The bad news for Windows 8: its market share of the desktop operating system market is only 2.3 percent. The good news: That's still about 60 million licenses.
The market share is reported in new figures by industry research firm Net Applications, which finds Windows 7 with 44.5 percent, Windows Vista at 5.2 percent, and even the venerable XP still at 39.5 percent. Mac OS X is about 6.4 percent. Microsoft has not issued a breakdown of the 60 million licenses, such as how many are to distribution channels and how many to consumers or businesses.
Of course, Windows 7 has been out for about four years. By comparison, three months after its release, Win 7 had reached a 7.7 percent market share. Windows 8 was released for general availability in late October.
The rate of increase for Windows 8 adoption appears to be steady, rising about 0.6 percent each month since October. But the promotional period is now over for users who had purchased Windows 7 after June 2012 to buy Windows 8 for $14.99. Upgrading to the standard Windows 8 is now $120, and $200 for Windows Pro.
PC sales have been down, in part due to the rise in tablets. There have also been public grumblings that raise questions about Win 8's overall success. Acer President Jim Wong, for instance, has told news media that Win 8 "is still not successful," and added that "a simple way to judge if it is successful or not" is to look at whether the whole PC market came back after the Windows 8 launch. It has not.
One of the most interesting developments in the PC market is the apparent rise of Chromebooks, those cloud-based laptops using Google's Chrome operating system. When first released, many observers predicted they might have some limited uses, such as real estate agents picking up any Chromebook to view and manage that day's listings. As prices on tablets and more full-featured laptops come down, the thinking was that Chromebooks were not necessarily a bargain.
But Chromebooks' ease of management is proving to be a big selling point. Last weekend, for example, Acer's Wong told news media that Chromebooks have accounted for 5 to 10 percent of his company's shipments in the U.S. since those models' release in November.
'Slower Than Microsoft Would Like'
Wong noted that Chromebooks appealed to educational institutions and corporations because, as thin-client machines, they are more secure and more easily updated or backed up. The financial journal The Street has reported that some enterprises are considering having as many as 20 percent of their employees try Chromebooks.
Current Analysis' Avi Greengart said that, with Microsoft competing for the first time with its PC hardware partners by releasing its Surface and Surface Pro tablets, and with
Windows PC sales languishing, those hardware partners "have to be looking at alternate OSes."
Aside from Mac, there aren't any real choices, except perhaps Chromebooks for large organizations -- which, if that trend builds, could eat into Windows 8's adoption rate even more. Greengart told us he was reserving judgment about the trend for Chromebooks until he saw "some good hard numbers."
He added that Windows 8 "is a new operating system" with a new, touch-oriented interface, and adoption has clearly been "slower than Microsoft would like." He said he expected Windows 8 sales to rise "because the PC isn't going away," and as consumers replace their PCs, the dominant choices are Windows or Mac.
Greengart said enterprises have been "very slowly" adopting Windows 8, in large part because they know the costs of doing so, such as increased training to accommodate the new interface, but they "don't see many benefits." Some companies will continue to use Windows 7 for at least a while, Greengart said.
Judging from reader comments on a recent story here about Windows 8, most reactions by Windows 8 users are negative, although there are some positive ones. This week, for instance, a reader named Westborough Jerry said that he "hated" the OS because it was "very confusing."
A reader named MC: "Awful OS !!! Regret ever having gotten it!...Yes, Vista is a heck better than this horrible OS. What on earth were they thinking at MS?"
Reader Frank Waldon, who said he had "no particular use" for Windows 8, complained that there are "a lot of steps" required to find things previously taken for granted. "Try finding Windows Media Player in Windows 8," he said, or Control Panel.
On the positive-toward-8 side, reader WalterK commented that "Microsoft has done something great here" in creating an OS that has related versions on PCs, laptops, tablets and phones. Applesux said "we love Win 8 Pro" and reader PRK said that it booted faster than previous versions and "has a nice feel to it."
What's your take on Windows 8? Thumbs up? Thumbs down? Love it or hate it? Sound off in the comment box below.