Windows 8 adoption will soon surpass that of OS X 10.8 ‘Mountain Lion’ is reporting that very soon, the oft-maligned Windows 8 will soon move past Apple’s OS X 10.8 “Mountain Lion” in the consumer rate of adoption amongst operating systems.

And, not surprisingly, Windows 8’s adoption rate is much poorer than Vista was at the same point in its product lifespan. The reason: it had been several years since the debut of XP, and there was no reason to avoid the new OS, because Microsoft had not served up an OS that the public didn’t snap up (although “Me” was an interesting experiment.)

Well…not yet, anyway.

Considering the generally poor press Windows 8 has received–and the generally good press Apple receives for its OS X versions, this is a bit of a surprise.

While there’s no disputing the figures, let’s not lose sight of the other numbers that show only a small percentage of all computers have OS X in the first place. What’s got to be disturbing for Microsoft, however…is that Windows is on just 30 percent of all consumer computing devices, which is down 40 percent in just four years. (If that sounds unusually low, “consumer computing devices” includes smartphones and tablets.)

Here’s the story:

Wait until January before you cast judgment on Windows 8, they said. That’s when the big boost from holiday sales will—or won’t—show up, and you’ll be able to get a better idea of how the operating system is doing. Well, Net Application’s January desktop usage data is in. What do the numbers show? Is Windows 8’s usage rate lagging?

It depends on how you look at it.

Net Application’s January desktop share data.

Let’s get the bleak news out of the way first. Three months after its release, Microsoft’s new-look operating system was found on 2.26 percent of all the traditional PCs tracked by Net Applications, whose web measurement network is comprised of 40,000 websites that receive roughly 160 million unique visits each month. By comparison, Windows 7 claimed a 7.57 percent browser share at its three-month mark, while Windows Vista was sitting slightly less pretty with a 3.3 percent share three months in.

The monthly gulf between Windows Vista’s uptake and Windows 8’s uptake is only widening, in other words. People still consider Windows Vista to be a stinker, rightly or wrongly, and that reputation no doubt helped to fuel Windows 7’s lightning-fast adoption. Conversely, Windows 7’s all-around excellence is likely holding back Windows 8—there simply isn’t a compelling reason to leap to Windows 8 and its redesigned modern UI if you’re a happy Windows 7 user.

Don’t be hasty to blame Windows 8’s slow uptake on declining PC sales, either. While the computer industry did suffer a contraction in 2012, digging through data from Gartner—a research analytics firm—reveals that just over 90 million PCs were sold in fourth quarters of both 2009 and 2012 (the launch windows for Windows 7 and 8, respectively). In fact, about 300,000 more PCs sold in the fourth quarter of 2012 than in 2009. The appearance of Windows 7 gave PC sales a tremendous shot in the arm, however, while Windows 8’s launch has not.

The news isn’t all bad for Microsoft, though. The various Windows iterations still account for nearly 92 percent of all desktop visitors to Net Application’s websites. Windows as a family is doing fine, even if Windows 8 is struggling to make an impact.

Plus, while Windows 8 might not be living up to the usage standards established by its forebears, it’s almost caught up to Apple. Mac OS X 10.8—you may know it better as “Mountain Lion”—has been available since all the way back in July, and it still only claims a 2.44 percent usage share in Net Application’s report, despite the appearance of new iMacs and Retina Display-packing MacBook Pro laptops. Expect Windows 8’s usage share to sneak past Mountain Lion’s this month.

The difference between the approaches Apple and Microsoft employ when attracting customers is simply put. Apple wants you to own a Mac of some flavor…if, however, you chose not to–well, there’s always the iPad and iPhone. If you choose none of their products, hey that’s okay too. Perhaps another time.

Microsoft cannot afford such a strategy. Especially after Steve Ballmer, their CEO, has already said the company is “all in” with Windows 8. It’s do or die time.


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