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Windows 8.1 overtakes Windows 8 in desktop OS arena

Friendlier to PC users than its prececessor, Windows 8.1 continues to eke out a higher share while Windows 8 slips downward.

Net Applications

Windows 8.1 is now more dominant than its predecessor, at least based on all desktop OS traffic seen by Net Applications.

For the month of May, Windows 8.1's share inched up to 6.35 percent from 5.88 percent in April. That gave it just enough of a nudge to steal third place from Windows 8, which earned a 6.3 percent share, down from 6.36 percent the prior month.

Windows 8.1's gradual ascension over its predecessor in the desktop market should hardly come as a surprise. Launched last October as a free update, Windows 8.1 added several features missing in action from the touch-driven Windows 8, notably a Start button, a boot-to-desktop option, and a way to sync the same background for both the Start screen and desktop. An update released this past April added more items to appeal to traditional mouse and keyboard users. Microsoft will try to further placate PC users with the return of a full Start menu, though that may not arrive until sometime next year.

In first place, Windows 7 took home more than half of all desktop OS Web traffic for the first time ever in Net Applications' stats, rising to 50.06 percent from 49.3 percent in April. On the flip side, Windows XP continued to lose share a little bit at a time, slipping to 25.3 percent in May from 26.3 percent the previous month.

The slow but steady rise of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 at the expense of the now unsupported XP is a promising sign, certainly in the eyes of Microsoft. For the past couple of years, the software giant has been urging users to upgrade from XP to a more modern operating system, either Windows 7 or 8. In early April, Microsoft finally ended support for XP, meaning that users will no longer receive bug fixes or security updates, putting them at greater risk to security threats.

Still, Windows XP remains firmly in second place in the desktop OS market. Responsible for a quarter of all desktop OS traffic, the now almost 13-year-old operating system won't be going away completely anytime soon.