Discontinued Windows XP Still No. 2 Desktop OS After Windows7, Windows 8 Lagging Far Behind

On the eve of Microsoft’s BUILD developer conference, Statcounter has published a snapshot of the challenge that Microsoft faces to get its users to adopt its current and future products over its legacy systems.

According to the research firm, in the month of March Microsoft’s Windows 7 OS held on to its place as the world’s most popular desktop operating system, with the OS installed on nearly 55% of all machines surveyed. Windows XP, which Microsoft has said it will stop supporting by April 8, is at a firm number two with 18.6% of all installations.

Meanwhile, Windows 8, the integrated OS that Microsoft has been promoting since last year, remains a distant fourth at 7.9% of installs, with Apple’s MacOSX sandwiched between with 8.6% of all desktops. Even if you add in installations of the Windows 8 update, Windows 8.1, you still get less than 14% of installs for Microsoft’s newest operating system (Windows 8.1 is at 4.5%, just slightly ahead of Vista).

These are aggregated global figures; individual countries will have varying results. For example, in the U.S. MacOS overtakes Windows XP for second position.

StatCounter says it gets its figures from analysing 15 billion page views per month across its network of three million+ websites.

What to make of these numbers? A few things.

On one hand, Microsoft has failed to get the world fired up about its newest OS.

Yes, you could argue that it’s misleading to look at desktop OS usage because these days the PC is a dying breed as people turn to tablets and smartphones for their connectivity and data needs. Gartner estimates that in 2014, less than 300 million of the 2.5 billion devices (smartphones, tablets and PCs) shipped this year will be actual PCs.

Then again, across other kinds of devices, Microsoft is performing at a nearly negligible pace, making the situation potentially even more alarming and heightening the potential for Microsoft irrelevance longer term. According to the StatCounter figures, in tablets, Windows is at 0.26% usage compared to the nearly 78% held by Apple’s iOS and its iPad tablets. In mobile, Windows Phone is at 2.22% for the same period (March 2014) — there it’s Android who is the winner.

StatCounter, however, sees the figures not as much as a struggle for Microsoft as for Windows users.

“Despite the stark warnings and publicity surrounding the end of support in six days’ time, it appears that significant numbers of people are still using XP and sleep walking into a potential minefield of security and virus risks,” writes Aodhan Cullen, CEO, StatCounter.

Microsoft notes in its page announcing the discontinuation of support for Windows XP that “…you should take action. After April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates or technical support for Windows XP. Security updates patch vulnerabilities that may be exploited by malware and help keep users and their data safer. PCs running Windows XP after April 8, 2014, should not be considered to be protected.” Pulling the plug is certainly one way of using a stick rather than a carrot to get people to upgrade. In more than one place, as a solution, Microsoft tells users that “it is important that you migrate to a current supported operating system – such as Windows 8.1 – so you can receive regular security updates to protect their computer from malicious attacks.”

There are carrots, too. In February, Microsoft noted that it would be bringing back some legacy features into its new OS such as the return of a “start” tab on the desktop and more mouse and keyboard-friendly features to complement the touch-focused UI.