When will XP finally fade away?

As I noted yesterday, Windows 7 has begun displacing XP among early adopters. How long will it take before the broad PC market follows the same path and kicks XP to the curb? I crunched some numbers using data December 2008 to the present and came up with a date that surprised even me. What's your prediction?

I've been looking at every shred of data I can find to help get a clear picture of how Windows 7 is doing in the marketplace. As I noted in yesterday's post, I see very strong evidence that Windows 7 has succeeded in a big way among early adopters and enthusiasts, who dominate the readership  of a website like this one. I also see clear indications that businesses are adopting Windows 7 at a faster pace than in earlier Windows versions.

The one piece of the puzzle I didn't examine is the PC market as a whole—consumers and businesses, PCs and Macs. To fill that gap, I checked in at  Net Market Share, which publishes snapshots of PC usage based on data from 160 million visits per month to its large collection of sites (the exact methodology is here). The monthly reports on operating system versions provide an ideal snapshot for my purposes, with data that goes back far enough to see meaningful trends.

Using Excel, I plotted data from December 2008 (a month before the Windows 7 beta was made public) to July 2010 and then made some simple projections. Here's what the chart looks like; actual Net Market Share data is to the left of the line in the center of the chart, and my projections are to the right:

Data provided by > Net Market Share

Yes, you can make a case for a hockey-stick growth curve with even a slight increase in the Windows 7 adoption rate. You could also argue for a slowdown, although I think that scenario is unlikely based on the overwhelmingly positive reception of Windows 7 in the market and where we are in the PC replacement cycle. The most likely scenario, in my opinion, is that the pace of migration from XP to Windows 7 will accelerate over the next two years as XP gets closer to its end-of-life date.

One other observation worth noting. In the Net Market Share data, the percentage of Mac OS X use has remained in a very narrow range for that entire period. In December 2008, the total for MacIntel and Mac OS was 4.45%. For July 2010, the Net Market Share report breaks usage by OS X version rather than hardware platform, but the total for OS X 10.6 and 10.5 is nearly identical at 4.42%. In between, the percentage of users never rose above 4.45% and never dropped below 4%.

As someone who's watched every Windows release since the early 1990s, I find it remarkable that Windows 7 usage has overtaken Vista so quickly, roughly nine months after it was released. NetMarketShare noted that trend with its July 2010 report. That same crossover appears in the ZDNet visitor data I posted yesterday, except that it happened about 8-10 months earlier. If the broad PC market is still lagging early adopters by that same gap, then I expect Net Applications will report that Windows 7 has passed XP in usage sometime next summer.

What's your prediction?

[poll id="15"]