Windows 8 Might be the New Vista

Microsoft Windows 8 is garnering headlines that only competitors like Apple could love. Network World proclaims, “Windows 8 uptake: More like Vista than Windows 7.”

While Windows 8 uptake rate edged Vista’s first full month — that OS ended February 2007 with a 1% share of all Windows systems — the new edition actually jumped less than the problem- and perception-plagued Vista. From January to February 2007, Vista increased its share more than five times, compared to the doubling of Windows 8.

The difference may have little to do with the two operating systems and all to do with economics and choice: The global economy was significantly more robust in early 2007 than it is now, and five years ago consumers had few alternatives to a PC, since smartphones and tablets were then just a gleam in engineers’ eyes.

In the near-monopoly world of the past, rapid uptake of a new Microsoft operating system was an almost forgone conclusion. There were little other choices that consumers could make. But with mobile exploding and Apple Macs an increasing choice for business users, Windows 8 faces intense competition. The radical redesign associated with Windows 8 allows people to break from the past decades of accumulated baggage, but it also causes a discontinuity and a reason for people to sit up and make a conscious choice about which operating system will serve them in the future. And in world of choice, the big question is whether Windows 8 be chosen? We reported earlier on some of Windows 8 usability problems. Unless there is a strong force pushing users back to Windows 8, some fraction of the user base will migrate to new options.

This did not happen with Windows 7:

Windows 8’s gains last month were lackluster compared to Windows 7’s in late 2009. By the end of that upgrade’s first full month at retail, it had captured 4.3% of all Windows.

Windows 8’s November gain was its best-ever since Net Applications began tracking the new operating system. Even so, it fell further behind Windows 7’s pace. In 2009, Windows 7 added 2 percentage points in its first month after launch, while Windows 8 added only seven-tenths of a point, less than a half as much.

In fact, Windows 8 may have trouble keeping pace with Vista. By the end of Vista’s second month, it accounted for 2.2% of all copies of Windows. To equal that, Windows 8 will have to add another full percentage point to its share in December.

Interestingly, more than a decade-old, Windows XP claims about 40% of the Windows installed base. Many enterprises skipped Vista entirely and have only begrudgingly started to migrate to Windows 7. Given the slow uptake of Windows 8, it looks like many users will skip it, too. This suggests that Windows 8 will be most popular with new computer buyers, where the operating system comes pre-loaded.

There is an old joke that only the even-numbered Star Trek movies are worth watching. There might be a similar rule-of-thumb developing for Windows operating systems: only upgrade to the odd-numbered versions.

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