Windows XP is still the world’s dominant operating system, with a 46.52 percent share of the desktop operating system market at the end of 2011, down from just over 50 percent in September, and 57.51 percent in February 2011, according to the latest Net Applications data.

But the two-year-old Windows 7 is creeping up on its decade-old brother Windows XP in market share. As of January 1st, Windows 7 jumped to 36.99 percent share, up from 24 percent at the start of the year.

Microsoft is happy to see XP go, or keep going away. To persuade users to upgrade to Windows 7, Microsoft will stop support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. And anything before Service Pack 3 is already out of support. Besides, Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer 9 only runs on Windows 7 or Vista. Other software, like some of the latest video editors, is starting to have similar requirements.

Will the left Windows XP users update to Windows 7? Or will they switch to Windows 8 directly by skipping over Windows 7? The next generation of Windows operating system is said to launch in 2012. A public beta of Windows 8 is scheduled for February.

The Net Applications data also shows that Vista was mostly criticized by consumers, dropped to 8.44 percent, down from over 11 percent at the beginning of the year. Other operating systems, including Mac OS X and Linux, remained distant followers totaling just 8 percent share.

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