The proportion of people using Windows XP actually rose in January. It may be little more than a statistical quirk, but the underlying story is what happens when Microsoft pulls the plug on support in barely two months.
The figures come from NetMarketShare and are based on computers used to visit sites hosted by its statistics client. It found Windows 7 on 47.49 percent of machines, XP on 29.23 percent, Windows 8 on 6.63 percent, Windows 8.1 on 3.95 percent and poor old Vista on 3.3 percent, just ahead of Mac OS X.
To be fair, the XP rise is just 0.25 percentage points on the previous month, so it’s not exactly a sign of revival. However, it does mean that of Windows users, very nearly one in three are still using the system, which debuted in 2001.
After several false starts, and rewriting its standard support timetables, Microsoft is officially scheduled to end support — including security patches — for XP in April. Having repeatedly warned that this time the deadline is for real, it runs a risk of being seen as crying wolf if it backs down.
If it doesn’t however, we’re looking at several hundred million computers being unprotected as and when nefarious folk spot a new flaw in the system, which sounds like the mother of all botnets in the making.
The Windows 8 figures will also be worrying for Microsoft. Fifteen months after its release, only a little over one in ten desktop computers are running the new system. Computerworld notes that Windows 7 was at around 25 percent at the same stage after its release. Part of the difference is the number of people buying tablets rather than new PCs, but it’s still a sign that the public remains sceptical about the system’s merits.
It’s also notable that far more people are running Windows 8 rather than the updated 8.1 version. It’s likely a sign of how many people are prepared to buy a new computer and never apply any updates — which is of course one of the reasons XP refuses to die quietly.