Windows 8.1 surges in usage as XP continues to drop

Windows 8.1 surges in usage as XP continues to drop

Summary: The latest web usage numbers from NetMarketShare for October show that free is the key to success. Microsoft's Windows 8.1 and Apple's new OS X Mavericks, both released as free updates, found their way onto a significant number of PCs for the month.


If you want people to adopt your platform, make it free.

That's the lesson in this month's web usage statistics from NetMarketShare, which measure worldwide usage share of desktop and mobile operating systems and browsers.

In October, both Microsoft and Apple released free updates to their flagship desktop and notebook operating systems. And despite the fact that the updates arrived late in the month, their impact was substantial.

Microsoft's Windows 8.1 clocked usage of 1.72 percent, doubling its share from the previous month. That gives the Windows 8.x family a total usage share of 9.25 percent after one full year on the market. (Historically speaking, it appears that Windows 8 is following the same adoption patterns as Windows XP, whose share of the installed base was also just under 10 percent after its first year on the market.)

Windows usage, Dec 2012 - Oct 2013 (source:NetMarketShare)

Usage of Windows XP, which celebrated its 12th birthday in October, continues to drop precipitously in NetMarketShare's measurements as it heads toward its end-of-support date less than six months from now. For October, XP usage dropped to 31.24 percent, a new low. Windows 7 usage is virtually unchanged from the previous month, with just under half of all PCs running that flavor of Windows.

Meanwhile, Apple's new OS X Mavericks (officially OS X 10.9), hit a usage level of 0.84 percent in its first (partial) month of availability. Overall, OS X usage continues to climb, slowly, with all OS X versions combined reaching 7.73 percent for the month, a new high. Linux advocates can also celebrate as usage of that free alternative also hit a new high of 1.61 percent.

Update: Several people asked about StatCounter numbers, which were also published today. Those numbers are hard to compare, because they include mobile operating systems as well as game consoles. When I isolated the figures to just desktop OSes so they're a proper comparison to the NetMarketShare numbers, here's what I got:

According to StatCounter's October numbers:

  • Windows 7 has 55.3 percent usage (essentially unchanged from a year ago)
  • XP has declined from 28.1 percent a year ago to just a hair over 20 percent today.
  • Total usage of Windows 8.x is approximately 8.6 percent. StatCounter says between September and October usage of Windows 8.1 increased by 10X.
  • OS X usage is in decline, dropping below 7 percent after being at 7.59 percent a year ago.
  • Linux is at 1.16 percent.

StatCounter's browser statistics do not break out differences between mobile and desktop devices, so it is impossible to compare them to the corresponding figures from NetMarketShare.

NetMarketShare still doesn't register any share from Chrome OS. StatCounter says Chrome OS usage is now approximately 4/100 of 1 percent.

In the desktop browser segment, Internet Explorer continues its steady growth, reaching 58.22 percent usage. That's the highest level of usage for the Internet Explorer family in more than two years, and it comes as usage of Firefox and Chrome on traditional desktop operating systems continue to slide. According to the NetMarketShare numbers, Chrome usage hit a two-year low of 15.42 percent in October after briefly nearing the 20 percent mark earlier in the year.

It's worth noting that the modern, standards-compliant versions of Internet Explorer, 10 and 11, combined for a total usage of 20.43 percent for the month. That's more than the Firefox or Chrome figures. And Internet Explorer 10, which doesn't run on Windows XP, is poised to overtake IE 8 as the most-used version.

The PC market is no longer growing as it once was, but even with lower shipments the installed base of traditional PCs continues to grow, with hundreds of millions of new shipments per year. For consumers (and increasingly for businesses), tablets and mobile devices are where the market momentum and excitement are to be found. But in most cases those new tablets are still going to be companion devices in households and offices that also have at least one PC or Mac.

Topics: Operating Systems, Apple, PCs, Windows, Windows 8

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  • Translation People are still buying PCs.

    Because that's really all those numbers mean.
    • Wager

      I would wager that 95% of users never actually upgrade their OS. They get the new OS when they get a new computer/ And I suspect that's how it's always been.
      • I'm the 5 percent...

        ... and you're pretty much spot-on.

        Sometimes, my parents have trouble just installing service packs.
      • I'm sure that the fact that they are getting a new OS

        as part of that purchase is an incentive to buy new, just like any other component of the system, and not as "it's just what comes with it".

        I know a few people that have done that, getting a new system because they'd be getting a new Windows OS at "no extra cost", but with all the benefits.
        • ..

          Many dont buy for the os and in fact dump the preloaded os for a true full non manufacture version of the os. For me I convert dozen of systems a day with my side business where people bring me nice new machines but want windows 7 on it and no windows 8/8.1.
          • @Fletchguy

            "For me I convert dozen of systems a day"

            You make it sound like some kind of tech religion.
          • No it's not a tech relegion!

            It's called a money making scheme, because instead of helping his potential customers he make money out of them!
          • A great many do buy for the OS, Fletchguy

            as I get questions like that every day, in which I'm asked "should I just upgrade my Windows, or buy a new system with Windows 7 / Windows 8 preinstalled?"

            That doesn't sound like the OS is a non issue, and in fact I seriously doubt you're converting dozen of PC's a day from Windows 8 to Windows 7.
          • "For me I convert dozen of systems a day"

            Sorry, but it is clear to see that no one is believing in you. How about if you will just say that you are a 'one man manufacturing doors' then maybe they have to think twice. hahahax8 but not "For me I convert dozen of systems a day with my side business where people bring me nice new machines but want windows 7 on it and no windows 8/8.1.".
          • Ya, his side business.

