Windows 10 hits another growth spurt

Latest usage share stats show a 'wave' began Nov. 2, topped out after 1511 upgrade launched

Windows 10 start

Windows 10's usage share gains have jumped since last week's release of the operating system's first upgrade, part of another "wave" of increases that started at the beginning of the month, new statistics released today indicate.

Data from Irish analytics company StatCounter showed that Windows 10 entered a distinctive fourth "wave" of usage share growth starting Nov. 2. That wave quickly grew, but as of Thursday there were signs it has crested.

StatCounter measures operating system usage by tracking the agent string of each browser that reaches a customer's website. Those measurements have been referred to as usage share by Computerworld. Essentially, usage share is a proxy for online activity for a specific OS.

Computerworld has charted the average week-over-week increases in usage share for Windows 10 since its debut, calculating the results using seven-day rolling averages to eliminate daily fluctuations, particularly the weekend peaks, when more consumers sit in front of their own PCs, not those owned by their employer.

By charting the average week-over-week gains, it has been apparent that Windows 10 has gone through several waves of growth. A two-week wave crested on Sept. 26, for instance, before slowly falling to the next low point on Oct. 3. Another wave began on Oct. 12 and ended on Nov. 1, when gains again troughed.

It's possible that there was a causal link between Windows 10's upgrade -- dubbed 1511 to denote its November 2015 release -- of Nov. 12 and the usage share growth portrayed by StatCounter's data.

Or the boost in usage share could have been created by Microsoft, which can manipulate Windows 10's usage share by pushing the upgrade bits to consumers' Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 devices.

For example, Microsoft recently revealed that it will try to get more devices now running older operating systems onto Windows 10 by seeding the upgrade to machines through Windows Update. The first step will be to add the upgrade under the "Optional" list, which means users must explicitly approve it by checking the item. In early 2016, Microsoft will promote the upgrade to "Recommended" under Windows Update; most consumers and many small businesses will then get the upgrade automatically, which will in turn install and fire up the process. At that point, users will have the opportunity to bail out of the upgrade.

Microsoft declined to comment when asked whether the Windows 10 upgrade had been plopped on consumers' Optional list within Windows Update.

Windows 10's usage share remained higher today than Windows 7's at the same post-release point in 2009-2010, but the gap, once widening, has again begun narrowing. As of Thursday, the difference was a slim three-tenths of a percentage point, the smallest since Windows 10's July 29 debut.

Comparisons between Windows 7 and Windows 10, however, are inherently flawed: Windows 7 launched later on the calendar and accumulated impressive gains around the 2009 holidays, when large numbers of personal computers were still being bought by consumers. On the other hand, Microsoft did not offer a free upgrade to Windows 7, as it has done for Windows 10.

Windows 10 gains as of Nov. 19 Data: StatCounter

Another 'wave' of Windows 10 week-over-week increases in usage share began on Nov. 2, and grew quickly after the Nov. 12 launch of the 1511 upgrade. In this chart, Day 107 represents the latter.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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