RealTime IT News

OS and Browser Stats are Milestones, Not Omens

A new analytics report shows that the competition is gaining ground on Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) in both the browser and operating system spaces, but the company's hegemony remains intact. While a number of blogs and news sites have crowed about Microsoft's losing share, the firm that did the research thinks the real news is elsewhere.

Net Applications, a site monitoring and analytics provider, gathers data from 40,000 Web sites around the world using an analytics package called Hitslink. This aggregates data on the operating system and browser of each visitor.

Acknowledging that its results are tilted a bit in favor of the U.S., Europe and Australia, Net Applications found that in November 2008, Windows represented 89.62 percent of visitors, the first time since it began tracking stats that Microsoft's dominant OS has fallen below the 90 percent mark.

The figures include all versions of Windows, even Windows 98, which still shows up in places. Over the past twelve months, Windows lost 2.8 points of market share, and guess who benefited? If you guessed a skinny fellow with a penchant for black turtleneck sweaters, you win.

Mac OS now sits at 8.87 percent, up from 6.80 percent in November 2007. Linux enjoyed a nice bounce as well, growing to 0.83 percent this year, up from 0.57 percent in 2007.

What's unusual about the numbers is that when compared between now and a year prior, the combined share of Windows XP and Vista is unchanged at 86 percent. A drop in Windows XP over the course of the year has been offset by an equal growth in Vista. The overall Windows drop is in older operating systems, like Windows 2000, ME and 98, falling off in numbers.

So Apple doesn't appear to be gaining at Microsoft's expense. This would seem to validate something Apple regularly mentions on its quarterly earnings calls, that more than half of Macintosh buyers at its stores are first-time computer buyers.

There is also a surprise entry into the list: iPhone. It came in fourth place, with 0.37 percent of the traffic. That impressed Vince Vizzaccaro, executive vice president of marketing and strategic alliances at Net Applications.

"The mere fact iPhone can register that percentage is pretty impressive, that a handheld device can register that much market share compared to desktops and laptops," he told InternetNews.com.

Also making surprise showings were the Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii consoles, with 0.04 percent and 0.01 percent, respectively. Both game consoles have built-in browsers. Microsoft's XBox 360, while Internet-capable, only goes to Microsoft's XBox Live interface, so it didn't show up.

Macintosh: laptop of the wealthy

Vizzaccaro said Net Applications plans to level out its numbers in the future to take emerging parts of the world into greater account, which may result in a slight dip in Mac numbers.

"The one caveat we have with our data, I think because our network is skewed in the same markets where Apple is, we're overrepresenting them at times. So I do think once we level off the playing field by country, you'll see Apple's numbers go down," he said.

Poorer countries and emerging markets, like Asia (excluding Japan), Africa and South America are not as heavily weighted, and Apple shows up less there. The reason is simple: Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) sells a premium product. CEO Steve Jobs has said it "doesn't do cheap," and $2,000 laptops don't sell well in countries struggling with the basics.

For instance, while the overall Mac figures were 8.87 percent, it had 10.67 percent share in the U.S., 10.65 percent in Japan, 16.56 percent in Switzerland is, 18 percent of Iceland (its recent banking crisis not withstanding) and traffic from Monaco, playground of the rich, was 20 percent Macintosh. Smaller, poorer nations were down in the single digits.

Next page: Browser wars redux