OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, the ninth major release of Apple’s 12-year-old OS X platform, is now the most used operating system on Mac computers. The usage numbers, revealed Friday by Web analytics firm Net Applications and reported by Computerworld, show that Mountain Lion accounts for 32 percent of all online Macs, just 6 months after its release in July 2012.
Computerworld chart based on Net Applications data.
Conversely, share of OS X 10.7 Lion, released in 2011, fell 2 percent to 28 percent of overall usage share. Because OS X has relatively high system requirements compared to competitors such as Microsoft Windows, many Mac owners with older computers are stuck running previous versions of the operating system. As a result, OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, released in August 2009, remains in use by about 29 percent of all Macs, while OS X 10.5 Leopard has fallen to under 10 percent.
Users may also voluntarily choose to stay on an older version of OS X for compatibility reasons. Snow Leopard was the last operating system released by Apple to support the company’s Rosetta technology, which ran seamlessly in the background and allowed users to run applications written for the older PowerPC architecture, which was used by Macs until the transition to Intel processors in 2005.
Historically, popular versions of OS X peaked at just over 50 percent of usage share, with Snow Leopard reaching about 51 percent and Lion reaching 47 percent. At its current pace, Mountain Lion may crack 50 percent, but future versions of the operating system may reach smaller peak totals.
Despite Apple’s move to relatively inexpensive and easy-to-obtain digital releases, the company’s decision to release a major version of OS X approximately once per year means that there is less time for the Mac user base to transition to each new release. Further, as each generation of Mac becomes more capable, users may be less inclined to upgrade their hardware, which may prevent them from installing newer operating systems as their Macs fall out of the minimum system requirements range.
Net Applications collects the data for its reports by monitoring the web browser usage of over 160 million visitors to its 40,000 partner sites per month. In addition to operating system share, the site also tracks web browser and search engine statistics for both desktop and mobile platforms.