Windows 10 added more user share in January than in any month since mid-2016, according to web analytics vendors Net Applications, the company said last week.
Data published Feb. 1 by the California-based Net Applications showed that Windows 10 had accumulated 1.4 percentage points of user share - the portion of all personal computer owners who ran the operating system - during January, ending the month powering 34.3% of the world's PCs and 39.1% of all those systems running a flavor of Microsoft's OS. (The second number is larger than the first because Windows accounted for 88.8% of all operating systems, not 100%.)
Windows 10's increase was its largest since August 2016, if the November 2017 drop of 2.7 points is ignored. The latter was part of an across-the-board revamp of Net Applications' data, designed to purge the numbers of bogus traffic originating from criminals' "bots," and thus was not proof of a sudden rush to Windows 10.
Meanwhile, Windows 7, the still-stalwart OS of the enterprise, ditched seven-tenths of a percentage point in January to post a user share of 42.4% of all PCs, equivalent to 48.3% of those running Windows.
The movements of Windows 7 and Windows 10 are of paramount importance to Microsoft at the moment, as the company plans to stop supporting the former in January 2020. During the next two years, Microsoft will push, nudge, prod, exhort, even threaten, users to get them to dump Windows 7 and move to Windows 10. How well the firm accomplishes that task will affect both its bottom line and reputation.
Using the 12-month averages of Windows 7's and Windows 10's user share changes, Computerworld revised its cross-over forecast. That cross-over - when Windows 10's share of all Windows PCs exceeds Windows 7's - may come as early as August, a month before the previous estimate. According to the 12-month trend, Windows 10's share that month will reach 41.3%, while Windows 7's will slip to 41.2%.
In this linear projection, Windows 7 will boast a user share of more than 32% in January 2020. At that time, Windows 10 should power approximately 59% of all Windows laptop and desktop PCs.
However, it is unlikely that the real expansion of Windows 10's share and the diminished pool of Windows 7 users will follow this model: Operating systems aren't adopted or discarded in such a straightway fashion. Instead, the migration rate often accelerates as the end-of-life date for the older OS approaches.
Even so, Net Applications' data illustrates the problem that Windows 7's stubbornness represents. If the forecast is in any way close to accurate, hundreds of millions of machines will be running Windows 7 come January 14, 2020, the day Microsoft serves up the final security update for the OS. In turn, that could create enormous opportunities for hackers able to exploit vulnerabilities that will never be patched.
This latest forecast claimed that Windows 7's remainder-at-retirement will be larger than XP's at its official demise in April 2014. Then, Windows XP accounted for about 29% of all copies of Windows worldwide, or several percentage points lower than the current estimate for Windows 7.
Elsewhere in Net Applications' January data, the user share for Apple's macOS climbed by nine-tenths of a percentage point, an increase on a scale not seen since April 2016 (again, with the exception of the November 2017 bot scrubbing). The boost put macOS at an even 10% of the global personal computer operating system user share, a milestone for Apple and the 34-year-old Macintosh.
Another data source, Ireland's StatCounter, painted a different picture.
According to StatCounter, Windows 10's usage share - a measurement of activity rather than of users - exceeded Windows 7's for January, edging out the older operating system for the first time. StatCounter recorded Windows 10's usage share at 42.8%, Windows 7's at 41.9%.
StatCounter ballyhooed the cross-over moment. "This is a breakthrough for Microsoft," said Aodhan Cullen, the company's CEO, in a statement. But Cullen also noted that Windows 7 "retained loyalty especially amongst business users," implying that while 10 now has the upper hand, there are large numbers of machines that still face an OS upgrade before 2020.
Windows by the numbers: December 2017
Windows 10 will replace the aged Windows 7 as the most popular version of Microsoft's operating system in September, according to the rise and fall of the two editions' user shares.
But that won't be the end of Windows 7. Those same trends argue that when Microsoft declares Windows 7 obsolete - and thus, no longer provides it with security updates - the operating system will still account for more than a third of all copies of Windows then in use.
Those projections are derived from data published by analytics vendor Net Applications of Aliso Viejo, Calif., which on Monday revealed the December numbers for Windows 7, Windows 10 and other OSes. Net Applications' user share is an estimate of the percentage of the world's personal computers powered by a specific operating system.
