that it won't matter at all if you throw it in the cloud.

    "but huge numbers of mobile phones are not used for web browsing, including some that are quite capable of doing it."

    Especially if you consider feature phones, many of which are capable of web browsing but almost never used for it. Most people who want to do browsing on a phone will likely move to a smart phone.

    "This is a poor performance given the dramatic improvements to IE9 and IE10."

    Unfortunately, we're getting to the point where web browsers are practically indistinguishable in capabilities, and it will likely start boiling down to personal preference and possibly certain key features.
    • Hardware refresh

      The move from XP to 7 typically requires a hardware upgrade, for many business the several hundred dollars can't be justified.

      Personally I'd back 7 for some time yet. XP is ridiculously out dated, even if a solid offering.
      Richard Flude
  • Miguel de Icaza

    is a talented software engineer. No doubts there. His integrity is not as obvious though.
    We've been reading his constant admonishments that Microsoft is not as predatory as it was before. 2 times (at least as I know) of failed attempts to get a job at Microsoft. To be honest, you'd be a pearl in the middle of the dung, they really are, Miguel.
    "That day I stopped feeling guilty about my new found love for OSX. "
    You're guilty, Miguel of being ignorant or biased? (Not having any more flashbacks, do you?)
    Yes, gnome3 is a little messy, unity might be better. There is CInnamon and mate though. Linux Mint xfce shines too and is better than Mac OSX .
    BTW, I can run some legacy 32-bit Windows apps on top of wine layer inside of a 64 bit Linux or FreeBSD environment. Vista x64 could not.
    • Vista is

      Capable of running 32 bit Windows apps, it is not capable of natively running 16 bits Windows apps though. Just as 64 bits Linux can't run them natively. Just as wine is a way around this on Linux, you could use virtualisation or something like dosbox on Vista 64 to achieve the same, with pretty much the same performance restraints.
    • But you're completely unbiased right?

      Sounds a little like there's some resolved issues in play here on both sides...
      The Werewolf!
  • websites and web based trackers?

    what if most XP users simply do not go to these web sites? corporate nets where global access is blocked or even pcs without internet connection (the purpose of a workstation can not require any).

    very subjective statistics. its like going to a night club and then saying: there were almost no old people, that would mean that present population is mainly young
    • Subjective statistics

      How about the constant disparities - often substantive ones - between the two field leaders, NetMarketShare and StatCounter? Each uses a different methodology to derive its conclusions, and *surprise surprise*, are often widely divergent. So, do you take the blue or red pill?

      NMS uses site visitors based on the company’s network of registered websites to track users, with an estimated sampling base of around 160 million visitors per month. SC uses aggregate data collected on a sampling of over 15 billion page views per month collected from its registered network of roughly three million websites.

      I too suspect there are more XP users out there worldwide than these firms can accurately assess. But I suppose when you need a metric of some sort to point to in any sort of "authoritative" (sic) way, these web analytics' firms offer as good a guess as anything going -- with a huge caveat that YMMV.
  • RE: Windows 7 is the new XP

    I have to agree with that. At work when I mention Windows 8 people give the same response, "we don't need no stinking Windows 8!!" Btw, yes there's still some Windows XP at my work. Same as with other commenters here; older software doesn't work with newer versions.
    Arm A. Geddon