Windows by the numbers: Windows 10 fails to unseat Windows 7

Migration watch: If past is prologue, Windows 10 is likely to overtake Windows 7 this month as the world's most-used OS.

windows 10 acts like windows 7
Microsoft

Windows 10 battled Windows 7 last month for the title of Most Popular Windows, but again failed to land enough blows to put its opponent on the canvas.

According to U.S. analytics company Net Applications, Windows 10 slipped one-tenth of a percentage point in user share during November, falling back to 38.1% of all PCs and 43.8% of those running Windows. (The second number is larger than the first because Windows does not power all personal computers; in November, Windows ran 87% of the world's systems. Most of the remainder ran macOS, Linux or Chrome OS.)

Meanwhile, Windows 7 lost five-tenths of a percentage point last month, just a third as much as in October. Windows 7 closed November on 38.9% of all personal computers and on 44.7% of all Windows PCs.

The gap between Window 7 and Windows 10 closed to less than a percentage point for the first time. Crossover - when Windows 10 accounts for a larger percentage of Windows PCs than Windows 7 - should occur this month, according to Computerworld's latest calculations using the average monthly movement of each. (These forecasts are not infallible. A month ago, Computerworld predicted the crossover would take place in November. It didn't.)

Windows 7-Windows 10 crossover arrives late

Crossover will have come late to Windows 7 if the forecast becomes reality. The last significant transition from one Windows edition to another - from Windows XP to Windows 7 - reached crossover in August 2012, or 20 months before XP's April 2014 support retirement. This month is just a scant 13 months before Windows 7's scheduled retirement.

When Windows 7 reaches the end of its support lifecycle in January 2020, Net Applications' current trend lines show the operating system should be powering almost 40%, while Windows 10 will be running 53%. The first number - the projected user share for Windows 7 at its public support retirement - has never been higher than it is now.

By comparison, Windows XP accounted for just 29% of all Windows PCs when it dropped off the support list.

Unless migrations from Windows 7 to Windows 10 surge - no, positively balloon in volume - there are going to be a lot of people running the older OS after January 2020 without the safety net of security updates.

Microsoft will offer a temporary solution to businesses running Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Enterprise - the post-retirement Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) announced in September - for an escalating cost each year during a three-year stretch. That will give companies willing to pay for ESU until January 2023 to purge Windows 7. Customers unable or unwilling to play the additional support game through ESU, however, must either hustle or resign themselves to running an unpatched OS.

So much for the free upgrade offer

The slow uptake of Windows 10 - compared to Windows 7's while XP aged out - dragged Microsoft's 2015-2016 free upgrade offer back into the limelight.

From July 2015 to July 2016, the offer let customers running the Home or Pro/Professional versions of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 upgrade to Windows 10 free of charge. Businesses that relied on the Enterprise SKU (stock-keeping unit) were ineligible for the free upgrade, however.

Although the free upgrade spurred migrations, with Microsoft claiming 350 million devices running Windows 10 after just 11 months, that jump-start did not provide enough momentum to change the switch-OS dynamic. If Microsoft gave away Windows 10 to prevent another end-of-support dash - as some suspected because of the frenzied end to Windows XP's retirement - it failed.

Elsewhere in the November data, the user share of Windows slipped again, falling three-tenths of a percentage point - the third straight month of about that amount of decline - to 87%. The combined share of all macOS and OS X editions accounted for 9.7%, a dip of three-tenths of a point. Linux and Google's Chrome OS stayed flat at 2.1% and 0.3%, respectively.

Net Applications calculates user share by detecting the agent strings of the browsers people use to visit its clients' websites. It then tallies the visitor sessions. The result: a measurement of browser activity that reflects OS use.

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