Using the 12-month averages of Windows 7's and Windows 10's user share changes, Computerworld projects the fall of the former and the rise of the latter over the next two years.
(Windows 7's support officially expires on Jan. 14, 2020, or just a tad more than two years from now.)
The cross-over moment - when Windows 10's share of all Windows PCs exceeds Windows 7's - will come in September 2018. According to the 12-month trend, Windows 10's share that month will reachj 45.7%, while Windows 7's will skip to 45.5%. After September, the Windows 10 and Windows 7 lines will continue to diverge as the first keeps climbing and the second keeps dropping.
In that linear progression, Windows 7 will sport a robust user share of nearly 39% in January 2020. At that time, Windows 10 should power approximately 61% of all Windows laptop and desktop PCs.
It's unlikely that reality will mimic this simplistic model; operating systems aren't adopted or discarded in such a straightway fashion. Instead, the migration rate from old to new usually accelerates as the end-of-life date approaches. Or migration speeds up, slows down, then speeds up again.
Take Windows XP as an example.
In the final 12 months before its 2014 retirement from support, from May 2013 to April 2014, XP's user share fell by an average of 1 percentage point per month. But in the 12 months prior to that stretch - May 2012 to April 2013 - its share slipped by an average of just 0.65 points, signaling that XP dumping accelerated in the home stretch. (To really mix things up, in the 12 months from May 2011 to April 2012, or the third-to-last year of support, XP's share plummeted by an average of 0.81 percentage points, or at a rate about midway between that of the two following years. Go figure.)
By this forecast, Windows 7's rate of decline, call it the speed of the get-off-Windows-7-train, won't be fast enough to zero out the OS by the time Microsoft pulls the security patch plug. That's not a surprise, as the 2009 operating system has lagged behind the pace of Windows XP's migration train for quite some time.
But the Net Applications' numbers hint at a potentially huge problem, because the portion of Windows PCs projected to remain on Windows 7 come January 2020 is significantly larger than what remained on XP at its retirement and is also larger than what Computerworld calculated two full years before Windows XP's deadline.
In April 2014, when Microsoft rescinded Windows XP support, that version accounted for about 29% of all copies of Windows worldwide. Currently, the best-guess for Windows 7 at its end-of-support is a full 10 percentage points higher.
But that's not even the half of it.
In 2012, two years before XP shuffled off the support scene, Computerworld, using the same 12-month trend that produced a 39% user share for Windows 7 in January 2020, figured that XP would have a mere 17% in user share at retirement. The fact that Computerworld's back-of-the-envelope forecast for XP was off by 12 percentage points does not make for much confidence in the 39% mark for Windows 7 in 24 months.
In other words, today's calculation may be significantly lower than the reality of 2020.
Microsoft has at times resorted to some of the same name calling it used in 2012 for Windows XP when it has talked about the venerable Windows 7, which remains the stock enterprise OS. A year ago, for example, the head of Microsoft Germany said Windows 7 was "long outdated" and argued that the operating system did not meet "the high security requirements of IT departments."
Expect Microsoft to ramp up that line of attack as Jan. 14 approaches, when Microsoft is almost certain to remind customers that the Windows 7 drop-dead date is two years away and closing fast.
Windows by the numbers: November 2017
Windows 7 dropped below the 50% user share mark in November, finally ceding the operating system majority on Windows PCs.
Ironically, the decline of Windows 7 was good news for Microsoft, which wants customers to move to the newer Windows 10 as soon as possible.
According to analytics vendor Net Applications, Windows 7's November global user share fell 3.5 percentage points, ending the month at 43.1%. November's plunge was the largest ever for the OS that debuted in 2009.
When only Windows personal computers were included in the calculation, Windows 7 ran 48.8% of all Windows machines, a month-over-month drop of 2.6 points. (The Windows-only percentage is larger because Windows powers 88.4% of the world's systems, not 100%; the remainder run macOS or a version of Linux.)
In Net Applications' tracking, November was the first month since Windows 7's mid-2015 peak during that it failed to account for more than half of all Windows editions.
While Windows 7's November tumble was dramatic, it was as much a push of a big red reset button by Net Applications as proof of massive numbers suddenly fleeing the veteran OS.
