Microsoft has sold 600 million copies of Windows 7, and it now has around 40 percent of the installed base, according to Steven Guggenheimer, corporate vice president of Microsoft's original equipment manufacturer (OEM) division. This information was, however, incidental to his keynote speech at the Computex trade exhibition in Taiwan, which was mainly concerned with promoting Windows 8.
Guggenheimer's view of Windows 7 is that it is the best path to Windows 8, but the installed base of PCs is lagging some way behind.
According to new figures from NetApplications, which offers the most reliable web-based monitoring service, Windows 7 now has 40.51 percent of the market, which is still behind XP's 44.85 percent. However, the trend is clear. Two years ago, XP had a lead of about 50 points. Since then, its market share has declined from 63.90 percent, while Windows 7's share has grown from 14.02 percent.
The past two years have also seen a rapid decline in the use of Windows Vista. Its market share has fallen from 15.02 percent (just ahead of Windows 7) to 6.88 percent (miles behind). However, Vista is still far more successful than Mac OS X 10.6 (2.59 percent), 10.7 (2.82 percent), and the 57 different varieties of Linux combined (1.03 percent).
If there are 600 million copies of Windows 7 in use, and this represents 40 percent of the market, then simple arithmetic says the installed base is now 1.5 billion machines. The vast majority of them -- 92.53 percent or 1.4 billion -- run Microsoft Windows.
Prospects for Windows 8
Windows XP is now on death row, and facing severe malware problems after Microsoft stops providing security patches, so Windows 7 can be expected to keep growing. Indeed, it would be a surprise if Windows 8 overtook it.
Windows 7 became the fastest selling version of Windows of all time partly because it had two advantages: first, it's an extremely good operating system; second, it had the advantage of following Vista, which had been relatively unsuccessful. It therefore appealed both to consumers and to more knowledgeable IT departments.
Windows 8, by contrast, has three disadvantages. First, it brings a dramatic change in its user interface, and many people resist change, even if it is for the better. Second, it has a touch-first interface, and adding touch screens is likely to increase product costs. Third, many companies are still rolling out Windows 7 to replace XP, and they are not going to change tack in midstream.
There will certainly be some enterprise adoption of Windows 8, but it is more likely to be pilot projects with tablets and other special projects. I don't believe there will be another major desktop refresh until Windows 9 appears.
As a result, I expect Windows 7 will continue to grow beyond 50 percent market share and it might even reach 60 percent, while Windows XP will drop to around 10 percent.
There will probably be an abandoned rump of XP users for some time. This will include people who have been trapped by incompatible applications that they can't easily upgrade, plus the usual denialists (there are still people using OS/2, for example), plus users with pirate versions of XP, particularly in China.
Although the rump of XP users will still be bigger than the number of Mac users, they will be worthless. That is to say, they won’t be spending any money, so they will be part of the installed base, but not part of the market.