Microsoft's Windows Vista lost market share last month for the first time in almost two years, a sign that users are already abandoning the oft-ridiculed operating system in favor of the new Windows 7.
According to Web metrics firm Net Applications, Vista dropped 0.2 percentage points during September to end the month at an 18.6 percent slice of the operating system pie. It was the first decline for Vista since a 0.3 percentage-point slip in January 2008.
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Windows 7, meanwhile, gained 0.3 percentage points, its biggest one-month gain since Microsoft began handing out the new OS to the public in January 2009. Windows 7 powered an estimated 1.5 percent of all computers that connected to the Internet last month, also a record. Its share means that about one in every 67 personal computers is already running Microsoft's new operating system.
The surge in Windows 7 was no accident. Although Microsoft distributed the final code to a limited number of users, primarily developers and IT professionals, in early August, and to some business customers later that month, it wasn't until the beginning of September that it started offering all volume license customers the new operating system.
Microsoft also kick-started Windows 7 use by giving away millions of copies of the beta in January, and the release candidate starting in May. The company pulled the plug on the latter only five weeks ago.
It's certain that Windows 7's share will increase this month, as Microsoft will launch the OS at retail stores in less than three weeks. Other factors, including a promotional campaign that provides free or low-cost upgrades to customers who purchased Vista systems since June 26, will also come into play.
If the drop in Vista's market share is the beginning of a trend, and not simply a blip in Net Applications' data, it means that the two-year-old OS will have peaked at less than a 19 percent market share, and at its most popular, accounted for only one-in-five Windows machines. In comparison, Windows XP, Microsoft's eight-year-old operating system, accounted for 71.5 percent of all operating systems powering computers that connected to the Web last month, and ran more than three-fourths of all Windows PCs.