Ultimately, however, experts believe that the problem for Windows 8 lies in an accelerating shift away from desktop operating systems to those powering tablets, a market where Microsoft has so far failed to drum up significant demand.
In an interview earlier this week, Bob O'Donnell of IDC noted that tablets have cannibalized the time spent on PCs -- just as they've cannibalized sales of traditional desktops and laptops. "People are using tablets in front of the TV, or for a couple of quick emails between meetings, and that takes away some of the time once spent on PCs," said O'Donnell.
"And there's a lot of people who have relatively-recent-vintage PCs with a darn good operating system on them," he added, referring to Windows 7. "The big picture is that [previously] the only IT a consumer bought was a PC. Now they have IT spend[ing] across PCs, tablets and smartphones."
Net Applications also reported statistics on other editions of Windows.
Both Windows XP and Windows 7 reversed long-running trends last month, with XP gaining four-tenths of a percentage point to end January at 39.5% of all personal computers, or 43.1% of Windows-only machines. Meanwhile, Windows 7 lost six-tenths of a percentage point to slip to 44.5% of all PCs and 48.5% of all Windows PCs.
Typically, XP sheds share and Windows 7 gains ground.
Net Applications measures operating system usage by tracking unique visitors to the tens of thousands of websites it monitors for clients. Some, but not all, of its data is available to the public on its site.
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