Almost Half of all PCs Will be Running Windows 7 by Year-end

Gartner predicts Windows 7's use will rise to 42 Percent Worldwide by the end of 2011.

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Microsoft appears to be getting its wish in terms of seeing Windows XP get put out to pasture. IT research firm Gartner predicts that Windows 7 will become the leading operating system worldwide by the end of this year, with 42 percent of all PCs running the new operating system.

Gartner attributes this to continued improvements in IT budgets last year and this year, which have spurred on Windows 7 deployment in enterprise in the U.S. and Asia/Pacific, where Windows 7 migrations started in large volume in the fourth quarter of last year.

Economic problems in Europe and political instability in the Middle East and Africa will likely slow the rate of deployment in those regions. Japan is also likely to be an exception to the rule in Asia as the country recovers from the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

"By the end of 2011, nearly 635 million new PCs worldwide are expected to be shipped with Windows 7. Many enterprises have been planning their deployment of Windows 7 for the last 12 to 18 months, and are now moving rapidly to Windows 7," Annette Jump, research director at Gartner, said in a statement.

Gartner only looks at the business side of things, which has been slower to adopt Windows 7 than the consumer side. That's not surprising, since application compatibility testing can be time-consuming, and the economy has not been conducive to mass hardware deployments.

On the consumer side, Windows 7 has taken off like a shot, especially the 64-bit version. According to Steam analytics, 40 percent of its users are running 64-bit Windows 7, while only 9 percent use the 32-bit version. Windows XP is a distant second with 18.85 percent share.

Steam is a program for online sales of computer games. Think of it as iTunes for gamers. Since it's sitting in the background of thousands of computers, mostly gamers and enthusiasts, its numbers tend to be a bit skewed toward the high-end of consumers, but it does show that consumers were quick to embrace Windows 7 and 64-bit Windows at that, because there's also a healthy percentage of 64-bit Vista usership.

On the Mac side, Gartner predicts will grow from 4 percent of new PCs sold in 2010 to 4.5 percent in 2010 and grow to 5.2 percent of new PCs in 2015. Shipments will grow stronger in mature markets, where Apple is doing better to begin with and there are more affluent buyers who can afford Apple's pricey laptops.

The question in my mind is how many of the old, out-of-date XP systems will be retired. Last week, we had the CTO of avast! point out that systems running XP Service Pack 2 have an abnormally high rate of malware infection, and Microsoft confirmed this with me when we met at Black Hat.

If avast! was correct, that those are pirated versions of XP, then they are the least likely to migrate and probably won't until the PC breaks. Unfortunate, but that's how it goes.

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