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The monthly OS market share reports from NetMarketShare offer a helpful insight the rising and falling fortunes of the various operating systems that connect users to the digital world, and the report documenting the month of January provides some interesting food for thought. The upshot? Microsoft’s newest operating system, Windows 8.1, is still gaining traction. And so is Microsoft’s 13-year-old operating system, Windows XP. So that’s not great.

The big story in last month’s market share report was that Windows 8.1 was close to overtaking Vista, and it’s done so after this past January. Vista’s share fell from 3.61 to 3.3, while 8.1 picked up .35. The market share for 8.1’s slightly older brother, Windows 8, fell by about a quarter of a percent, which surely accounts for a portion of 8.1’s gains. That 8.1 continues to gather steam shows that users are starting to get a handle on its weird blend of desktop and Metro UI. The brisk holiday sales of the Surface Pro 2 could also have something to do with the increased 8.1 market share—though maybe that’s wishful thinking, as I really have to wonder if those sales could make an actually noticeable dent in the numbers.

No matter what you think of the rise in 8.1’s numbers, what’s inexplicable is the simultaneous rise in Windows XP usage. In December, XP had 28.98—in January, it gained a quarter of a percent to 29.23. It’s hard to parse. What could account for such an old operating system to actually hold a higher percentage of market share this past month? It’s especially troubling considering Microsoft plans to stop supporting XP entirely on April 8.

Currently, Windows XP is used in offices around the world, not to mention serving as the foundation for ATMs and train ticket machines, to name a few. The looming end of XP support from Microsoft means that those machines will really have to be upgraded to newer operating systems. In short, gains for XP aren’t really a great sign for Microsoft’s attempts to move on.

That said, it’s a sign of the perils of doing a good job in the first place: people have liked XP for years, and when something works, you’re reluctant to move away from it. That also accounts for the nearly unending stranglehold of Windows 7, which is currently the best version of Microsoft’s OS for non-touch computers.

What will this picture look like next month? Will XP fall back down? Will it go down as the April 8 deadline approaches? Should I be less interested in something that is legitimately boring like Windows market share percentage reports? All good questions.


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