Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has a huge problem that creates a giant hole in data security. Around 129.4 million PCs worldwide may still be using authorized versions of its 16-year-old operating system, Windows XP.
This number is based on the 6.47% operating system market share that Netmarketshare gave XP and Reference.com’s estimate of the number of PCs in 2015. Reference calculated that there were around 2 billion PCs of all shapes and sizes in the world in 2015.
Windows XP is still the world’s third most popular operating system if those numbers are accurate. Netmarketshare calculated that the world’s most popular operating system is Windows 7 with a 46.63% market share. Second most popular is Windows 10 with a 29.26% market share.
Windows XP is still more popular than Mac OS and Linux
This means that XP users still outnumber Mac OSX-10-12 and Linux users combined. Netmarketshare estimated that only 3.34% of the world’s computers used Mac OSX 10 and another 2.98% used Linux. That means 6.32% of the world’s computers are using those systems.
Despite its’ popularity with educated Americans, the market share for Apple’s OS operating system is a joke. The most popular Mac OS, OSX 10.11 had a market share of 1.10%. That was less than the least popular Microsoft solution, Windows 8 which had a market share of 1.4%. Contrary to popular belief in America’s newsrooms, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is not a serious contender in the operating system market.
The Danger from Outdated Windows
The security problem this creates is obvious because XP’s architecture and defenses are well known to the world’s hackers.
It was an XP flaw that enabled the WannaCry cyberweapon to shut down vast numbers of computers including many at Britain’s National Health in May 2017, Business Insider reported. WannaCry locked up computers and demanded a Bitcoin ransom to free them.
The danger is so great that Microsoft was forced to release a WannaCry patch for Windows XP, Windows 8, and Server 2003, Ars Technica reported. Microsoft was forced to release a patch for old operating systems that it has been trying to scrap for over a decade.
The danger is tremendous because nobody knows exactly how many people are using outdated versions of Windows. The number cannot be counted because there are vast numbers of unlicensed or bootlegged versions of Windows floating around.
Why XP is Still a Problem for Microsoft 16 years later
Around two-thirds of the PCs in China and over half the PCs in Russia and India are running on unauthorized versions of Windows, Endgadget reported. The Software Alliance estimated that 70% of the computers in China, 64% of the computers in Russia, and 58% of the PCs in India are using bootlegged versions of Windows.
In China; police stations, the state oil company PetroChina (NYSE: PTR), and even China Telecom (NYSE: CHA) were using bootlegged versions of Windows, Endgadget and The New York Times reported. Authorities estimated that 40,000 institutions in the People’s Republic of China were attacked by WannaCry.
This provides both an opportunity and a danger for Microsoft. It has the most popular operating system in the world; which makes for two billion potential customers, yet it has a vast exposure to hacking and illegal activity.
It goes without saying that there is a vast opportunity for entrepreneurs willing to sell products to users of older Windows versions. One has to wonder what Microsoft can do this about this problem.
Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.