The Future of Windows Vista

This is the tale of three operating systems: Windows XP, its presumed successor Vista, and the recently displaced as king of the hill Windows 7.

Windows XP

Windows XP was the first consumer version of Windows released in the 21st Century, replacing Windows Me, itself a minor update to Window 98 designed to circumvent Y2K problems, yet Me didn’t even ship until Late 2000. Me arrived on Sept. 14, 2000, and XP began shipping on new PCs on August 24, 2001 – less than a year later. (The consumer version of XP didn’t come until Oct. 25, 2001.)

Windows XP was designed to integrate two different OS families, consumer-oriented Windows 95/98/Me and server-oriented Windows NT/2000. It was a runaway success, and a lot of computers in use today continue to use Windows XP. In fact, it’s been so popular that Microsoft has had to extend its support time frame over and over again.

Mainstream XP support ended on April 14, 2009, but extended support continues until April 8, 2014. XP became such a well-known quantity that people buying new PCs with Vista or Windows 7 have been able to downgrade officially to Windows XP.

At its peak, well over 70% of all Windows PCs were running XP.

Windows Vista

Vista has a bad reputation. It was released to manufacturers on Nov. 18, 2006 and to the wider market on Jan. 30, 2007. Windows XP was already five years old when Vista arrived, and perhaps Vista’s most important feature was improved malware protection. By the time XP shipped, almost everyone was connected to the Internet, and Windows malware was rampant. Vista tried to head that off.

Vista had much higher hardware requirements than Windows XP, and it also introduced Digital Rights Management (DRM). Whatever the reason, and it was probably a combination of multiple issues, Vista never caught on with the public or IT departments. Throughout its life, Vista never achieved even one-third of XP’s market share.

Vista became a running joke in the PC world, although Simon Royal argues that with modern hardware and later Service Packs it became a very competent operating system.

Windows 7

Microsoft took its time bringing Vista’s replacement to market. It had to do everything right; it could not afford to end up with egg on its face twice in a row. Windows 7 was released to manufacturers on July 22, 2009 (less than three years after Vista’s initial release), and consumers could buy it starting on Oct. 22, 2009.

People were leery after Vista’s poor reception, but over time Windows 7 proved itself. It was everything Vista wanted to be, and over time it has finally displaced Windows XP as the most popular version in use, as this chart of visitors to using Windows illustrates:

Windows Version Share, 2009-2013

This chart is based on visitors using Windows PCs to visit Low End Mac starting in October 2009, a month before Windows 7 started shipping. At the start, Windows XP had 72.8% share vs. 16.6% for Vista. (The remaining 10.6% were on other versions, which we’re not covering here.) Vista peaked at 19.5% in April 2010.

In April 2011, Windows 7 surpassed Windows XP as the most popular version of Windows in use among our readers. With Windows 7 at 43.6% and XP at 42.1%, Vista had dropped to 13.4%.

As you can see in the chart, Windows XP and Vista both have a very linear decline in user share. Vista is down to 3.5% in our statistics, while XP is at 17.1%, and Windows 7 is at an impressive 65.3%.

Windows 8

Time will tell whether Windows 8 eventually displaces Windows 7 for the top spot or becomes the next Vista. Release to manufacture on August 1, 2012 and to the broader market on Oct. 26, 2012, it hasn’t achieved much traction. The interface is so different and so optimized for a touch-based environment that desktop and laptop users are somewhat put off by it.

In terms of user share, Windows 8 reached 12.4% on August 2013 and has been declining since then, reaching 10.4% in October 2013.


Windows  7 had what it took to displace XP as king of the Windows hill, while Vista floundered at under 20% share its entire life (among visitors to Low End Mac). Even in its old age decline, it was only a few months ago (July 2013) that Windows XP share dropped into the same range as Vista’s peak.

Expect Windows XP to remain in use on all those old PCs that just don’t have what it takes to run Windows 7, much as Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard continues to hold the second place spot behind the current version of OS X, whether that was Lion or Mountain Lion or today’s Mavericks. (See OS X 10.7 Lion: The Vista of the Mac World? by Simon Royal for more details on that.)

Within a year, Vista won’t even matter, as left behind as Windows 98 and Me – and OS X 10.4 Tiger and 10.5 Leopard on Intel-base Macs. And from the look of things, Windows 7 is going to remain dominant for a good long time.

Keywords: #windows7 #windows8 #windowsxp #windowsvista

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