Drop in Windows 7 usage rate is misleading

The numbers have started to inch downward for Windows 7, but aren't likely to continue doing so for long.

Data without context is fairly useless. You're left to wonder what it means. That's why Big Data has become such a hot commodity. Without analysis, terabytes of data are just a load of database entries.

That's why I'd love to dig deeper into the data from Net Applications, the analytics firm that publishes regular stats on OS and browser usage that tends to set off a feeding frenzy among tech journalists every time their numbers come out.

Here's what I know about them: Net Applications is a web analytics firm with more than 40,000 software sensors at websites around the world to measure traffic and come up with its stats. These stats include operating system, browser, IP address, domain host, language, screen resolution, and a referring search engine.

That's how they derive their Windows market stats that everyone devours when released each month. Some years ago, it uncovered Google's Chrome OS by accident, which I wrote about while at a previous job.

So here's what the January numbers showed: Windows XP is finally below 40 percent market share three years after the release of Windows 7, and 7 has passed the 45 percent mark.

Now, after the holiday season and the first three months of Windows 8 sales, the new OS is beginning to show up in Net Applications sensors. Windows 8 is up to 2.36% share while Windows 7 slipped 0.63 percentage points, from 45.11% to 44.48%, according to Net Applications data.

So, does this mean Windows 7's decline? I would think not.

Windows 7 is off the market, at least as far as preinstalls are concerned, but you can still get it with some effort. With stores pushing nothing but Windows 8 machines, this was inevitable.

What I suspect is happening is as Windows XP and Vista continue their very slow decline, Windows 8 is going in as the replacement instead of Windows 7. The Windows 7 market we see out there now will likely stay that way for some time, especially given how many people don't like Win8.

The remaining XP/Vista users are very likely in poorer markets/the emerging world or are in the hands of people who will simply use the PC until it dies. I've got a relative or two like that who think I'm nuts to upgrade my PC every other year even though it works. There are just some people like that. They won't care that Windows XP's support ends in a year; they’ll keep using it until their PC doesn't work any longer, and then they will replace with a Windows 8 machine because that's what's in the stores.

The fact that Vista, a singularly despised operating system from the moment it was released, still has 5.24% market share should tell you that there are some people who just won't upgrade until their PC dies.

I hope they at least have a good antivirus program.

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