Latest usage shares show slow adoption of Windows 8.1

Newly released figures from two popular web analytics firms show a PC market that is essentially static. The most interesting detail: Apple's push to update its installed base to the latest OS X version has largely succeeded, while Microsoft is less successful with its efforts to get Windows 8 users to move to the free 8.1 update.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor on

It’s the beginning of the month, which means it’s time once again to peek at the latest estimates of worldwide usage of desktop and mobile operating systems and browsers from Net Applications (aka NetMarketShare) and StatCounter.

Each month the numbers shift a little bit, but the trends rarely change, and the final numbers for August 2014 adhere faithfully to this rule. Those variations in recent months that looked like newsworthy blips were, in reality, statistical noise. For desktop operating systems, the trends are ploddingly simple and the trendlines are straight: Windows continues to dominate in the PC space; Apple has a small global share that belies its influence, especially among the tech elite; and Linux on the desktop is a nonstarter.

I’ve once again updated my rolling charts of the past year’s numbers for desktop operating systems. Because NetMarketShare and StatCounter use different methodologies, the numbers are different, sometimes strikingly so. (If you care about the differences, you can read my explanation here. The short version? NetMarketShare tries to count unique devices, whereas StatCounter tallies overall usage.)


This month’s conclusions?

  • Windows 7 continues to dominate on PC platforms, accounting for more than half of all PCs and Macs in use, regardless of whose numbers you choose.
  • Windows 8.x continues to gain share as consumer PCs (and, to a smaller extent, businesses) purchase new desktop and notebook PCs with Microsoft’s latest OS preinstalled. This month’s worldwide total is 13.4 percent (NetMarketShare) or 15.6 percent (StatCounter).
  • OS X continues to have a small share of the worldwide PC market, with numbers hovering at 6.1 percent (NetMarketShare) or 8.6 percent (StatCounter). If you were to run the numbers in the U.S. only, the percentages would be much higher, of course, reflecting Apple’s concentration on wealthy buyers in mature markets.
  • Google's Chrome OS is stalled on the StatCounter charts, with a minuscule 0.2 percent share for the past five months. Chrome OS still hasn't registered on the NetMarketShare graphs.

Apple has clearly succeeded in one task where Microsoft has stumbled. Roughly 70 percent of all Mac owners are running OS X 10.9 Mavericks, the most recent release. In contrast, Microsoft has not been successful in convincing the same high percentage of Windows 8 users to upgrade to Windows 8.1, despite the vast improvements in the newer release.

Every PC with Windows 8 installed is eligible for the free Windows 8.1 update, which was released nearly a year ago. Yet both firms report nearly identical numbers: some 47 percent of the web traffic counted in August from Windows 8.x PCs came from machines whose owners had not installed the update.

Both upgrades are free. So why have Apple users flocked to the latest OS X while Windows 8 users haven’t adopted Windows 8.1 in large numbers? The explanation is simple: Apple has made it easy for OS X users to find and install the upgrade, while Microsoft has not. In addition, Mac owners are far more likely to visit the online App Store and find the latest version, whereas PC owners who primarily use the desktop are unlikely to even know that the Windows Store exists.

Meanwhile, both analytics firms continue to report strikingly divergent results on desktop browser usage: NetMarketShare reports that Microsoft’s browser, Internet Explorer, continues to be the most used, at 58.5 percent, with Chrome a distant second at 19.6 percent. StatCounter (which measures traffic rather than unique devices) says Chrome is by far the most popular browser, with 49.9 percent of traffic compared to Internet Explorer’s 22.4 percent. The one point of agreement for the two outfits is that Firefox is in third place, apparently to stay.

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