Windows by the numbers: No dog days for Windows 10

Windows 10 turned five years old in July, marking the anniversary with something of a pause in its market share growth.

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Windows by the numbers, February 2020

Windows 7 users who missed the operating system's mid-January support deadline weren't in any hurry last month to dump the operating system.

According to data published Sunday by American analytics company Net Applications, Windows 7 shed just four-tenths of a percentage point in February, ending the month at 25.2%. Windows 7 accounted for 28.6% of the personal computers running the Microsoft OS.

(The percentage of Windows PCs is larger than the percentage of all personal computers because Windows does not power every system. In February, Windows was the OS of 88.2% of the world's personal computers -- an increase of just one-tenth of a point. Of the rest, all but a tiny fraction ran macOS, Linux or Chrome OS, in decreasing order.)

February's decline of Windows 7 was less than a tenth that of January's, when procrastinators scrambled to retire the 2009 OS before - or shortly after - its Jan. 14 end of support.

Users of Windows 7 who didn't make the switch to a newer OS may have decided that, having blown the deadline without visible harm, they could relax and keep running the operating system. Or perhaps the last-minute rush in January had exhausted IT's resources and administrators were simply pausing to regroup before tackling more machines.

Another possibility: The Extended Security Updates (ESP) that Microsoft has sold - and continues to sell - have dampened at least some of the immediate enthusiasm for ditching Windows 7.

Six years ago, when Windows XP exited support in April 2014, Net Applications recorded a similar slowdown in XP's decline. At that time, however, XP's share continued to sink for a month (May 2014) before completely stalling the month after that (June).

Windows 10 on its way to 100%

At least the when-Windows-7-falls-Windows-10-climbs rule remained intact last month: Windows 10's share rose three-tenths of a percentage point to 57.4% of all personal computers and 65.1% of only those running Windows.

The forecast based on the latest data - the average change over the past 12 months - now predicts that Windows 10 will reach 75% of all Windows systems by September and nearly 80% by the end of 2020. Those users must come from somewhere: Windows 7 should shrink to 19.7% by September and just 16% by Dec. 31.

Unless Microsoft forks Windows 10 in some fashion - Windows 10X, perhaps? - and so offers more than the purportedly "last" version of its client OS, Windows 10 will, at some point, account for 100% of all Windows. Unlike previous major migrations, like XP-to-7, this time there's no successor to 10 that will dilute its dominance.

According to Computerworld's forecast, Windows 10 should represent somewhat more than 97% of all Windows by the end of 2021.

Elsewhere in Net Applications' data, Windows 8/8.1 added one-tenth of a percentage point, ending February at 4.1% share of all personal computers but 4.7% of those running Windows. The increase was the third straight for the not-yet-obsolete OS; there's no easy explanation for that climb, short as it has been (three-tenths of a point over the three months). It's unlikely folk actually flocked to Windows 8.1 since Dec. 1, 2019, so the increase should be written off as an artifact of Net Applications' data collection methodologies.

Meanwhile, macOS shed three-tenths of a percentage point to end February at 9.4%. Apple's OS took a tumble last month as well, although that was by Net Applications' design; the metrics vendor had counted iPads running iPadOS 13 as Macs, and so had overestimated the share of macOS.

A major correction in January that went back to September 2019 put things straight. On the plus side, macOS remained within sight of the 10% milestone, which it had erroneously met last fall.

Net Applications calculates operating system share by detecting the agent strings of the browsers used to reach the websites of Net Applications' clients. The firm tallies visitor sessions to measure operating system activity.

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