Popular Microsoft OS dips to 10 percent for the first time in years

Windows XP is still hanging on thanks to strongholds like China and computers belonging to the UK's national government.  But Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) approach of offering holdouts carrots -- such as $100 USD credit for customers who traded in an old Windows XP computer and bought a Windows 8 machine -- and the stick -- the threat of end of life and termination of anti-malware efforts -- seems to have been succesful.

Security research firm Qualys reported in a blog this week that in the past 15 months, Windows XP market share had plunged from 35 percent of enterprise users to a lowly 8 percent.

A key to this enterprise exodus has been a growing amount of vulnerabilities, published by Microsoft, but left quasi-unpatched.  Microsoft is still offering tracking and some support for some of these fixes, but it's no longer committing to the expensive effort of guaranteeing ready-built patches.  Instead it's relying on developers who insist on using Windows XP to perform fixes themselves, which range from registry edits to recompiling/regenerating core DLL files.

Windows XP

The plunge in XP, if extrapolated with some crude trend fitting, would suggest that Windows XP will fall to nearly no market share by December 2014.  However, in reality that decline is likely to level off somewhere in the 2-5 percent range as it reaches the truly stubborn holdouts.

Windows XP installed base

Presumably, Qualys's figures cover only discrete Windows XP client workstations, not point-of-sale devices and other embedded systems, where Windows XP not only holds substantual residual market share, but actually has up to four years of support left from Microsoft.

Net Applications' market share numbers for the start of May 2014 showed Windows 8.x (8.0 and 8.1) to hold roughly 12 percent of the market, well ahead of Windows Vista (which has less than 3 percent) but behind Windows XP (26 percent) and Windows 7 (49 percent).  Apple, Inc. (AAPL) has a meager 4 percent, just 3 times that of Linux which is at ~1.6 percent, largely on account of Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Chrome OS.

OS market share

Note the difference between enterprise users -- 8 percent on Windows XP -- and the general usage numbers -- 26 percent.

In other words, corporate users may be fleeing Windows XP at a rapid rate as serious security holes are published and begin to be exploited in the wild.  But many on the consumer side are ignorant to such issues and clinging much more tightly to Windows XP.  Thus expect consumers to pay a heavy price for their ignorance, while enterprises have largely made the logical leap to newer operating systems.

Sources: Qualys, Net Applications

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