Vista taking a nibble out of Apple in OS wars?

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Windows Vista more than doubled its market share in March from the prior month, while the share of computers running Mac OS X fell for the first time in nine months, according to statistics released Thursday by market research firm Net Applications.

By the end of March, Vista was used by 2.04 percent of computers connected to the Internet, according to the Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based company. That’s up from 0.93 percent of PCs in February.

Now ranked the fifth-most popular operating system by Net Applications, Vista jumped ahead of Windows 98, which had a 1.36 percent share. Vista still trailed its seven-year-old ancestor, Windows 2000, which had 4.71 percent share in March.

The share of PowerPC-based Macs fell, though, from 4.29 percent in February to 3.94 percent in March. That dip was not fully offset by an increase in Intel-based Mac hardware, leading to a overall net decline in Mac share of 0.3 percent, to 6.08 percent in March.

Net Applications collects its data from the browsers of visitors to its network of more than 40,000 Web sites.

Vista has now been available to consumers for two months — and to businesses for four months. Microsoft said last week that it had sold more than 20 million licenses of Vista, eclipsing the 17 million licenses for XP it had sold in its first two months of general release.

Some analysts have predicted that despite Microsoft’s plans to spend half a billion dollars marketing Vista, conversions from XP won’t be the norm until 2009.

Net Applications also released statistics that showed Internet Explorer’s share continuing to lose ground to Firefox, though it remains in no danger of being eclipsed soon. IE had a 78.57 percent share in March, down from 79.09 percent in February. Firefox gained nearly a whole percentage point, going from 14.18 percent to 15.10 percent.

Apple’s Safari browser, which runs only on Macs, fell slightly, from 4.85 percent to 4.51 percent. Opera ranked 4th with 0.80 percent while Netscape fell again, to 0.70 percent.

This story, "Vista taking a nibble out of Apple in OS wars?" was originally published by PCWorld.

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