Windows by the numbers: Windows 10 user share surges as loafers heed impending deadline

Windows 10's share of all PCs jumped 2.1 percentage points in August as a January end-of-support deadline for Windows 7 draws closer.

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Windows by the numbers: March 2019

Windows 10 made up for lost ground last month, adding the most user share since the OS's first full month of availability four years ago.

The large March increase stood in stark contrast to February's odd couple: a decline in Windows 10 share and a corresponding boost to the aged Windows 7.

According to California web analytics company Net Applications, Windows 10's share leaped by 3.3 percentage points in March, closing the month at 43.6% of all personal computers and 49.9% of all PCs running Windows. (The second number is always larger than the first because Windows does not power all personal computers; in March, Windows ran 87.5% of the world's machines. All but a tiny fraction of the rest ran macOS, Linux or Chrome OS.)

The 3.3 points was the largest one-month gain since August 2015's 4.9 percentage points during the initial explosion of installations caused by Microsoft's free upgrade offer. Windows 10 launched July 31, 2015, and the offer ran a full year.

Meanwhile, Windows 7 dropped 1.9 points in March, falling to 36.5% of all PCs and 41.7% of those running Windows. Even the walking-dead Windows XP — officially retired from support five years ago this month — chipped in, shedding 1.1 points, sliding to 2.3% of all PCs and shrinking to an insignificant 2.6% of PCs powered by Windows.

The upturn of Windows 10 and downturn of all other editions flipped the world from its February upside-down state, returning it right-side-up so the newest OS grew and older OSes didn't. A month ago, Computerworld pointed out that Net Applications' baffling February data would quickly sort itself out, as it had before. It has.

Windows forecasts turn more favorable for Microsoft

The massive increase in Windows 10's user share and the smaller-but-still-significant decrease in Windows 7's made a mess of the predictions Computerworld posted 30 days ago.

Our new forecast — based on the operating system's 12-month average movement — puts Windows 10 in the majority spot sometime this month, not in October as said the previous prediction. According to the latest projection, Windows 10 should be at nearly 51% of all Windows by the end of April.

Likewise, Windows 7's return to its normal state of decline means that fewer machines should be running the operating system on Jan. 14, 2020, Microsoft's retirement date for the 2009 OS. At the end of January, Windows 7 should be powering around 35% of all Windows PCs, not the 40% that February's forecast asserted from skewed numbers.

(Windows 10 should be running 59% of all Windows systems when 7 shuffles to OS assisted living.)

Even if Windows 7 runs the smaller number — 35% — of PCs come its retirement party, the OS would have a bigger problem than did Windows XP, which ended support still running about 29% of all Windows personal computers at the time. A few more months posting declines like March's — between 1 and 2 percentage points — would ease the pressure to purge Windows 7 as the deadline looms.

There's some hope that will happen: In Windows XP's final 10 months — about the time Windows 7 has left — the OS had five with declines of 1.4 points or larger, and three of 2 points or more. If Windows 7 sees similar drops during its remaining time, it would reach retirement running just under 29% of all Windows systems, almost exactly the same as did XP a half decade ago.

Elsewhere in Net Applications' March data, the overall user share of Windows climbed less than one-tenth of a percentage point to 87.5%. MacOS and OS X rose, too, by two-tenths of a point, to 9.9%. Linux's user share stabilized at 2.1% while Google's Chrome OS edged up slightly to 0.4%.

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