Mac OS X Lion installation stats bode well for digital distribution

Mac OS X Lion

Apple’s (s aapl) latest desktop operating system, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, is doing well in its early days, nearing the almost four-year old OS X 10.5 Leopard in popularity, according to new OS market share numbers released Thursday by Net Applications. Mac OS X 10.5 Snow Leopard, released in mid-2009, is still the most popular version of the Apple desktop operating system out there with 3.46 of the overall market.

In just a month since its release, Lion has a 1.03 percent share of the overall desktop OS picture, while Leopard is still in use by 1.17 percent of Internet visitors, 160 million of which are the source of the Net Applications data. Snow Leopard and Leopard both gave ground to the newer operating system, dropping from 4 and 1.24 percent percent shares respectively in August, while Lion’s cut rose from just 0.33 percent.

When compared to the adoption of previous new versions of OS X, Lion adoption is already ahead of the curve. Snow Leopard, for example, saw only 0.78 percent share after its first full month of availability, passing 1 percent during its second month on the market. Both cost $29.99 on release, but the difference this time could be the digital distribution of Lion through the Mac App Store, which may have led more customers to upgrade earlier. At the very least, it shows that opting for the App Store as a primary delivery vehicle for major software upgrades (albeit with pricey physical media backup options) isn’t having a negative effect on Lion adoption.