Continuing our analysis of Steam’s monthly hardware survey [July 2009, August 2009, September 2009], October update shows revealed that Back to School 2009 is an unfortunate miss for Windows 7 release date.

OS Wars: Windows XP dominance hangs by a thread or 0.01%
32-bit version of Windows XP remains the most popular operating system, capturing 50.01% of all Steam users or just about more than 12 million users. We expect that the percentage will continue to drop as both new and old Steam users update their systems. Their replacement is known: 64-bit Windows 7 gained 3.08% between October 17 and November 17, even though the operating system went on sale on October 22, 2009 – giving it an overall 9.54% or just about 2.4 million people. If you include the 32-bit version [1.29% gains] taking 4.79%, it is really easy to see the quantum shift in gamers minds. Valve will publish "November 2009" results on December 17 and only then we expect to see the full impact of first month of Windows 7 sales. For November survey, we expect to see 64-bit Windows 7 becoming more popular than all other 64-bit operating systems combined [Vista, XP, 2003 - 12.17% overall share].

CPU Wars: Intel getting close to 70:30 split
For the past couple of years, AMD is losing its market share. These are not dramatic drops in share, ranging between 0.3 and 1.2% in a single month but AMD CPUs once had 47% of all Steam users. That share is now down to 31.19%, a half percent less than the month before. Intel CPUs are now ticking inside 68.80% of all Steam users or more than 16.5 million gamers with AMD taking remaining 7.5 million. When it comes to clockspeeds, 25.11% of Intel’s users run 2.4 to 2.66GHz models, covering several vastly popular models [Core 2 E6700, Q6600, i7 920 etc.], followed by 10.08% in the 2.7-2.99GHz range. Unfortunately for AMD, a lot of their users actually use older systems – 10.45% use processors clocked between 2.00-2.29 GHz but it is good to see Phenom II gaining ground. However, in order to stop bleeding market share, AMD definitely has to come with something new.
Looking at CPUs from vendor agnostic perspective, quad-core processors now account for 20.2% of all Steam users, while dual-core is pushing single-core processors to 22.8%. Current share of single core processors is still higher than quad-core ones but given the current trend – we expect that to change with December 2009 or January 2010 Steam update.

GPU Wars: DirectX 10 users now make up for 42.73%
Probably the biggest winner of OS wars is DirectX 10. The number of DX10-compliant systems went up from 28% in January to 42.73% in October. This is also the single largest gain in Steam Hardware Survey as such. Popularity of Windows 7 resulted in 14.33% increase while Windows Vista contributed with around 0.4%. Gamers aren’t fans of Vista, that’s for sure. At the same time, percentage of people who had DX10-capable GPU on Windows XP is dropping like stones, with the share now lower than DX10+Vista at the beginning of the year [DX10+XP = 27.32%].
When it comes to DirectX 11, ATI Radeon HD 5800 series made an appearance for the first time, taking 0.21% of overall share [around 50,400 users]. On the other side, not a lot of owners of Radeon HD 5700 series came to Steam giving the fact that this widely available DX11 part accounts for only 0.03% of all users or less than 10,000 users. Given all the availability woes that 5800 series has, we will pay close attention to these two. Talking about multi-GPU systems, every combination marked a loss in market share this month, with nVidia SLI in Dual-GPU configuration taking a 0.04% hit to 2.04%, ATI Crossfire dropping by identical 0.04% to 0.21%. 4-Way SLI makes up for 0.04%, while 3-Way SLI takes another 0.02%. Even though 3-Way and 4-Way SLI make up really mediocre numbers – 4,800 and 9,600 users, revenue on such a small sample was in the range of almost 16 million dollars.
But in any case, multi-GPU configurations still haven’t made their way to appeal to Steam users and we’ll have to wait and see if multi-GPU is going to gain more traction of Steam than the current 554,000 users.

Memory: 2GB in the lead, 4GB and 6GB gains
In terms of system memory, 32.12% of all Steam users run 2GB of system memory, losing another 0.55% in October 2009. 1GB also lost 0.59% [14.45%], while owners of 512MB and 768MB combinations dropped by additional 0.42% [5.90%]. For the first time, we also saw a drop in 3GB share [by small 0.18%], meaning the adoption of 64-bit operating systems mean that some users are finally seeing 4GB, rather than 3GB. Naturally, "lucky buyers" who purchased 3GB systems aren’t in luck but at least the memory is affordable. Big winners are naturally, 4GB and 6GB systems. 4GB market share is now up to 11.88%, with 1.14% gain in only 30 days. Systems with 6GB and 8GB won handsomely and now account for 6.09%, finally passing users with "512 to 999MB".

Storage: 230,000 people get a 1.5TB or 2TB hard drive
When it comes to storage, gamers are very demanding bunch: movies, games, music and the like. Thus, we were not surprised to see that highest gain was achieved by 1.5 and 2TB hard disk drives, gaining 0.99% in 30 days, capturing 11.43% of all Steam users. Most popular hard drives are still 160 and 250GB ones, with 30.65% share [lost 0.69% in past 30 days]. 500GB, 640GB, 750GB drives marked a small jump to 10.43% – but overall, hard drive market share is very hard to read as there is no way into reading who is purchasing hard disk drives and who might be opting for SSDs.

Display Wars: 10.78% gamers own 1080p screen, 77.68% is 720p ready
With all the kudos given to graphics cards, processors, keyboards and mice, for gaming experience you need a good monitor, "window into the world of gaming". The most popular resolution is still 1280×1024, thanks to all those 17" and 19" CRT and LCD screens that dominated the markets for well over a decade. Still, lower resolution displays are losing ground with back-to-school buyers going with higher-resolution panels. 1920×1080 and 1920×1200 market highest gains in 30 days, with 16:9 1080p panel taking 0.60% gain to 4.94% and 16:10 1200p panel marking a return with 0.35% gain to 5.84% overall. In short, over 2.5 million gamers now use a 1080p panel, which is quite a sizeable audience. Third large mover is 1680×1050 panel, capturing 18.17% of Steam [30-day gain: 0.26%].

Conclusion
No big secrets: Back to School 2009 showed that gamers are quick at adopting hardware and software that offers tangible gains. We expect to see acceleration of Windows 7 adoption and within next 12 months we might even see Windows 7 overtaking Windows XP as far as overall market share goes. We took note at mysterious Windows 7 Upgrade DVD SNAFUs from players such as Toshiba, otherwise the W7 adoption rate would probably gain additional half a percentage point. From another side, it looks ATI’s strategy as far as 5800 series go worked perfectly: vast majority of all shipped 5800 cards is now on Steam. That million dollar check AMD paid out to Codemasters for DiRT 2 handsomely paid off even before the game came out.