Net Applications’ NetMarketshare numbers for January show the number of Windows 7 users at 55.92 percent, which is near their 11-month high of 56.41 percent. And the number of users of Windows XP—whose share had plunged to 13.57 percent last November—are back up to 18.93 percent of the total.
Microsoft has repeatedly warned that the older Windows XP operating system is subject to security vulnerabilities that will eventually put users at risk. (A registry hack will help protect it by identifying itself as an embedded version of Windows XP, which continues to receive updates.) Microsoft stopped officially supporting the Windows XP OS last April. Still, the majority of users continue to prefer using Microsoft’s older operating systems.
Meanwhile, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 continue to chug along: Windows 8.1 stands at 10.04 percent, up from 9.49 percent in December but still down compared to the 12.1 percent it enjoyed in November. Windows 8, however, continues to decline, most likely indicating that users are simply upgrading to the latest version of the OS.
When you combine the market share of Windows 8 and 8.1 together, however, the numbers tell a slightly different story: From March 2014 until January 2015, the combined market share has steadily increased from 11.30 percent to 13.83 percent. An anomaly seemingly occurred during the holiday season, however, when the combined market share shot up to 16.80 percent in October, then 18.66 percent in November—then fell back to the slow, steady increases of the months before.
In browsers, Internet Explorer continued its dominance, with 22.26 percent of all users, up slightly from December. Internet Explorer 8, used by Windows XP, totals 19.07 percent. Google’s Chrome 39 is used by 11.89 percent of users, down slightly from December.
Why this matters: So far, Microsoft’s customers have stubbornly clasped their Windows XP and Windows 7 systems to their chests, refusing to let go. That’s fine, at least where market share numbers are concerned. But as Microsoft continues to build its business model on services and subscriptions, those older Windows XP users—and to a lesser extent, Windows 7 users—are just there, not really contributing anything to Microsoft’s bottom line. What can Microsoft do to kill Windows XP once and for all? That has to be a problem that’s vexing Redmond right now.
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As PCWorld's senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.