Windows by the numbers: Windows 10, Windows 7 pause their ups and downs

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: September 2019

Windows 10 last month continued to shove its ancestor out into traffic so it can steal Windows 7's share.

According to analytics vendor Net Applications, Windows 10's share of all personal computers climbed 1.4 percentage points — the third straight month of a gain of more than a point — and reached 52.4% in September. Windows 10's part of all Windows PCs, meanwhile, climbed to almost 61%, the first time the OS cracked the 60% mark.

(The percentage of Windows PCs is larger than the percentage of all personal computers because Windows does not power every PC. In September, Windows ran 86% of the world's machines. All but a tiny bit of the rest ran macOS, Linux or Chrome OS.)

In the zero-sum of the Windows universe, 10's gain was Windows 7's loss. During September, Windows 7's share plunged by 2.2 percentage points to 28.2% of all PCs and 32.8% of the ones running Windows. The month's decline was more than a third larger than August's and the second largest in the past 22 months, beaten only by the astounding 3.6 points of July, which kicked off the three-months-and-counting shrinking of the elderly operating system.

Microsoft will retire Windows 7 on Jan. 14, 2020, or in a little more than three months.

Also on a continued downswing is the Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 combination. (The former is officially unsupported by Microsoft.) Together, they dropped seven-tenths of a percentage point, about three-fourths as much as in August and the second most for a single month in two years. Now at 4.1% of all PC operating systems and 4.8% of those running Windows, the 8/8.1 twosome is slowly expiring.

Windows 7 sinks its share ship

Over the last three months, the Windows 7-to-Windows 10 picture has been drastically redrawn. Earlier predictions pegged Windows 7's January share status as high as the upper 30s, which would have been significantly higher than the historical trend for an OS leaving support. But Computerworld's newest forecast — based on the 12-month average — has Windows 7 at 28% at the end of January, almost two points lower than the prediction of a month ago and nearly three lower than in July.

A year later — in January 2021 — Windows 7 and Windows 10 should be at 13% and 86%, respectively, five to seven points different than the projection generated from August's data. While both numbers may be an exaggeration produced by some unusual data this month — notably an uncharacteristically large decline in Windows' total share — the signs now point to a rapid transition from Windows 7 to 10.

There will still be laggards. Millions of them, in fact. But the 28% currently forecast as Windows 7's share at support expiration would be under the 29% of all Windows PCs still running Windows XP when that OS left support in April 2014. That was a first for Windows 7. Comparisons between Windows XP's actual decline and Windows 7's predicted descent have until very recently portrayed the latter as a loafer because the data indicated users were more reluctant to give up Windows 7 than they had been letting go of XP. Not true.

With three months left before Windows 7's support demise, there remains enough time, of course, for a monkey to throw a wrench into the works. But that's unlikely.

Just as is any second-guessing by Microsoft. Any time a Windows version is slated for retirement, rumors percolate that the Redmond, Wash. company might or even will grant a reprieve and extend free support. Don't believe such talk.

Nothing has made Microsoft's position clearer than the time and effort it's expended to pitch the Extended Security Updates (ESU) program for Windows 7. The pay-for-patches deal will provide fixes for vulnerabilities the firm marks "Critical," its top-most ranking, for up to three years or through mid-January 2023. ESU targets business customers, not consumers, running Windows 7 Enterprise or Windows 7 Professional. If the company were even thinking about giving Windows 7 more time on free support, it would not bang the ESU drum as it has.

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

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