Windows 8 has finally surpassed the market-share of Windows Vista, according to new data from Net Applications. The tracking firm places Windows 8’s share at 5.1 percent, a shade ahead of Vista at 4.62 percent. Both operating systems still lag well behind Windows 7, at 44.37 percent, and Windows XP at 37.17 percent. Windows XP reaches the end of its official support in April 2014. The aging warhorse’s continuing popularity—it was originally released in 2001—seems to vex Microsoft, which has been aggressively prodding its customer base to upgrade to newer Windows versions. Windows Vista never managed to overcome the negative reaction to many of its initial features, including elevated hardware requirements and endless authorization prompts. Released in 2009, Windows 7 benefitted from pent-up demand for a new operating system, as many consumers and businesses had decided to wait out Vista. Now Microsoft has the unenviable challenge of selling Windows 8 to an audience that generally seemed to like Windows 7, and doesn’t see much need to upgrade. Compounding the issue is Microsoft’s decision to tweak Windows’ traditional desktop interface; instead, users booting up the system for the first time are confronted with a Start screen composed of colorful tiles linked to applications. This screen is meant to make Windows 8 play well on touch-screen tablets, as those tiles can be tapped to activate a particular bit of software; but considering how the upcoming Windows 8.1 will include a “boot to desktop” option, it seems as if most of the audience hasn’t gone for Microsoft’s attempt to force-march them into the future. In addition to that boot-to-desktop option, Windows 8.1 will reintroduce the Start button, a longtime desktop feature that Microsoft eliminated with Windows 8. While data from Net Applications shows Microsoft dominating the “traditional” (i.e., PC) operating system market, it’s an altogether different beast when you dump the newly tablet-optimized Windows 8 into the same pool as Google Android, Apple iOS, and other operating systems for mobile devices. According to recent data from Gartner, when all types of devices are considered, Google Android has a comfortable lead over every competitor, followed by Windows, Apple’s iOS and Mac OS X, and BlackBerry OS. And therein lies the challenge for Microsoft: Windows 8 needs to not only seize a larger percentage of the traditional operating-system market, but has to make further inroads into tablets and other touch-screen devices.   Image: Net Applications