Windows 8 sales grow, but still woeful

Microsoft Windows 8.1 screenshotDon’t expect Microsoft Corp. to celebrate the latest operating system market share numbers. The install base of the Windows 8 family is growing, and Windows 8.1 either has or is on the verge of passing the first version. However, Microsoft’s first touch-base system is still woefully behind Windows XP and Windows 7, and isn’t even close to hitting the maligned Windows Vista high-water market.

PC vendors entered 2014 anticipating another year of struggles. In 2013, PC sales fell -8.5 percent as consumers flocked to tablets and smartphones. The expectation for 2014 was for sales to fall another 6 percent, making for three years of decline, and pushing the PC industry to sales levels below 2009.

The dire forecast isn’t entirely inaccurate as consumer sales remain down. However, overall PC sales numbers are stable, more or less, as businesses refresh their aging fleets. Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard reported increases in PC sales in the first quarter, driven largely by the discontinuation of Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system.

In previous operating system release cycles, Microsoft could count on the combination of lengthy enterprise evaluations and discontinuation of support for previous versions coinciding around 18 months after the release of a new operating system. When this happened, sales of the new version would spike.

These are no ordinary times, though, for operating systems.

While Windows 8, Microsoft’s first touch-oriented operating system, is the main benefactor of the Windows XP discontinuation, it’s not getting all of the market share shift. Windows 7, released in 2009, has increased its overall market share by more than 5 percent since the release of Windows 8 in 2012, according to NetMarketShare. And, as of May, Windows 7 commands more than one-half of the overall market share install base.

OS Market Share

Since Windows 8 was released for general sales in 2012, its market share numbers have struggled to make a dent in shifting legacy users. Windows XP market share has fallen from 41 percent in October 2012 to 25 percent in May 2014. Most of those users have gone to Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, but some – presumably business buyers – have shifted up to Windows 7 or moved off the Windows platform to alternatives such as Mac or Google Chrome.

The good news for Microsoft is the Windows 8 family continues to expand market share, dragging PC and tablet sales, mostly at the expense of Windows XP. The bad news: Windows 7 is also expanding market share at an equal or faster rate and Windows 8 is nowhere close to passing the high water market of the much-maligned Windows Vista, which peaked at 18.7 percent in 2009.

This article originally appeared on Channelnomics.