Is Windows really getting less popular as recent stories have suggested? Probably, very slightly, but its direct rivals Apple and Linux are going nowhere as well.

According to some OS stats from Net Applications, culled from an analysis of browsers, the combined versions of Windows give Microsoft a 91.35 percent market share as of December 2009, slightly down from previous periods. To put this calamity into perspective, Apple’s much vaunted Mac renaissance leaves it with a piddling 4.07 percent of the PC and laptop market on the basis of browsers, and that’s after a period of supposed Windows weakness. Linux is on 1.02 percent.

If browser-culled stats mean anything, this suggests that the Mac renaissance is in fact a marketing myth sustained by decent sales figures in the US where Apple has an ideological hardcore willing to pay its inflated prices. Meanwhile, Apple’s browser now chugs along in fourth place in the popularity stakes.

Microsoft’s real vulnerability, and Apple’s real strength, is in the battlefield of the future, which is the mobile market. Mobile operating systems now account for 1.3 percent of all browsing devices, a tiny fraction of the whole, but one that is growing despite sky-high data prices for mobile Internet. Here the iPhone has a 0.44 market share, well ahead of Microsoft's hopeless and dated Mobile platform.

A lot will change in that market, however, and today’s iPhone success could yet turn into tomorrow’s ‘what if’. My own view is that Apple will sell a lot of devices - see the hype around its forthcoming reinvention of the tablet computer - but will never dominate beyond profitable niches.

The company is too tied to proprietary software, technologies and tie-ins and these don’t have a history of success in the long run. Microsoft managed it for years, but it was willing to make money for everyone else, a mentality that doesn’t run deep with the guys from One, Infinite Loop. The iPhone has been good, and the Tablet device could be better still. But something is still missing from the market and history hints that it probably won’t have an Apple logo on it for most people.