As it has periodically in the past, Net Applications reworked how it tracks operating systems, browsers and other metrics of interest to businesses. In a message appended to a refreshed website, the company explained that it had rewritten its "entire collection and aggregation infrastructure to address" misleading data.
The culprits, said Net Applications, were bots, the software-based automatons that mimic humans on the Web and are typically deployed by criminals to boost site traffic so they can cash in on various click fraud scams.
"Bots can cause significant skewing of data," Net Applications acknowledged. "We have seen situations where traffic from certain large countries is almost completely bot traffic. In other countries, ad fraudsters generate traffic that spoofs certain technologies in order to generate high-value clicks. Or, they heavily favor a particular browser or [operating system] platform."
Though some may immediately blame the majors shifts in OS user share on Net Applications' scrubbing its data of bot traffic, that would be only a knee-jerk reaction. "Please note: This dataset is separate from and replaces the legacy data," the company said, making clear that it had eradicated bot traffic from past data, too, not just the numbers from November.
In other words, Windows 7 was declining faster than thought all along.
Under Net Applications' new methodology, for example, Windows 7's user share for October was 43%, or 3.6 points lower than the firm called it using the older, bot-plagued data. The same held true in July, when the new bots-be-gone number (46.1%) was lower than the old bots-still-here number (48.6%). Those differences jibed with Net Applications' explanation that bot traffic caused off-kilter results; for criminals' click fraud schemes, it made sense to disguise their bots as Windows 7 users, because inflating those numbers would be easiest to hide.
Assuming that Net Applications cleaned out all or most of the dodgy bot traffic, the numbers should now be more accurate. They certainly will be more welcome at Microsoft.
That's because the new calculations show Windows 7's decline ahead of the pace set by Windows XP. With 25 months to go before its April 2014 retirement, XP accounted for 50.7% of all Windows PCs, or nearly two points higher than Windows 7's share in November. If Windows 7's drive toward zero is faster than XP's, it signals customers may be moving promptly to Windows 10 - avoiding a repeat of the panicked final months before support for Windows XP expired.
In fact, Net Applications' bot-less data made that case: Windows 10 ran on 32% of all personal computers last month, a 2.7-point increase, and powered 36.2% of all Windows PCs. It was the first time that Windows 10 accounted for a third or more of the Windows operating systems worldwide.
But unlike Windows 7 vs. XP, the comparison between Windows 10 and Windows 7 still favors the latter. At the same post-launch point in Windows 7's lifetime, it had captured an amazing 41.5% of the globe's Windows devices, or more than 5 percentage points greater than Windows 10 at November's mark. In other words, Windows 10 continues to lag behind the adoption rate set by Windows 7, and contrary to Microsoft's claims, is not its fastest-growing version.
Of the other Windows editions monitored by Net Applications, Windows XP accounted for 6.5% of Windows PCs (down), Windows Vista at an almost-invisible 0.5% (stable) and the Windows 8/8.1 combination at about 8.1% (up for some reason).
Net Applications estimates user share by detecting the agent strings of the browsers used to visit clients' websites. It counts the various operating systems listed in those strings, then weights the results by the size of each country's online population to better reflect regions where it lacks large numbers of customers.
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 by the numbers: September 2017
If Windows 7 were an actor, it would be a past-prime stage star who overstayed his curtain call and refused to acknowledge his understudy who, just the night before, had wowed the critics and charmed the audience.
Last month, though, Windows 7 ceded a tiny pool of the limelight to that understudy, Windows 10, giving the crowd hope that the aging actor would finally figure out he should exit, stage left, before the theater's manager got the hook and dragged him off the boards.
According to metrics vendor Net Applications, Windows 7's user share in September was 48.4%, a decline of 1.2 percentage points. More importantly, the operating system ran 52.1% of all Windows machines during the same stretch, a month-over-month drop of 1.3 points. (The second percentage is larger because Windows was detected on 90.6% of the world's PCs, not 100%; the remainder ran macOS or some kind of Linux.) This was the largest decline of Windows 7's user share — an estimate of the percentage of the world's personal computers powered by the OS — since July 2016.
