Windows 7 share decline could mean security headaches

Windows 7 share may be down. Is Linux shipping in its stead? Or older Windows?

Numbers are a funny thing.

Over at PCWorld, Woody Leonhard ran a story Monday that seemed to suggest that Windows 7 global PC market share is shrinking.

Leonhard's process seems sound: he took the 350 million Window 7 licenses that Microsoft themselves announced on April 22, and then matched that up with what Gartner estimated was the number of PCs sold in the same period. Leonhard had done the same thing last July, breaking down Microsoft's reported numbers against the estimated number of PCs sold.

His findings were interesting.

"Between launch and June 30, 2010--a period of 251 days--Microsoft sold 0.78 Windows 7 licenses for each PC sold.

"Between July 1, 2010, and April 22, 2011--a period of 275 days--Microsoft sold 0.67 Windows 7 licenses for each PC sold: 175 million Windows 7 licenses, and 260 million new PCs.

"To turn the numbers the other way around, in the past nine months, more than one-third of all new PCs sold didn't have Windows 7 [emphasis his]."

Leonhard may be on to something here, but let's not be too hasty. Not to disparage him, Leonhard's taking some guesses with his numbers and he knows it. He's assuming nine percent of those PC sales were Macs, took a stab at a three-week gap in the reports, and also assumed Gartner and IDC knew what they were talking about with those reported PC figures.

But let's assume Leonhard has got something. If indeed the ratio of new PCs with Windows 7 is down to 67 percent, what else would be shipping on those machines?

Leonhard's colleague Katherine Noyes thinks the non-Windows 7 PCs are being filled up by more preloaded Linux machines. And while I think Noyes has pointed out a possible trend, I don't think Linux makes up for all the non-Windows 7 systems being sold... as much as it disappoints me to say so.

I would be willing to attribute some of these machines to being preloaded Linux boxes, but I have to wonder if a bulk of them aren't just simply shipping with earlier versions of Windows. Like Vista, or even XP.

I hope this is not the case and not so much for Linux' sake. If indeed there is a gap between Windows 7 licenses and new PCs, and that gap is being filled by older Windows versions, then the global PC market is being stocked with machines that are more vulnerable than the latest version of Windows. While my druthers would be everyone using Linux, or OS X. But if you have to use Windows then at least use the latest version.

Leonhard's findings suggest to me that this is not the case. Older Windows versions means more security trouble for consumer and business users.

Something not to look forward to in the months to come.

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