Let $\pi_k(x)=|\{n\le x:n=p_1p_2\cdots p_k\}|$ be the counting function for the *k*-almost primes, generalizing $\pi(x)=\pi_1(x)$. A result of Landau is
$$\pi_k(x)\sim\frac{x(\log\log x)^{k-1}}{(k-1)!\log x}\qquad\qquad(1)$$
but this approximation is very poor for $k>1$.

For $\pi(x)$ much more is known. A (divergent) asymptotic series $$\pi(x)=\frac{x}{\log x}\left(1+\frac{1}{\log x}+\frac{2}{\log^2x}+\frac{6}{\log^3x}\cdots\right)\qquad\qquad(2)$$ exists (see. e.g., the historical paper of Cipolla [1] who inverted this to produce a series for $p_n$). And of course it is well-known that $$\pi(x)=\operatorname{Li}(x)+e(x)\qquad\qquad(3)$$ for an error term $e(x)$ (not sure what the best current result) that can be taken [4], on the RH, to be $O(\sqrt x\log x)$. Even better, Schoenfeld [6] famously transformed this into an effective version with $$|e(x)|<\sqrt x\log x/8\pi\qquad\qquad(4)$$ for $x\ge2657$. For the heretics rejecting the Riemann Hypothesis, Pierre Dusart has a preprint [2] which improves on the results in his thesis [3]; in particular, for $x\ge2953652302$, $$\frac{x}{\log x}\left(1+\frac{1}{\log x}+\frac{2}{\log^2x}\right)\le\pi(x)\le\frac{x}{\log x}\left(1+\frac{1}{\log x}+\frac{2.334}{\log^2x}\right)\qquad\qquad(5)$$

But I know of no results even as weak as (2) for almost primes. Even if nothing effective like (5) exists, I would be happy for an estimate like (3).

## Partial results

Montgomery & Vaughan [5] show that $$\pi_k=G\left(\frac{k-1}{\log\log x}\right)\frac{x(\log\log x)^{k-1}}{(k-1)!\log x}\left(1+O\left(\frac{k}{(\log\log x)^2}\right)\right)$$ for any fixed k (and, indeed, uniformly for any $1\le k\le(2-\varepsilon)\log\log x$ though the O depends (exponentially?) on the $\varepsilon$), where $$G(z)=F(1,z)/\Gamma(z+1)$$ and $$F(s,z)=\prod_p\left(1-\frac{z}{p^s}\right)^{-1}\left(1-\frac{1}{p^s}\right)^z$$ though I'm not quite sure how to calculate $F$.

If this is the best result known (rather than simply the best result provable at textbook level) then this shows that far less is known about the distribution of, e.g., semiprimes than about primes.

## References

[1] M. Cipolla, “La determinazione assintotica dell n$^\mathrm{imo}$ numero primo”, *Matematiche Napoli* **3** (1902), pp. 132-166.

[2] Pierre Dusart, "Estimates of Some Functions Over Primes without R.H." (2010) http://arxiv.org/abs/1002.0442

[3] Pierre Dusart, "Autour de la fonction qui compte le nombre de nombres premiers" (1998) http://www.unilim.fr/laco/theses/1998/T1998_01.html

[4] Helge von Koch, "Sur la distribution des nombres premiers". *Acta Mathematica* **24**:1 (1901), pp. 159-182.

[5] Hugh Montgomery & Robert Vaughan, Multiplicative Number Theory I. Classical Theory. (2007). Cambridge University Press.

[6] Lowell Schoenfeld, "Sharper Bounds for the Chebyshev Functions θ(x) and ψ(x). II". *Mathematics of Computation* **30**:134 (1976), pp. 337-360.

[7] Robert G. Wilson v, Number of semiprimes <= 2^n. In the On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences, A125527. http://oeis.org/A125527 ; c.f. http://oeis.org/A007053

EDIT, by Joël. I edit this old question to bump it up and observe that one aspect has not been answered. Namely, is there under the Riemann Hypothesis an asymptotic estimate for $\pi_k(x)$ analog to (3), (4) for $\pi(x)$ (that is $\pi(x) = Li(x) + O(\sqrt{x} \log x)$)? Or any estimate for $\pi_k(x)$, with a principal term given by some classical functions, and an error term in $O(x^\delta)$ with some $\delta<1$? Micah's answer gives a principal term which is a rational function of $x$, $\log x$, $\log \log x$, but with a much less good error term, which is not surprising since even for $\pi(x)$ it is well-known that the principal term must be written as $Li(x)$, not $x/\log(x)$, if we want to have some hope of and rarer term in $O(x^\delta)$, $\delta<1$ (let alone $O(\sqrt{x}\log x)$).