If Windows 8's pre-release adoption rate is on Vista's scale Microsoft might be in trouble. However, if the Consumer Preview's usage share quickly climbs, the company may have another hit on its hands.
Like Windows 7, Apple's Mac OS X gained ground in February, growing its share by more than half a percentage point and ending the month with 6.9 percent of the usage market. It was the Mac operating system's biggest one-month increase in Net Applications' tracking history, and put Apple within spitting distance of its October 2011 record amount of usage share.
Amongst Macs, OS X 10.7, aka Lion, again boosted its share; in February, the mid-2011 edition accounted for 38.9 percent of all Apple desktop operating systems in use.
Snow Leopard, or OS X 10.6, retained its lead over Lion, however. The 2009 version powered 43.4 percent of all Mac desktops and notebooks.
Apple has also announced a 2012 operating system upgrade, dubbed OS X Mountain Lion, that it will deliver in late summer. If experts are right, and Apple offers a Mountain Lion upgrade free of charge to some Mac users, that edition's share could climb much faster than either past for-a-fee OS X versions or even Windows 8.
Net Applications calculates operating system usage share with data obtained from more than 160 million unique visitors who browse 40,000 Web sites that the company monitors. More OS share data can be found on the company's site.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His e-mail address is email@example.com. See more articles by Gregg Keizer.
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