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Windows 7 hot on XP's tail as top operating system

Windows 7 ends June with more than 41 percent of the OS market, compared with XP at around 43 percent.

Net Applications

Microsoft's Windows 7 is about to beat XP as the world's leading operating system, at least according to new data from Net Applications.

For the month of June, Windows 7 scored a market share of 41.6 percent versus XP with 43.6 percent, the narrowest gap between the two since Windows 7 debuted in 2009.

Windows 7 has almost consistently chewed off a greater market share each month, hitting 14 percent in June 2010 and 28.7 percent in June 2011. At same time, XP has tried to hang on to its dominant lead but has seen a gradual decline overtime. Over the past two years, XP's share has fallen from 64 percent in June 2010 to 54 percent a year ago, according to Net Applications.

And what of Windows 8? The launch of the Windows 8 Release Preview in late May triggered a bit more demand. But the upcoming OS is still low on Net Applications' radar. For June, Windows 8 eked out a market share of just 0.18 percent, a slight rise from 0.13 percent the prior month.

Collectively, Windows holds around 92 percent of the desktop OS market, according to the data, leaving the Mac OS with almost 7 percent and Linux with a little more than 1 percent. Apple's OS X has shown a bit of oomph over the past two years, rising from 5.2 percent in June 2010 and 5.7 percent in June of last year. OS X 7 and OS X 6 are the two most popular versions, together winning almost 6 percent of the market.

But the battle between Windows 7 and XP could soon see a new victor.

Net Applications believes Windows 7 will finally grab the top spot from XP this month. However, fellow tracking firm StatCounter has already claimed Windows 7 the winner by a long shot.

In its latest report, StatCounter pegs Windows 7 with a 50.2 percent share of the OS market and XP with just 30 percent. Why the huge difference between Net Applications and StatCounter? Each research firm uses its own methology to compile its data.

Net Applications tracks the number of unique visits to its network of more than 40,000 Web sites, including only one unique visit per site per day. Around 160 million unique visits per month are used to compile the results. StatCounter tracks around 2 million people globally -- 40 percent in the U.S. and 25 percent in Europe. In total, around 4 billion page loads per month are baked into its results.

Also, both Net Applications and StatCounter aren't measuring overall market share so much as they're measuring mobile traffic to their network of Web sites.

As long as each firm uses its own network and own methodology, the mileage is going to vary. So such reports should always be measured against each other and against those from actual research firms, including ComScore, Gartner, Forrester, and Nielsen.