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RealTime IT News

Windows XP Wanes as Windows 7 Surges

Windows 7 has finally surpassed use of Windows XP in the U.S., according to Web analytics firm StatCounter.

Until the advent of Windows 7 in October 2009, thus replacing Windows Vista, Windows XP was the most used version of Windows ever.

Indeed, by this past January, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) said it had sold more than 300 million licenses for Windows 7.

During that time, however, Windows XP has retained what might be described as a remarkably faithful user audience, especially for a more than nine-year-old operating system.

Still, Windows 7's popularity appears to be finally cutting into XP's near cult-like following.

As of Monday, StatCouner's figures show that use of Windows 7 on computers in North America, has finally pulled ahead of XP, if only slightly for now.

StatCounter's latest measurements show Windows 7 with just over 32.5 percent of all operating systems in use. The latest numbers also give slightly more than 32-percent to XP -- 32.4 percent. On the bar chart, Windows 7 pulls ahead of XP, the first time that has occurred in StatCounter's tracking.

The reasons for XP's decline include the fact that Microsoft has made it abundantly clear in recent years that XP's days are numbered. With some exceptions, Microsoft cut off availability to PC makers to ship systems with XP pre-installed last fall.

Additionally, almost all technical support for XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) has already lapsed, with the end of all so-called "extended" support -- primarily free security and bug patches and paid per-incident support -- currently set to expire in April 2014.

Microsoft's moves to wean customers off of XP have helped drive that decline.

For example, since 2008, XP usage in North America has slipped from 69 percent share.

Beginning in late 2009, when Windows 7 shipped, however, Windows 7's share has grown from virtually nothing to more than 32 percent today.

Meanwhile, Vista, which was released in January 2007, saw its peak when Windows 7 shipped of 31.9 percent. Since then, Vista's share has decreased to 19.6 percent, according to StatCounter.

The current trends don't seem likely to shift any time soon.

Company executives and analyst firms have repeatedly said that the critical corporate PC "refresh" -- which observers say is driving business customers to replace aging machines with new ones pre-installed with Windows 7 -- is well underway.

The company also just began shipping Windows 7 SP1 in February, another key milestone that IT customers have classically waited for before deeply committing to a new version of Windows.

Microsoft is likely to provide its latest update of how many copies of Windows 7 licenses have been sold when it announces its third fiscal quarter earnings on April 28.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.