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Windows OS to soon drop below 90 percent of market share

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Jan. 14, 2011

As some industry observers had predicted last year, Microsoft's Windows operating system is on the verge of dropping below 90 percent of the global market share of OS's, with smartphones, MIDs (mobile Internet devices) and tablets posing an increasingly serious threat to Microsoft's dominance of the operating system industry, according to recent new numbers from Net Applications Inc.

The market research firm's new report, which lumps mobile and desktop operating systems into just one single statistic, reveals that Windows' market share dropped from 93.74 percent in February 2009 to 90.29 percent in December 2010.

Overall, Windows was still slightly above the 92 percent market share mark as recently as February 2010 but suffered steady losses during the rest of 2010.

"The operating system usage market share trend line points to Windows' overall usage falling below 90 percent sometime during mid-2011," says Vince Vizzaccaro, executive vice-president of marketing and strategic alliances for Net Applications Inc.

"The timing on all this depends on several market forces. It could be as early as next month, or possibly not at all, but we still see happening by mid-2011 or a bit earlier," added Vizzaccaro.

Microsoft's overall continued dominance of the desktop operating system market will likely not be enough to keep Windows' total share above 90 percent, simply because the proliferation of smartphones and tablets is changing the definition of what a personal computer is.

Microsoft's continuing mobile efforts revolving around Windows Phone 7 and Windows 7 in tablets will be crucial for the company, and will have a great impact on the company's future earnings, not just for this year, but for 2012, 2013 and 2014.

IT analyst Jack Gold predicts that "By 2013, greater than 67 percent of browsers accessing the Internet will be on non-PC devices. Internet Explorer will ultimately become a minor player in the browser market, with WebKit-based rendering engines powering the majority of mobile devices, Mozilla-based browsers being deployed on Linux-based and Meego-based larger form factor products.

As a result of all of this, websites will no longer be optimized for PC-based Internet Explorer, but will standardize on WebKit and HTML5 for broad-based browser compatibility."

For now, though, most personal computing is still performed through Windows. StatCounter, another market share tracker similar to Net Applications, reports desktop and mobile operating system share separately, instead of combining them into just one statistic. The combined desktop share of Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 is still at 91.94 percent for now, compared to 6.25 per cent for Mac OS X and 0.75 per cent for Linux, StatCounter's figures show.

But Windows Phone 7 doesn't even show up on StatCounter's mobile OS share ranking at all, which is dominated by Android, Apple's iOS, BlackBerry, and Symbian.

Microsoft can expect increasing revenue for Windows, simply because PC shipments are expected to rise in both 2011 and 2012, according to IDC. So it may not be that Windows is getting smaller -- it's more that the rest of the market, driven by mobile devices, is getting bigger and Microsoft isn't capitalizing on the growth.

And more and more users are accessing the mobile Web on devices that don't run Windows at all.

"I have absolutely no doubt that the number of Windows users has grown significantly over 2010, and am equally confident in the growth in the number of users of Mac OS-X in 2010. What we're seeing here is faster growth in mobile and tablet usage. I don't think Windows Phone 7 has been on the market long enough yet to help Microsoft on the mobile front, but I do believe Microsoft recognizes how important the mobile arena is, and is focused on being successful in that critical segment of the market," said Vizzaccaro.

While Net Applications' numbers show Windows' market share dropping from 93.74 percent in February 2009 to 90.29 percent in December 2010, Mac still managed to climb from 4.55 percent to 5.02 percent in the same time frame.

Net Applications collects its data from about 40,000 websites, counting unique visitors, specifically one unique visit to each network site per day.

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However, Linux held very steady, sticking at about 0.96 percent. And while it was greatly expected by many, Apple's iOS rose from 0.23 percent in February 2009 to almost 1.7 percent in December 2010. Android only accounts for 0.40 percent of operating systems for now, but is rapidly increasing according to Net Applications Inc.

Microsoft has also long dominated the browser market because most Windows users surf the Web with Internet Explorer, the OS's built-in Internet browser. But the rise of viable alternatives such as Mozilla's Firefox and Google Chrome has eaten into Microsoft's browser share as well, and will most likely continue the same trend over the next several years.

Internet Explorer's overall market share dropped from 69.72 percent in January 2009 to 57.08 percent in December 2010, according to Net Applications' data, with Firefox holding steady in the 22 percent range and Chrome rocketing up from 1.52 percent to 9.98 percent.

StatCounter's figures show even more depressing news for Microsoft on the browser front. StatCounter has Internet Explorer usage dropping to 46.94 percent in December, with more than half of all Web browsing now taking place on Firefox, Chrome and the Mac's Safari.

While Net Applications tracks only unique visitors, StatCounter's numbers compile all the hits across a network of a little over 3 million websites. One possible explanation for the difference between Net Applications and StatCounter browsing data is that the most active Web users choose Firefox and Chrome instead of Internet Explorer.

In that scenario, most computer users would surf the Web with Internet Explorer, but the majority of total browsing activity would still occur on non-Microsoft browsers. But further research is probably necessary to make that determination, however, since numbers can vary widely from one quarter to the next.

StatCounter says "It is certainly possible that Firefox and Chrome users could consume more pageviews per day than IE users. However, we haven't established any evidence to that effect ourselves, at least not yet anyway."

Source: Net Applications Inc.

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