Windows XP holding on as dominant OS

XP's share dipped slightly in April, but the decade-old operating system still reigns over Windows 7 as the top desktop platform.

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

Windows XP isn't going down easy.

The ten-year-old OS has gradually been shedding users over the past several years but is still hanging onto to its huge chunk of the market.

In April, XP's market share inched down to 46.08 percent from 46.86 percent in March, according to data out today from Net Applications. That followed a roller-coaster ride that saw XP's audience rise and fall slightly each month since last November 2011.

At the same time, Windows 7 continues to grow in popularity. Last month, the current flavor of Windows grabbed a 38.67 percent share, up from 37.54 percent in March.

The trend over the past year clearly shows Windows 7 gaining on its predecessor. In April 2011, XP held a 55.84 percent share, while Windows 7 hovered at 26.36 percent.

Still, XP's grip on the market remains tight. Microsoft has been aggressively encouraging users and businesses alike to switch from XP to Windows 7, obviously with some success. But it's been a relatively slow and gradual move.

Jumping to a new operating system isn't an especially onerous task for individual users, even though there is no straight upgrade path from XP to Windows 7.

But organizations face greater challenges pulling off a migration. Companies that have standardized on Windows XP can't so easily switch to an new OS without ensuring that all their hardware and software will be compatible.

Large enterprises have to migrate thousands or tens of thousands of users, a time-consuming task. But certain types of smaller companies must contend with their own unique issues. Factories, hospitals, doctors' offices, and similar businesses often use Windows to power their lab equipment, and such equipment can be very finicky about which operating system is in charge.

Microsoft has stressed that support for Windows XP will expire in another two years, at which point software patches, security fixes, and other updates will no longer be available. That could easily put XP computers at greater risk without the necessary protection against malware.

More organizations will undoubtedly feel compelled to move up to Windows 7, ensuring that at some point in the next year or two, the current version of Windows will take over as top dog. But XP will certainly still be alive and kicking for many years to come.