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Operating Systems

Windows 8.1 finally edges past XP on the desktop

Both Windows 8.1 and 7 are snagging more Web traffic, says Net Applications, while XP is grabbing less. Might this be related to the free upgrade to Windows 10?

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Yes, Windows 8.1 has officially topped XP, says Web tracker Net Applications. Net Applications

Almost two years after its release, Windows 8.1 has finally surpassed XP in the desktop OS market.

Looking at Web traffic among desktop operating systems for the month of June, Web tracker Net Applications pegged Windows 8.1 at a 13.1 percent share, up slightly from 12.8 percent in May. Over the same time, XP's share plummeted to 11.9 percent from 14.6 percent the previous month.

No. 1 Windows 7 also grabbed more fans as its share of Web traffic rose to 60.9 percent last month from 57.7 percent in May. And still in fifth place behind Apple's OS X Yosemite was Windows 8, which saw its share dip down to 2.9 percent from 3.5 percent.

Much of this activity may just be part of the natural chain of events. Over the past several months, Windows 7 and 8.1 have gained a greater chunk of Web traffic as tracked by Net Application, while XP and Windows 8 have lost share. But there may be another factor involved. Due to launch July 29, the next-generation Windows 10 will bring free upgrades for the first year, but only for users of Windows 7 and 8.1. If you're still running Windows XP or Vista, you'll have to pay for the new operating system. (Windows 8 users can freely upgrade to 8.1, so that's a no-brainer.) People who want that free upgrade may be jumping to Windows 7 or 8.1 in order to snag the freebie starting the end of this month.

Windows 10 itself has been available as a technical preview since last October. As such, it still registers as just a blip on Net Applications' radar. For June, Windows 10's share of Web traffic was 0.16 percent, up slightly from 0.13 percent the previous month. July's figures are likely to also show a modest gain. But if enough users bite into Microsoft's free upgrade offer, August's numbers for Window 10 should show a significant increase.

Microsoft is counting on Windows 10 to win over many of the people turned off by Windows 8, especially among the desktop and laptop crowd. To lure in PC users, the latest version of Microsoft's venerable operating system has brought back the Start menu and tweaked Windows apps so you can run them from the desktop in any size window, just as you can a regular desktop application. Microsoft has also positioned Windows 10 as the unifying software for PCs, tablets and mobile phones, hoping that more people will buy into the entire ecosystem.

Of course, Windows still dominates the operating-system landscape. For June, Windows' overall share of Web traffic was 90.8 percent, according to Net Applications, down a smidgen from 91 percent in May. But that still left Mac OS X with just a 7.5 percent share and Linux with only 1.6 percent.