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Windows 8 still has a long way to go to become mainstream

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April 1, 2013

It appears that Windows 8 could be slowly carving out a slightly larger slice of the operating system market for today's personal computers.

However, at the pace that it's moving, it could take more time before some analysts call it 'mainstream'.

Microsoft's Windows 8 OS managed to capture about 3.17 percent of all desktop operating systems tracked by Net Applications in March. This was a small but respectable gain from the 2.67 percent share seen in the previous month.

Since its official debut in October 2012, Windows 8 has gradually risen up in the ranks, at least in Net Applications' Web traffic analyzis.

Starting with a 1.09 percent share gain in November, the OS carved out a 1.72 percent share in December. It then grabbed a 2.26 percent share in January, pushing it past Mac OS X 10.8 to take the fourth spot among operating systems.

Windows 7 remained ahead of Windows XP as the top operating system for March, though the respective shares of both barely nudged from their February numbers.

Windows 7 wrestled the top spot from XP last August, according to Net Applications. The unpopular Windows Vista stayed in third place with a small 5 percent share, a drop from the previous month.

Assuming Windows 8 keeps growing and Vista keeps falling, both at a consistent pace, Microsoft's new OS should steal third place sometime this summer.

On average, Windows' share of Net Applications' desktop OS traffic was a bit more than 91 percent, a number virtually unchanged over the past several months.

The share held by Mac OS X dipped slightly to 6.94 percent, while Linux came in third with about 1.27 percent.

In other operating system news

According to a new study published by Goldman Sachs, Microsoft could soon become a small player in today's global computing market. And there are a few reasons why that's in the process of happening.

One of the largest single contributing factors is the explosion in smartphones. The report, which was obtained last week by The Seattle Times, says that while Microsoft operating systems were found on about 96.8 percent of all computing devices as recently as the year 2000, Microsoft's current share is just 20 percent, due to the rapidly increasing popularity in mobile devices and tablets in recent years.

If you add smartphones and tablets into the overall mix, along with traditional laptops and PCs, Google then emerges as the current platform leader.

Goldman Sachs estimates that Google's Android OS is now installed on about 42.1 percent of all computing devices globally. Coming in close in second place is Apple. Between OS X and iOS, Apple actually has more users now than Windows does, with 24 percent of the overall device market.

And Goldman Sachs analysts aren't very hopeful about Microsoft's chances of reviving its platform any time soon. Although the analyst firm sees Microsoft recapturing some market share thanks to the introduction of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, Goldman still sees Apple remaining the bigger contender through 2016-2017, at least.

"Microsoft faces a steep uphill battle given the fact that it lacks meaningful share in either tablets or smartphones and as such will need to rely on its appeal to help drive adoption as its complement ecosystem will remain behind the iOS and Android platforms at least over the next 6 to 12 months," the report states.

While Goldman predicts that the consumer PC market will remain flat for most of 2013, it also believes that tablets will be the key to the market in the coming years, with tablets helping to drive sales of devices in other form factors as well.

"If left without a meaningful competitor in tablets, we believe Apple's dominant share of tablets will act as an anchor that pulls its smartphone share steadily upward over time," the report adds, noting that developing a credible tablet will be a must for Android's continued success.

But that isn't good news for Microsoft, if other recent predictions are to be believed. Just last week, analyst firm IDC estimated that Windows-based tablets would only account for 10 percent of all tablets sold in 2016, with their current share a mere 2.6 percent.

However, in true honesty, we must agree that the tech industry is a very tricky industry to predict with a high degree of accuracy, and Goldman Sachs is quick to point out that we may yet see another device category emerge that could shake up the market just as much as tablets have in the last two to three years.

So Goldman's own choice? Smart TVs, including standalone sets and devices such as Apple TV, Google TV, Roku, and, yes, Microsoft's own Xbox.

"We see Smart TVs as having the potential to either further entrench current winners, such as Apple, or completely disrupt the market once again," the Goldman report says, adding that "consumers will match the platform of their more frequently purchased smartphones and tablets to the television they already own."

In other operating system news

Oracle announced Friday the general availability of its Solaris 11.1 and Oracle Solaris Cluster 4.1 operating systems.

The news had been expected for the past several months now, when Oracle hinted in June that it would upgrade its Solaris OS in the fall.

The Oracle Solaris version 11 is the first cloud operating system that allows enterprise customers to build large-scale Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) clouds on a wide range of SPARC and x86 servers offered by Oracle and other server vendors.

Overall, Solaris Cluster 4.1 extends high availability and disaster recovery capabilities of Oracle Solaris and includes unique virtual cluster features supporting highly efficient application consolidation with best-in-class availability.

The Solaris 11 operating system is already widely in production with thousands of enterprise customers with mission critical deployments across various industries such as financial services, communications, healthcare, retail, information technology, public sector, media and entertainment.

Source: Net Applications.

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