Encouraging? Yes, if only because Microsoft has set Windows 7's retirement for January 2020, a date that is quickly approaching. The slower Windows 7 declines in user share, the greater the chance that panicked businesses will overspend to replace the operating system with Windows 10, causing a repeat of the chaotic end times of Windows XP.
Even with September's share erosion, Windows 7 remained behind the pace set by XP six years ago. But it did close some of the gap. At the same interval before its April 2014 retirement, with 27 months left to go, XP accounted for 51.3% of all Windows PCs, less than a point lower than Windows 7's share. The month prior, Windows 7 had been three points behind XP's tempo.
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Other sources put Windows 7 in a similar spot. Irish metrics company StatCounter said that Windows 7 powered 44% of all Windows personal computers last month, a 1.1 percentage point dip from the month prior. Meanwhile, the Digital Analytics Program (DAP) also portrayed a downturn for Windows 7. DAP, which tallies visits to more than 4,000 websites maintained by U.S. government agencies, put Windows 7's September share of all Windows at 48.1%, off over two percentage points from August's 50.8%.
Windows 10 added 1.1 percentage points of user share in September — three times the increase of the month before — to account for 29.1% of all PCs and 32.1% of all Windows desktops and laptops. By Computerworld's latest calculation — using the 12-month trends as shown by Net Applications — Windows 10 will be on a third of all Windows PCs by the end of October.
Net Applications, StatCounter and DAP estimate share by detecting the agent strings of the browsers used to visit websites, then counting up the various operating systems listed in those strings.
Windows 7 again retained its majority user share in August, setting the stage for a potentially chaotic migration to its successor, Windows 10, over the next 28 months.
According to analytics vendor Net Applications, Windows 7's user share in August was 48.4%, a decline of half a percentage point. The veteran operating system, which powers the bulk of enterprise personal computers, ran 53.4% of all Windows machines in the same period. (The second number is larger because Windows was detected on 90.7% of the world's PCs, not 100%; the remainder ran macOS or one of the many flavors of Linux.)
The problem is that even with a small downturn last month, Windows 7's share has barely budged since April 2016. In the intervening 16 months, the operating system has gained six-tenths of a percentage point. During the same span of time, other editions have dumped significant user share: Windows 8 and 8.1, for example, unloaded more than 10 points in the same stretch, while the ancient Windows XP dropped 4.6 percentage points.
Windows 10 grew by nearly 13 points over those 16 months.
Windows 7's refusal to recognize an upcoming retirement - Microsoft will halt all support in January 2020 - meant that it fell even further behind the decline pace set by Windows XP six years ago. At the same mark before its April 2014 retirement, with 28 months left to go, XP accounted for 50.4% of all Windows PCs, about three points lower than Windows 7's August share.
The difference between Windows 7 and Windows XP at the 29th month mark had been just five-tenths of a percentage point.
Although some analysts have argued that businesses have begun to pack up Windows 7 and deploy Windows 10 - and that the trend will play out more expeditiously than it did when they shifted from XP to 7 - there has been no hint of such in Net Applications' data.
Other sources put Windows 7 in an even tougher spot. Irish metrics company StatCounter said that Windows 7 powered 54% of all Windows personal computers last month; Windows XP had accounted for just 46.3% of all Windows at the same point in its pre-retirement timeline.
The replacement for Windows 7, the this-OS-is-forever Windows 10, added five-tenths of a percentage point to its share in August - a bit more than half the increase of the month before - to run 28% of all PCs and 30.9% of all Windows desktops and laptops. By Computerworld's calculation - using the 12-month trends as shown by Net Applications - Windows 10 will be on a third of all Windows PCs by February 2018.
Net Applications and StatCounter estimate share by detecting the agent strings of the browsers used to visit its clients' websites, then tallying the various operating systems listed in those strings.
Windows by the numbers: July 2017
"Stubborn" must be Windows 7's middle name.
The enterprise-standard operating system held onto its majority market share in July, according to analytics vendor Net Applications, again signaling that it will not go gentle into that good night of the retirement that looms in less than two and a half years.
Last month's Windows 7 user share -- an estimate of the percentage of the world's personal computers it powers -- was 48.9%, said Net Applications, but the operating system ran 53.5% of all Windows machines. (The second number is larger because Windows is on 91.5% of the world's PCs, not 100%.)
