Windows XP's disappearance and Windows 8's march toward some kind of success were both put on hold in January, after a December when the former's user share plunged and the latter's swelled, a Web analytics company said Saturday.
Neither are good signs for Microsoft, which has bet the future on Windows 8 and is coming close to begging customers to abandon the creaky Windows XP.
According to Aliso Viejo, Calif. company Net Applications, Windows XP increased its share by a quarter of a percentage point in January, ending the month at 29.2% of all desktop and notebook computers worldwide, the first time it had meaningful growth since March 2012.
The 13-year-old operating system accounted for nearly a third — 32% — of Windows-powered PCs.
Windows XP's increase in user share, a rough measurement of what fraction of the world's computer owners run a specific operating system, had to be a disappointment in Redmond, Wash., headquarters of Microsoft.
The technology giant has relentlessly warned customers that they need to get off XP before it's retired from security support on April 8, 2014. Although at times the messages have been heard — in December, Windows XP's user share fell 2.2 percentage points, or nine times more than in January — the stall last month was reminiscent of a pause in October after the OS plummeted by nearly 6 percentage points in the two months prior.
Because of the unexpected respite in XP's decline, Computerworld now forecasts that the OS will power about 27% of all personal computers at the end of April, and nearly 30% of those running one flavor or another of Windows.
Unless Windows XP restarts a dramatic decline, the operating system will still be powering one in five personal computers at the end of 2014.
Microsoft will provide the final public patches for known vulnerabilities in XP on April 8; after that, customers will face an increasingly dangerous future, as most security experts, including those working for Microsoft, expect cyber criminals to continue to dig up new bugs, called "zero days," and unleash exploits on people who still rely on the retired OS.
Microsoft has said successful attacks against XP-powered PCs could skyrocket by as much as 66% after April.
While XP grew, Windows 8 remained nearly flat in January, another troubling signal for Microsoft.
The combined user share of Windows 8 and 8.1 gained just one-tenth of a percentage point, ending January with 10.6% of all computers. Windows 8/8.1 accounted for 11.7% of those running a Microsoft OS.
January's stay-in-place was in contrast to December, when Windows 8 and 8.1 gained 1.2 percentage points, the largest monthly jump since September. Just as disturbing was the lack of movement by Windows 8.1, the free update issued last year, which accounted for about the same percentage of the combined total as in December: 37%.
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