In the Valley, anything less than 92% share makes you irrelevant

Last month, yet another Silicon Valley blowhard pronounced Microsoft “irrelevant.”

In fact, that’s the message you’re likely to hear just about everywhere you go inside the bubble that is Silicon Valley. It’s repeated in the tech press, which falls over itself to see who can be the first to analyze the meaning of the latest cryptic invitation from Apple.

And then, every once in a while, actual data arrives from the outside world. Like this month’s report from Net Market Share, which tracks usage of desktop and mobile operating systems and browsers worldwide.

Here’s what the world looked like in February 2012, as measured by Net Market Share:


Oh, look! Worldwide, 8% of all desktop/portable computer users are still running the hated, reviled Windows Vista. That’s more than all users of OS X and Linux combined.

And, of course, if you add up the number of Windows XP users (dominated by enterprises) and Windows 7 (mostly consumers and small businesses), the percentage is more than 10 times the total of all OS X and Linux users combined.

That’s from a worldwide base of nearly 1.5 billion traditional computers—PCs and Macs.

Pretty good for an irrelevant company.

12 thoughts on “In the Valley, anything less than 92% share makes you irrelevant

  1. And this is just desktop OS. What about Server? I’d love to see how many companies are running a non-Windows based Server set up. I’m sure that’s even smaller.

  2. If I remember correctly, Microsoft sells a million PCs a day. Developers will not ignore a market that big. If Windows 8 works well on ARM, everything available on the iPad today will be available on Windows ARM tablets.

    I’m still not sure ARM is going to work – is Microsoft going to charge a huge OEM fee for Windows on ARM, or is the install going to take 15 GB? Windows tablets also have to meet or beat the iPad in price while offering equivalent hardware, to be viable.

  3. Change your filter to just the USA, and the numbers look like this:

    Windows 7=41%, Windows XP=28%, OSX (all flavors)=16%, Windows Vista=14%, Linux=2%. If you total all the Windows it’s 83 with Windows 7 about half of that. These numbers match my experience as opposed to the worldwide numbers you quoted.

  4. Carl, Win 8 will be big I agree. But, not at first. Here’s what I think.

    It’s going to take something like the ARM platform to make it big. After spending all day with the Consumer Preview (cough Beta cough), it just doesn’t work well on normal computer hardware. Not well at all. Sure it’s fast and runs like lightning and such. But, it’s just not made for hardware as we know it.

    On the ARM platform it won’t be expensive, MS will make money via the Store. It won’t be a big install, no massive hardware to support wich cuts a ton of Windows bloat down. Plus other ARM ability to make the OS smaller. Price is not as big of a deal as you think. Sure, a low cost machine will sell well, and get great press. But at the end of the day a $1000 ARM tablet will sell well too. Mainly because under Windows 8, their will be so many tablet choices it’ll be so easy to get a model that fits your price range and tech range.

    Windows 8 is cool, but I’m still worried about the initial impact on the market. Especially in the business sectors. The preview was a brilliant idea from MS. Get it out early so it’s not a surprise like Vista was. That and follow the idea of “one bad then one good version of Windows” that so many like to believe and this one will be the one to skip. Just makes me even more interested in what Windows 9 will bring.

    Anyway, I do hope I’m dead wrong about some of my concerns…

  5. Just to be clear and fair, the tweet was “@wadhwa Reality is that Microsoft has been left behind. Largely irrelevant now. It’s leaders are to blame. No excuses.”

    I assume he was saying Microsoft is irrelevant in mobile phones and tablets, not in computing devices of all types including desktops, servers, mainframes, and embedded automotive systems. Given the Valley’s obsession with mobile computing, that seems like the probable context. Your numbers show that Microsoft is dominant, not irrelevant, on desktops, but that does not contradict his assertion about mobile. If anything, the numbers for mobile back him up that Microsoft has been left behind so far.

    The question is whether Microsoft will remain irrelevant in mobile. The massive Windows installed base doesn’t matter to most startups because most of its niches are already filled by well-established and well-funded companies. Windows 8 needs to be a success on tablets, and all Microsoft needs is a small fraction of that 92 percent to go for Windows tablets. From there, it’s quite possible that there will be sympathetic demand for Windows Phone as well. That will create a new market for Metro apps, and an opportunity for new players (plus iOS and Android players). That’s why Metro matters so much IMO, it’s a chance for disruption and innovation to occur.

  6. The client/server era is over!! Is there any company actively competing with any “Windows OS”? NO!! Windows OS are on legacy computers. These numbers are meaningless going forward in this new era of cheap mobile devices and cloud computing. If you want to talk about Windows relevance in this new era of computing show the number of Window mobile devices versus iPhone & Android phones.

    1. Yes, @TJGodel, those billion and a half PCs are clearly all just gathering dust as people do everything on their phones. 🙂

      Of course mobile devices are important. So are conventional PCs. The idea that improvements in mobile computing make conventional PCs completely (or even largely) irrelevant is ludicrous.

  7. @Dave,
    Some good points. However, I’m not sure Metro will qualify as a disruption/disruptor. A disruption in personal computing has already taken place, hence this whole discussion. It’s the shift in personal computing towards mobile — the “Post-PC world”. Metro is trying to catch this wave.

    The iPad sells more units now than HP sells PCs. PC shipments only show a YoY rise if Apple Macs (and/or iPads, I forget) are included in the totals. People are finding new tasks for “tablets” (read, the iPad) that either, a) they would have thought possible only on a traditional PC; or, b) that are entirely new tasks. Eg., pilots using them for flight charts, doctors, lawyers, deliverymen, teachers and students, sales teams, board members, politicians, restaraunts.

    It seems that Apple has at least two disruptions in the works: natural voice control, and therethinking of traditional TV and Cable as we know it. So, MS needs to work on some disruption — ’cause metro aint it.

  8. Dave,

    No, Mr. Wadhwa was saying that Microsoft is a lumbering dinosaur and it is literally irrelevant in all spheres of modern computing. Here was what he wrote on Twitter:

    @wadhwa: Land of Microsoft–probably the most closed-minded company in tech industry. It’s execs still live in 90!s–when Microsoft ruled.!/edbott/statuses/170891800574296064

    Also worth noting that this highly educated academic doesn’t know the difference between “its” and it’s.” He makes the same schoolboy error in both tweets I quoted.

  9. About that stupid Silicon Valley blowhard, in my country, Portugal, we use to say “While the dogs bark the caravan moves”. Sorry for the translation, but I think you understand what I mean.

  10. Ed, we spoke a bit about this on Twitter after you spoke with Vivek. I see your argument and agree with some of it. However, as some commenters have mentioned, Microsoft is way behind on mobile, nearly irrelevant. And that will cost them. Tablets are expected to be bigger than the PC market within 2-3 years. That’s over 400 million tablets sold per yr, up from basically zero three years ago.

    All while the PC market continues to contract by 5-8% a year. Worse yet, Microsoft has yet to prove they can be successful selling tablets with Windows 8, or that they have a strategy for selling software in the mobile space. (It’s unlikely they’ll be able to get the same margins for Office that they have enjoyed for years in PC market.)

    So I get what you’re saying, but the metrics you’re using seem a bit outdated when the growth over the next 5 years is clearly in mobile.

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