            It implies he has a different full time job, during his spare time he uses to run his "side business" he still has time to do a dozen Windows 7 retro fits on PC's. He must do at least 2 or three at once or I don't know how he has time along with his full time job that is not his "side business".

            You know, I know many many many Windows users and I have never met a single one who would pay a dime to retro fit an older OS on a new machine that already had the current OS installed. The assertion that people are doing such a thing in such droves that a guy can come on here and make it sound like he does dozens of these as a simple matter of course in his side business is absolute nonsense. Just nonsense.

            Nobody who isn't a Microsoft hater to begin with would ever believe such nonsense. Its pure crap. I frequent computer shops al the time. I speak with the sales guys and even the techs. These installations of older OS's is pretty rare from what I have seen. It apperantly happens moore frequently when someone has a choice of what to install, such as a custom build, then people frequently request Windows 7, but this whole nonsense about people buying new systems with Windows 8 preinstalled and then willing to pay after the fact even more for a Windows 7 OS to install on there new machine is crap. Its relatively rare and is hardly worth talking about.

            What trash.
          • ..

            We don't believe him for a simple reason: you CANNOT convert dozens of systems a day from Windows 8 to Windows 7. There simply isn't enough time in the day, especially for a "side business", unless you expect he has a master Windows 7 image, complete with ALL drivers and support software, and every single one of those dozens is bringing in the exact same hardware make and model.

            He's lying, end of story.
          • Calling your Bluff

            As are the rest of these guys. It would be very hard to convert a dozen systems a day, even without data transfers. And, while you might have done a dozen ONE day, I not only call your Bluff, I call BS.

            Define many. Most users, that is well over 50% of users do not buy a system and swap an OS. They put up with whatever comes on it, whether they bought it for that OS or not, and whether or not it is really their preference.

            You said many, and if we count raw numbers, there probably are a lot of people buying new computers and downgrading to Windows 7...just like there are many people buying Mac portables and putting Windows 7 on them. But, in both cases it is a tiny percentage of the total numbers of those systems being sold.

            Oh, and Windows 8 is a great OS, and 8.1 is even better. If you don't like it, then keep plugging away with the old stuff while the rest of the world pulls away.
          • is that because.........

            They actually want it or because you feed. Them BS. And FUD. 8 or 8.1 outperform 7 in every way.
          • Impossible, Fletchguy

            I own a computer store in Vancouver (29 years), and what you claim is an impossibility.

            Firstly, to do a dozen machines a day, even with imaging software and disk duplicators, would require about 4 employees and an impressively large bench space - hardly what I'd call a "side" business.

            Secondly, since Win8 was released almost a year ago, I don't recall being asked more than a half-dozen times to do a conversion, and other store managers in my area (Vancouver) have mentioned similar figures in conversation.

            Which means, basically, you are nothing more than a truth-stretching hater. What is it with you guys?
          • And.. you're wrong.

            It ultimately depends on how deep you go with the build - is it just a base install of Win 7? Or, are we talking the O/S, Productivity package (Open Office/MS Office), & security updates?

            *IF* it's just the base O/S, it's entirely possible to convert 12+ machines a day over to Win 7, it just involves some pre-planning:

            1. Set up a kvm switch - 4 port, 8 port, whatever.
            2. Convert your CD/DVD media to USB.

            Drivers are typically a non issue, at least for minor things like sound, ethernet, etc. But, you'd more than likely have to install the VGA driver.

            Please don't tell me it can't be done, because I have done it, several times, consistently in the past. With the KVM switch & USB install media, my installs were clocked at around 45 minutes per install, and I was installing 8 machines at a time using the KVM+USB key method.

            At the end of the day, I was totaling 16 machines ready for resale - fully updated, with MS Office, Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, and MS Security Essentials.
          • Not very meaningful

            Lots of people wanted to go back to XP, 2 years after vista came out (and long after all of it's launch problems were resolved). Why? Because they heard Vista was bad (and for the first 6 months -- 12-18 without 2 summer 97 hot fixes), they wanted XP. The bottom line is most people buy a computer and they use whatever OS it comes with until they buy a new computer. The only reason I'll install 8.1 (one of these days) is because I got it for 20 bucks. Otherwise, I'd stick with 7 until I built a new PC (and I still may do that).
      • Going from Windows 8 to 8.1 is about as easy as updating a smartphone...

        ...and most people do that. Well more than 5% of Windows 8 users have already done the upgrade.
        • That is the whole point.

          If you make updates non-intrusive and perform them in the background, the user doesn't care. If the OS nags the user to upgrade, the upgrades never happen.
          M Wagner
          • picky

            Updates can't be done entirely in the background. At some point the device needs to reboot to use the new kernel. However, if for any reason the new OS bricks the device, the manufacturer is in trouble for not having given the user a choice.

            That's the sticky part: background updates have to be flawless, and that means they have to be thoroughly tested. That's would appear to be an expense MSFT has been skimping on for a few quarters.
        • 8.1

          I've tried updating my purchased 8.0 several times and after all the steps I get a messages saying they are returning me to my previous system. So, rather than being easy, it seems like many things about 8.0, it has been frustrating!