Windows 8 adoption: Worse than Vista, better than OS X Mountain Lion

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Wait until January before you cast judgment on Windows 8, they said. That's when the big boost from holiday sales will—or won't—show up, and you'll be able to get a better idea of how the operating system is doing. Well, Net Application's January desktop usage data is in. What do the numbers show? Is Windows 8's usage rate lagging?

It depends on how you look at it.

Net Applications
Net Application's January desktop share data.

Let's get the bleak news out of the way first. Three months after its release, Microsoft's new-look operating system was found on 2.26 percent of all the traditional PCs tracked by Net Applications, whose web measurement network is comprised of 40,000 websites that receive roughly 160 million unique visits each month. By comparison, Windows 7 claimed a 7.57 percent browser share at its three-month mark, while Windows Vista was sitting slightly less pretty with a 3.3 percent share three months in.

The monthly gulf between Windows Vista's uptake and Windows 8's uptake is only widening, in other words. People still consider Windows Vista to be a stinker, rightly or wrongly, and that reputation no doubt helped to fuel Windows 7's lightning-fast adoption. Conversely, Windows 7's all-around excellence is likely holding back Windows 8—there simply isn't a compelling reason to leap to Windows 8 and its redesigned modern UI if you're a happy Windows 7 user.

Don't be hasty to blame Windows 8's slow uptake on declining PC sales, either. While the computer industry did suffer a contraction in 2012, digging through data from Gartner—a research analytics firm—reveals that just over 90 million PCs were sold in fourth quarters of both 2009 and 2012 (the launch windows for Windows 7 and 8, respectively). In fact, about 300,000 more PCs sold in the fourth quarter of 2012 than in 2009. The appearance of Windows 7 gave PC sales a tremendous shot in the arm, however, while Windows 8's launch has not.

A silver lining appears!

Microsoft's discount $40 rate for an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro ended January 31.

The news isn't all bad for Microsoft, though. The various Windows iterations still account for nearly 92 percent of all desktop visitors to Net Application's websites. Windows as a family is doing fine, even if Windows 8 is struggling to make an impact.

Plus, while Windows 8 might not be living up to the usage standards established by its forebears, it's almost caught up to Apple. Mac OS X 10.8—you may know it better as "Mountain Lion"—has been available since all the way back in July, and it still only claims a 2.44 percent usage share in Net Application's report, despite the appearance of new iMacs and Retina Display-packing MacBook Pro laptops. Expect Windows 8's usage share to sneak past Mountain Lion's this month.

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