Windows by the numbers: Windows 10's growth continues

Migration watch: Windows 10 in July saw continued gains in user share and should supplant Windows 7 as the most popular flavor of Windows by the end of the year.

windows 10
Microsoft

Windows 10 posted its third strong month of growth in a row in July, putting it on track to overtake the veteran Windows 7 by November.

According to California-based analytics vendor Net Applications, Windows 10 added nine-tenths of a percentage point in July, posting a user share of 36.6% of all personal computers and 41.4% of those running Windows. (The second number is always larger than the first because Windows never powers 100% of all PCs; in July, it ran 88.4% of the world's systems.)

July's increase was the third consecutive month that Windows 10 added close to a percentage point of user share. Over the May-July stretch, Windows 10 gained 2.8 points. That was the largest three-month increase since the November 2017-January 2018 period, when the OS grew by 5 points.

Windows 10 user share's gains - and at times, losses - show the progress individuals and companies have made in migrating from older operating systems, notably Windows 7, which will fall out of support in mid-January 2020 - fewer than 18 months from now. Once unsupported, Windows 7 will no longer receive security updates to patch vulnerabilities, exposing the OS, devices that run it, and the information on those devices, to attack, exploitation and data theft.

Windows 7 shed half a percentage point in July, slipping to 41.2% of all personal computers and 46.6% of those running Windows. That decline was the third largest in the past six months, a stretch when the OS essentially held its ground, refusing to release its grip on corporate PCs in particular.

The 2009 operating system's performance over the last year has been more to Microsoft's liking: Windows 7 lost 7.7 percentage points in the past 12 months. Based on that trend, Computerworld now predicts that Windows 7 will account for 35% of all active Windows editions when support ends in January 2020. At that time, Windows 10 should power nearly 59% of all Windows laptop and desktop PCs.

Net Applications' latest numbers made sure that the crossover point for Windows 10 - when the newer OS will run a higher percentage of all Windows PCs than the older edition - stayed in November. The trend lines for Windows 10 and Windows 7 signal that for January 2019, just 12 months from Windows 7's retirement, Windows 10 will run 47.2% of all Windows systems, while Windows 7 will power 43%.

For Microsoft, the demise of Windows 7 can't come soon enough. The company has issued numerous edicts meant to motivate customers to drop it for Windows 10, including declining to support it on newer silicon and a failed attempt to cut off support to some users two and a half years early.

More recently, Microsoft urged its business partners and resellers to cash in on the remaining migration from Windows 7 to Windows 10 and claimed the opportunity is worth $100 billion. At Inspire, the company's annual conference geared toward partners, Microsoft also said that there are 184 million commercial PCs running Windows 7 across the world (excepting the massive market that is the People's Republic of China).

Microsoft's number is just a fraction of the latest estimates of Windows 7's footprint calculated by Computerworld using Net Applications' July data; that calculation pegged Windows 7 worldwide consumer and commercial number at just under 700 million PCs. The commercial side would be approximately 385 million using the long-accepted 55%-45% ratio of commercial/consumer PCs. Yet even that reduced number would be more than twice Microsoft's, raising questions about whether China has 200 million commercial Windows 7 PCs, or whether Computerworld's figure is off the mark. Presumably, Microsoft's number is the most accurate since it's gleaned from machine-to-Microsoft telemetry.

Microsoft is eager for customers to dump Windows 7 for numerous reasons, but one is directly related to the company's bottom line. Microsoft's long-term strategy emphasizes subscriptions to monetize its products and services. In hindsight, Windows 10 seems designed for software-by-subscription; Windows 10's rapid development and release tempo, notably its twice-annual feature upgrading, is a key part of the subscription pitch. Microsoft can't sell business customers such subs as Microsoft 365 until those customers adopt Windows 10.

Elsewhere in Net Applications' data, the user share of Windows overall climbed six-tenths of a percentage point to 88.4%, while the combined share of all macOS and OS X editions accounted for 9.1%, a decline increase of six-tenths of a point. Linux, whose fans aggressively tout the open-source OS as a desktop alternative to Windows, stayed flat in July at 1.9%.

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 - which are effectively visits to the site, with multiple sessions possible daily - rather than count users, as it once did. Net Applications thus measures activity, although differently than rival metrics sources which total page views.

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