Users remain significantly less enthused about Windows 8 than they were three years ago about the then-unfinished Windows 7, according to data from an analytics firm.
The new numbers from California-based Net Applications hint at a lukewarm reception for Windows 8.
Just 0.18 percent of all the computers that went online during June ran one of the previews of Windows 8, statistics Net Applications showed last week. Of those PCs running Windows, 0.2 percent -- or 20 out of 10,000 -- were powered by Windows 8. (Also see "Windows 8 Consumer Preview: A Visual Tour.")
As in April, when Computerworld last used Net Applications' data to analyze Windows 8 uptake, the new OS' June numbers were dramatically lower than Windows 7's at the same point in its development.
In June 2009, four months before its launch, Windows 7 accounted for 0.75 percent of all computers and 0.80 percent of all Windows machines. In other words, Windows 7's share was four times that of Windows 8.
Even when the different release dates of the previews for each operating system are taken into account, Windows 8 still comes up short, although the disparity is not as pronounced. In the first full month after each sneak peek's release, Windows 7's share of all Windows PCs was two to three times greater than Windows 8's.
(Windows 7's beta reached users seven weeks earlier in 2009 than Windows 8 Consumer Preview did this year, while Windows 7's release candidate preceded Windows 8's Release Preview on the calendar by nearly four weeks.)
Four months after its Consumer Preview's debut, Windows 8's share of all Windows machines was lower than Windows 7's just seven weeks after the launch of its beta.
Other comparison also put Windows 8 in a poor light.
Windows 8's June 2012 share of 0.18 percent, for example, represents about 2.9 million machines of last year's estimated global installed base of 1.6 billion PCs. Windows 7's 0.75 percent from June 2009, meanwhile, translates into about 9.4 million systems of that year's smaller installed base of approximately 1.25 billion.
The bottom line: More than three times the number of people ran Windows 7 at the T-minus-four-month mark than ran Windows 8 at the same point in its development.
The operating systems have had an equal opportunity to win hearts and minds: Microsoft delivered two early versions of each to the public. They also appear to be on the same shipping schedule. Windows 7 went on sale in October 2009, and although Microsoft has not yet set a release date for Windows 8, most experts expect that it will also launch in October.
If Microsoft watches these numbers -- and there's no reason to think it does not, since the company regularly cites Net Applications' data when it discusses Internet Explorer's browser share -- it must be disheartened by the comparisons.
Not only does Windows 8 compare unfavorably to Windows 7, but the gap between the two has widened. Two months ago Windows 8's share was half of Windows 7's three years before. Since then the difference between the editions has doubled, with Windows 8's June share only one-fourth of Windows 7's in that month of 2009.
Unlike post-launch share data, the early returns are not tainted with new PCs that come with an operating system. Rather, users chose to install the previews of Windows 7 and Windows 8, and thus the share figures represent a more accurate picture of customer interest in the upcoming operating system itself, not in the desire -- or need -- to acquire new hardware.
Net Applications' data, of course, doesn't preclude Windows 8 from flourishing once new systems running it reach stores and the upgrade becomes available for purchase by those who don't plan on replacing PCs. In fact, Microsoft has priced the Windows 8 upgrade at an all-time low of $40 in a promotion that starts when the OS ships and ends January 31, 2013. The price cut could jumpstart Windows 8.
But even Microsoft has tacitly admitted that Windows 8 will be a hard sell to some, notably enterprises. In mid-2009, several months before Windows 7's release, Microsoft told enterprises to dump deployment plans for that edition and shift to Windows 7.
Customers did just that: Windows 7 will become the most popular Windows this month when it passes XP in Net Applications' calculations.
However, Microsoft has not told users to stop deploying Windows 7. As recently as last month the company again urged enterprises to continue their adoption of Windows 7.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
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This story, "Windows 8 Lags Windows 7 in Previews" was originally published by Computerworld.