Windows XP won't give up top spot without a fight

The decade-old OS scored a slight uptick in market share last month, showing that it may not relinquish its dominance so easily or so quickly.

Lance Whitney
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.
2 min read
Net Applications

Windows XP has gradually been losing market share over the past few years, yet it continues to hang on as the most popular OS, according to the latest stats from Net Applications.

XP grabbed a 46.86 percent share of the OS market last month, up from 45.39 percent in February. At the same time, Windows 7 lost a bit of ground, capturing 37.53 percent in March, down from 38.12 percent in the prior month.

Neither stat represents a major shift. Over the longer haul, Windows 7 is still gaining in popularity, while XP has been shedding market share. But these occasional anomalies show that XP still has a way to go before relinquishing the throne to Windows 7.

Despite Microsoft's best efforts to convince customers and corporations alike to switch to the newer OS, XP holds a fierce grip. It's a familiar environment that works well enough for a lot of individuals. And though more businesses have slowly been upgrading to Windows 7, many continue to rely on XP as their standard.

Of course, Windows XP users face a roadblock in another two years when Microsoft discontinues extended support for the OS. This means that security patches, bug fixes, and other updates will no longer be issued, putting XP users in a precarious situation of running an unprotected operating system.

It's a safe bet that come April 2014, hackers will specifically target XP knowing that many installations are no longer being patched or protected. As we get closer to that date, we should see XP's dominance finally wane to the point where Windows 7 eventually takes over as top dog.

And what of Windows 8?

Microsoft released the beta, or Consumer Preview, of its upcoming OS on February 29.

The beta generated a lot of interest quite early, grabbing 1 million downloads over the first day. The Consumer preview earned a market share of 0.11 percent in March, according to Net Applications, up from 0.03 percent in February when only the Developer Preview was available.

It will be interesting to see if the Windows 8 beta picks up further ground this month or remains flat. One recent report suggested that the next milestone -- the Windows 8 Release Candidate -- may appear as soon early June. The final version could reach consumers by October, the same month that greeted Windows 7 in 2009.