Fortunately, I discovered a source for objective data about operating system and web browser use in the United States: Digital Analytics Program (DAP). This a customized version of Google Analytics that collects information from visitors to 3800 total websites run by government agencies. This is a gigantic database that's broadly representative of U.S. consumers and businesses. In the last 90 days, DAP charted 1.42-billion website visits.
So, what's really going on with the desktop as Microsoft gives Windows 10 its last polish before releasing it to manufacturers?
Well, while Net Applications has Windows 7 on top with 60.9 percent, followed by Windows 8.1, 13.2 percent; Windows XP, 11.6 percent; Mac OS X Yosemite, 4.5 percent; and Windows 8 with 2.9 percent, DAP paints a very different, and more accurate, picture.
For starters, Windows 7, to no one's surprise, is still number one. Taking out Android and iOS's numbers, Windows 7 has 60.8 percent.
What this tells us is that the biggest competition by far Microsoft will have to Windows 10 adoption will be its own Windows 7.
After Windows 7, Windows 8 and 8.1 has 18.7 percent. Again, not that different. Where things take a radical twist is that this real-world, unmassaged data shows XP has only 4.5 percent of the desktop operating system market share.
Further, XP has been well behind Windows 7 for months. With only 5.8 percent marketshare in March 2015, XP was already lagging far behind Windows 8.1 earlier this year.
XP has not hung on nearly as well as many people thought it would. True, there are outliers, such as the U.S. Navy that are still using XP, but they're the exception, not the rule.
This government report also shows that Microsoft has been successful in moving its users from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1. Indeed Vista -- yes Vista -- with 2.7 percent, is more popular than Windows 8.
The report also shows that Macs are more popular than usually reported. 13.1 percent of users are using Mac OS X. Much as I wish it otherwise, Linux -- not counting its mobile relative Android -- can account for no more than 2.3 percent of desktops at most.
So, looking ahead, I see a mixed bag for Microsoft. The good news is that the company was successful in moving users from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1. The bad news is that getting people off Windows 7 will not be easy.