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Windows 7 ready to clobber XP as top OS

Windows 7 seems poised to steal the crown from XP as the world's top OS, according to new stats from Net Applications.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read
Net Applications

Look out Windows XP, Windows 7 is hot on your tail.

After a long reign as the world's dominant OS, XP is in danger of being knocked off its perch by the current flavor of Windows.

Surveying the OS landscape in May, Net Applications pegged Windows XP's market share at 44.8 percent and Windows 7's at 40.5 percent. That's the narrowest gap between the two since Windows 7 debuted in 2009. It's also a significant change from April when XP held a 46 percent share and Windows 7 a 38.8 percent share.

For more than ten years ago, Windows XP has held strong as the top OS in the face of later versions. Punching bag Windows Vista has actually lost share over the years, now holding just over 7 percent of the market. But Windows 7 has continued to climb, slowly but surely creeping to the top.

Compare the stats for last month with May of 2011 when XP accounted for 55 percent of the OS market and Windows 7 just 27 percent. If the pace continues, Windows 7 should overtake Windows XP sometime in the next several months.

The move to Windows 7 has been slow, especially among enterprises. Individual users can more easily jump from one OS to another. But companies face a huge task migrating all their PCs and users to a new OS. I went through a couple of OS migrations in my old IT job, and they can be daunting.

All hardware and software must be tested for compatibility. Users have to be trained. And the physical migration itself has to be run and completed within a certain amount of time.

Windows XP has also been popular for so long because it works. It's proven itself a robust and stable OS, and one capable of running the applications on which many businesses and users rely.

But with support for XP set to expire in less than two years, more companies have been switching to Windows 7. Microsoft itself has been pushing the upgrade, even going to far as to tell businesses on XP not to wait for Windows 8. So the passing of the crown from XP to Windows 7 may have taken its time, but it's been inevitable.

And what about Windows 8?

The new OS is still a blip on the radar, ending last month with a market share of little more than a tenth of a percentage point.

Of course, that's to be expected with a product that was only available as a downloadable beta, aka Consumer Preview. We'll have to see if the newly-launched Release Preview picks up more steam after the June stats are released.