Windows XP rules, at Windows 7 and 8's expense

Internet usage for Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 stagnate between December and January, even as XP's share grew

A startling development while you were watching football: Net Applications' NetMarket Share numbers for January landed, and they show Windows XP Internet usage increased about a quarter of a point month-over-month, to more than 29 percent. If you only look at Windows PCs, XP hit 32 percent. Windows 7 usage declined slightly, Windows 8 fell a quarter of a point, and Windows 8.1 -- the free upgrade to Windows 8 -- increased a third of a point. Net result: The "modern" competitors to XP basically ran flat, while XP provided a startling "up yours" to Microsoft's attempts to kill it off.

Rival OS bean counter StatCounter showed a half-point decline in XP, to just over 19 percent, another half-point decline for Windows 7, almost a quarter-point decline for Windows 8, and a whopping full point increase for Windows 8.1. Combined, the "modern" Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 share rose about a third of a point.

Meanwhile, XP accounts for 19 to 29 percent. Go figure.

I don't put much stock in any of the measuring methods or their results. For starters, both methods undercount XP computers because they only recognize machines that browse the Internet. I think it's fair to assume there are many more XP machines -- whether they're running ATMs or scoreboards -- isolated from the Internet, compared to Windows 7/8/8.1 machines. It's entirely possible that both Net Applications and StatCounter undercount XP machines by 10 percent or more, never mind the skewed figures for China, which is grossly underrepresented by both organizations.

With XP going end of life in April, that's disturbing. Lots of XP machines are, connected or not, vulnerable to malware, either through a local network, or through external means (USB drives, Stuxnet). If you have your tinfoil hat on, they may also be vulnerable to high-frequency sound waves.

This month's statistics are all over the map, as usual, but three conclusions come through loud and clear:

  • Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 aren't rolling over the PC world. Last month they barely kept up.
  • Though it's free and a substantial (if underwhelming) improvement on Windows 8, we haven't seen Win 8.1 push out Win 8 -- not by a long shot.
  • XP is still going strong. At the current rate of attrition, it's highly likely that XP will still be running on at least 20 percent (and possibly 30 or 40 percent, depending on how you count) of all PCs by the time Microsoft ends support.

It's still hard for me to believe that Microsoft will cut XP off at the knees in two months.

This article, "Windows XP rules, at Windows 7 and 8's expense," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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