Commentators who have been referring to Lion as Apple's Vista may be engaging in wishful thinking, but not how you might think. According to new August data on worldwide market share, more computer users still run Windows Vista than use every version of Mac OS X combined.
Not that there's good news for Microsoft. Despite the success of Windows 7, more than half of all computer users in the world still run Windows 7's main competitor: Windows XP.
The data comes from the latest monthly report by NetMarketShare, an organization that calculates market share by keeping track of the OS's of unique visits to 40,000 web sites. This means that the numbers it tracks are computers being actively used, not just sales numbers given by the developers. To get a good idea of the entire worldwide use, NetMarketShare analyzes 160 million unique web visitors per month. Statistically, this is a pretty good sampling, compared to the sample size of 1500 typically used in the polls that tell us who the next president of the United States will be.
The results show that 6.03 percent of computer users run Mac OS X worldwide. This is the first time the Mac number has been above 6 percent, showing continued steady growth. In fact, Apple's Mac hardware sales are up 24 percent, while the PC industry has had an anemic 3.8 percent growth.
To put this in to context, though, Windows Vista -- the Edsel of the tech world -- has a 9.40 percent worldwide market share, according to the August NetMarketShare nubers. For every 10 Mac users, there are 15 Vista users. Not that Vista in more "popular" than Mac OS X. It's forgotten that Microsoft sold over 140 million copies of Vista, many of which came with new PCs are still being used. The fact that Mac OS X hasn't yet caught up to Vista shouldn't be surprising, but a combination of sustained Vista-bashing and the Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field have exaggerated both the rejection of Vista and the acceptance of Mac OS X.
On the other hand, Windows XP still blows everything away with a 52.46 percent worldwide market share. Windows 7, recognized as Microsoft's big success, is at 30.60 percent. The fact that the data is based on web visits also shows that most computer users are not running Microsoft's current browser, Internet Explorer 9, which doesn't work on Windows XP.
In its prime, Windows XP once held a 75 percent market share, so this is a steep decline for the world's most widely used OS. But Windows XP is now ten years old. In case you missed the anniversary, it was first released to computer manufacturers on August 24, 2001. Microsoft hasn't sold a copy of XP since January 31, 2009. Say what you will, but that's staying power. It also means that despite Windows' 92.2 percent market share, Microsoft hasn't seen money from many of these licenses for some time now.
By comparison, the bulk of Apple's 6 percent worldwide OS share consists of the two-year-old Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, which started shipping 7 months after Microsoft sold its last copy of Windows XP. Mac owners upgrade their operating systems more than do PC owners, often anticipating a new version like a kid at looking forward to his birthday. PC owners look at new Microsoft Windows version with suspicion, like a kid moving to a new school.
You won't see Apple's brand-new Lion (Mac OS X 10.7) in NetMarketShare's pie chart - it's included in "Other." Lion held 1.03 percent of the worldwide market share in August. But, after shipping for just over a month, there are now almost as many Lion users as there are Linux desktops of all types (1.07 percent of market share). Which means that kerfuffles over Gnome versus Unity don't really matter.
In the US market, Apple's sheen is even brighter, with 13.36 percent of users surfing with Macs, according to NetMarketShare's August data. But even here, Mac OS X is still playing catch-up to Windows Vista, which has 16.10 percent of the US market share, but is closer than in the worldwide market. Although a higher percentage of US users still use Vista than worldwide, far few are holding onto Windows XP. Here, Windows 7 and XP are on par with each other, at about 34 percent each.
That's the reality. We don't hear much about it because we tend to focus on what people are buying, not what people are using. So Mac OS X is considered a mainstream OS, Windows Vista no longer is. Windows XP, a major force even in the US, is virtually invisible.
There's also the view the Android and iOS will make all this obsolete. Perhaps, when you include hand-held devices in NetMarketShare's Web usage date, iOS, Android, Symbian, and Blackberry all add up to about 5 percent of worldwide share. I wouldn't through away that mouse just yet.
Read this article at the MacWindows site with links to the data.