Windows 7's share has barely stirred in the last 15 months, even as other editions have shifted. Windows 8 and 8.1, for example, jettisoned 10 percentage points in the past year, ending July with a user share of 7.9%. Windows 10 gained more than 12 points in the same stretch, almost a full point in July, reaching a 27.6% share of all personal computers -- and a 30.2% share of Windows PCs.
As Windows 7 continued to hang onto more than half the world's Windows-equipped personal computers, it also continued to lag behind the pace of decline of Windows XP at the same mark before its April 2014 retirement. With 29 months left to go, XP accounted for 53% of all Windows PCs, or a slightly lower percentage than Windows 7 in July.
While analysts have argued that businesses will migrate from Windows 7 to Windows 10 more expeditiously than they did from Windows XP to Windows 7 three to six years ago, there's no hint of that in Net Applications' data.
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Other sources put Windows 7 in the same predicament. Irish metrics company StatCounter said that Windows 7 powered 45.7% of all Windows personal computers last month; Windows XP had accounted for 41.9% of all Windows at the same point in its pre-retirement timeline.
Meanwhile, Microsoft's replacement, Windows 10, added eight-tenths of a percentage point to its share in July, running 27.6% of all PCs, and 30.2% of all Windows desktops and laptops. By Computerworld's calculation -- using the 12-month trends as shown by Net Applications -- Windows 10 will be on a third of all Windows PCs by January.
Net Applications and StatCounter estimate share by sniffing the browser agent strings of those who visit its clients' websites, then tallying the various operating systems listed in those strings.
Windows by the numbers: June 2017
Windows 7 in June easily retained its majority, powering over half of all Windows PCs, more evidence that the entrenched operating system will be difficult to pry from enterprises before its scheduled retirement.
The OS will be struck from Microsoft's support list in two and a half years, on Jan. 14, 2020.
June's Windows 7 user share -- an estimate of the percentage of the world's personal computers powered by the eight-year-old operating system -- was 49%, according to U.S. analytics company Net Applications. However, Windows 7 ran 53.6% of all Windows machines. (The difference between the two figures stems from the fact that Windows powers 91.5% of the globe's personal computers, not 100%.)
Windows 7's share has not budged in the last 12 months, even as other editions have gone through substantial shifts. Windows 8 and 8.1, for example, jettisoned 2.7 percentage points in the past year, ending June with a user share of 7.8%. Windows 10 gained nearly 8 points in the same span, posting a 26.8% share of all personal computers for June -- and a 32.8% share of Windows PCs.
Microsoft's customers, including the bulk of enterprises, may have trouble divesting themselves of Windows 7 before the 2020 deadline if Net Applications' estimates are on the money. In fact, Windows 7's decline has fallen behind the pace of Windows XP 30 months before its retirement.
At that time, Windows XP powered 52.3% of all Windows PCs, more than a full point lower than Windows 7's June user share. Customers' attempts to eradicate Windows XP by its April 2014 due date failed; at the end of that month, 29% of the world's Windows personal computers still ran the aged OS. (Even now, about 7.6% of the globe's Windows PCs run XP; a large portion of them are in China, where nearly one in every five personal computers runs the 2001 OS, often a counterfeited copy.)
By lagging behind XP's reduction tempo, Windows 7 risks ending its support lifecycle with an even larger fraction of the world's PCs still relying on what will then be an unpatched operating system. And May's WannaCry cyber-attack illustrated just how dangerous that can be.
Other data sources portrayed a similar situation for Windows 7. Irish metrics vendor StatCounter said that Windows 7 powered 45.7% of all Windows personal computers last month; Windows XP had accounted for 42.5% of all Windows PC operating systems at the same point in its pre-retirement timeline.
A month ago, Net Applications' numbers for Windows 7 were virtually the same as XP's in its run toward a support cutoff. And while StatCounter's data put Windows 7 behind Windows XP's tempo of decline in both May and June, the gap in June between the two editions was nearly twice that of May's.
Net Applications and StatCounter estimate share by sniffing the browser agent strings of those who visit its clients' websites, then tallying the various operating systems listed in those strings.