Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 now power more personal computers than the still-strong, senior-citizen Windows XP, according to the latest statistics from analytics vendor Net Applications.
The growth of Windows 8 and 8.1, and the not-quite-corresponding decline of XP, should make it easier for Microsoft to make its public goal of putting Windows 10 on a billion devices by the end of July 2018.
For the first time in Net Applications' tracking, the combined user share of Windows 8 and 8.1 was larger than that of XP: In May, the Windows 8 duo accounted for 18% of all Windows personal computers and 2-in-1s, while XP powered 16%.
User share is a rough estimate of the percentage of the world's online users who ran a specific OS during a given month, and is tracked by Net Applications using visitor tallies to its customers' websites.
Windows XP launched in 2001, and was officially retired from support more than a year ago. In operating system terms, it's Methuselah: When it debuted, Apple was more than five years away from announcing the iPhone and Google was almost that far from becoming a verb.
Since April 2014, when Microsoft put XP out to pasture, its user share has fallen by almost half.
Meanwhile, Windows 8 + Windows 8.1 booked its highest-ever user share last month, with the latter — a free upgrade to the former since the fall of 2013 — now representing 78% of the total.
All those data points must be encouraging to the management at Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft as it starts to wrap up Windows 10, which will release as a free upgrade on July 29.
Microsoft has gone aggressive on Windows 10, making the unprecedented move to give away upgrades to consumers and small businesses running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. The firm is so confident of that push that it recently committed to putting the OS on a billion devices within 24 to 36 months.
That job will be easier with more machines running Windows 8/8.1, as upgrades are adopted by a larger percentage of those running the immediate predecessor than those running older code, who have stuck with creaky software because they cannot afford a new device, face compatibility problems if they migrate, or simply find two or more generations' worth of changes unpalatable.
By reducing XP's prevalence — almost certainly through new device purchases at this point — the number of systems unable to handle Windows 10 will also fall.
Windows 7, which represented 63% of all Windows PCs, took a dip in May, part of the growth story for Windows 8.1 that month. But because the 2009 Windows 7 is eligible for the free upgrade to Windows 10 — and because those users are much more likely to migrate to the new OS than they were to the bifurcated Windows 8/8.1 — that number won't be a concern to Microsoft.
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