Windows by the numbers: Sanity returns as Windows 7 sheds user share

Migration watch: Windows 10's user share is rising again, and Windows 7 resumed shedding users in May.

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Windows by the numbers: October 2017

Windows 7 surrendered a few more users last month as its share of the overall Windows universe slipped a bit closer to 50%.

But if the veteran operating system were a person, it would be that party guest who stayed well past welcome, lingering long after everyone else has left, after the hosts have, in fact, gone to bed. And there Windows 7 would sit, talking without a listener, making itself at home, feet up on the coffee table.

According to metrics vendor Net Applications, Windows 7's user share in October was 46.6%, a decline of six-tenths of a percentage point. More notable during these times of migration, the operating system ran 51.4% of all Windows machines during the same stretch, a month-to-month drop of seventh-tenths of a point. (The second percentage is larger because Windows was detected on 90.8% of the world's PCs, not 100%; the remainder ran macOS or a Linux flavor.)

October's decline was only half that of September, but was still the third largest of 2017.

The continued weakening of Windows 7's user share - five months of declines and counting - is a promising sign, as the operating systems faces a deadline: Microsoft has set Windows 7's retirement for Jan. 14, 2020, now little more than 26 months away. The faster Windows 7 relinquishes its user share, the less the chance that businesses will find themselves running unpatched, and thus, vulnerable, machines. No one wants a repeat of the panicky last few months of Windows XP's lifespan, when companies blew through IT budgets scrambling to purge the obsolete OS.

Yet Windows 7 remains behind the pace set by XP . With 26 months to go before its April 2014 retirement, XP accounted for 49.4% of all Windows PCs, or two points lower than Windows 7's share in October. Things could be worse: In August, Windows 7 was three points behind XP's tempo. But the lack of progress in matching XP's slide toward irrelevance must be disheartening to Microsoft, which continues to sing Windows 10's praises, and even assert that Windows 7 is not only old and tired, but simply not up to the tasks required of it.

Meanwhile, Windows 10 did see a bump in user share last month of two-tenths of a point, ending October at 29.3%. When only Windows systems are counted, its share of that pool was 32.8%, within shouting distance of the one-in-three milestone. Computerworld calculated that, with the 12-month trend in Net Applications' data, Windows 10 should pass the 33.3% line during December.

But comparisons of today versus the past again went poorly for Microsoft when putting Windows 10 head-to-head against Windows 7. At the same post-launch point in Windows 7's lifetime, that version had captured a 36.4% share of all PCs and a remarkable 39.5% of the devices running Windows. In other words, Windows 10 has lagged behind the adoption clip set by Windows 7.

Of the other Windows flavors tracked by Net Applications, Windows XP stood at 7.1% of Windows PCs (up slightly), Windows Vista at an almost-invisible 0.5% (stable) and the Windows 8/8.1 flop combination at 7% (down significantly).

Net Applications estimates share by detecting the agent strings of the browsers used to visit websites, then counting up the various operating systems listed in those strings. It then weights the results by the size of each country's online population to account for regions where it lacks large numbers of analytics customers.

windows share in oct. 2017 IDG

Windows 7 shed a bit more user share in October 2017, but kept its majority of the Windows installed base. Windows 10 is within spitting distance of a third of the base. (Data: Net Applications.)

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