Apple and Microsoft doing something wrong?

Now this is interesting. It seems to me that Microsoft and Apple are doing something completely wrong. It appears that half of computer users is still using the previous version of Windows and a quarter is still using XP, while Windows 8 is out for a few months already. It is even worse for Mac OS X: most users decided to stick with Snow Leopard (10.6), while Apple already released two new versions of its operating system.



Why does this happen? First of all, because Windows 8 and Mountain Lion aren’t really upgrades. Windows 8 is nothing but Windows 7 with a brick wall that won’t run on netbooks with odd resolutions but will run on tablets and Mountain Lion is Lion with the same yet slightly tightened security measures and a few extra features, e.g. social integration, that nobody needs.

Operating System       Share'  (%)
                      2009   2012
MS Windows
 Windows 8                    0.57
 Windows 7             3.13  48.77
 Windows XP           56.62  25.66
 Windows Vista        26.92   9.45
Mac OS X
 OS X 10.4             2.07   0.33
 OS X 10.5             5.80   1.43
 OS X 10.6             2.54   5.24
 OS X 10.7                    4.62
 OS X 10.8                    2.13
 Linux                 0.33   0.97
 Other                 2.02"  0.48
') numbers may not add up because
not al Mac and Windows versions are
") includes Windows 2000

How does this compare with the previous big release of Windows, in October 2009? One month after its release, Windows 7 had a market share that was 5.6 times bigger than the market share of Windows 8, also one month after its release. This means that the number of users who thought it was worthwhile switching to Windows 7 immediately was almost 6 times bigger than the number of users who switched to Windows 8 immediately. Apparently, the consumer understands what a product really is. Windows 8 is like Vista. It will soon be replaced by yet another Windows version, which will be embraced by all users except for XP fans, who will probably still count for 10% of all computer users by that time.

What does this mean for developers? Apparently, developers shouldn’t always aim at the most recent OS. As a Windows developer, one should target the previous OS, Windows 7, and not forget Windows XP, which is still 25% of your market, although there is a chance that an XP user doesn’t want to spend money on his (old) computer anymore. If you’re a Mac developer, you have a small market already with a mere 13% of all users. A Mac developer needs to target Snow Leopard and Lion users while he still has time to get ready for Snow Leopard, which will probably need at least 6 more months to catch up with Lion. It will probably take a long time for Snow Leopard to give way to (Mountain) Lion, because there are many old machines that still run perfectly. In all its wisdom, Apple decided to not let Mountain Lion run on machines that are more than 4 years old, excluding many Apple fans from the market.

Conclusion: both Microsoft and Apple are excluding important target groups, netbook users and users of slightly outdates Macs, from buying their products. Computer users are well aware of what an upgrade really means to them and they understand that it isn’t always necessary to have the latest of the latest. Software developing companies need to be aware of the fact that computer users with older operating systems will continue to be part of their target group for years to come.

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