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: January 2020

Windows 10 in January posted its second-largest single-month increase in user share, when its works-for-business forerunner, Windows 7, exhausted its free support.

According to data published Saturday by web metrics vendor Net Applications, Windows 10 added 3.7 percentage points last month - almost twice the increase of the month before - to end January at 57.1%, a record high. Windows 10's portion of the user share of just Windows PCs climbed almost two points, to 64.8%.

(The percentage of Windows PCs is larger than the percentage of all personal computers because Windows does not power every desktop and laptop. In January, Windows was the OS of 88.1% of the world's personal computers - a significant increase; more on that later. Of the remainder, all but a small fraction ran macOS, Linux or Chrome OS, in decreasing order.)

Microsoft retired Windows 7 three weeks ago, on Jan. 14. Although the Redmond, Wash. firm delivered the final general security updates to customers then, businesses can purchase post-retirement patches through the Extended Security Updates (ESU) program.

Windows 7 plummets to equal XP's at-expiration share

The now-retired Windows 7 finished January - and its allotted half-a-score - with a 25.6% share of all personal computers, down a whopping 4 percentage points (also the second-largest decline ever in one month), and at 29% flat for those systems running some kind of Windows.

That decline was the largest since August 2016 and depressed Windows 7 to the same share Windows XP had when it wrapped up its long run in April 2104. Warnings by Computerworld that a greater portion of Windows 7 would remain at its retirement were ultimately unfounded.

Those warnings were based on forecasts cranked out with the average of the most recent 12 months. In for a penny, in for a pound: The latest prediction pegs Windows 7 declining by more than a point each month, meaning the OS should slide under the 20% of all Windows PCs bar in September, dip further - to around 17% - by the end of the year.

There's little reason to question those dates: Windows XP did the same, falling below 20% of all Windows PCs eight months after its retirement, nearing 18% three months after that.

By those same milestones - September and December - Windows 10 should account for 76% and 80%, respectively. Those numbers may seem unreasonable, but because Windows 10 won't be sharing share with any follow-up, as have earlier editions of the client software, it's certain that the OS will ultimately own all of Windows on the desktop.

Speaking of all of Windows, elsewhere in Net Applications' data, Windows 8/8.1 added one-tenth of a percentage point, climbing to a 4% share. A year from now, the OS flop will have slid to 2.8%. (Side note: Windows 8.1 retains support until Jan. 10, 2023.)

Net Applications miscounts, scrambles numbers for September-December

Apple's macOS has been making inroads the last few months, chewing up some of Windows' share. Or so Net Applications' data was saying.


"Due to changes made to the user agent in iPadOS 13, iPads were identified as macOS devices," the California metrics vendor wrote on its website. "This change propagated progressively from September to December and required an adjustment to the data in that timeframe."

By miscounting iPads running iPadOS 13 as Macs, Net Applications overestimated the share of macOS. The differences between the contemporaneous shares and those adjusted to remove the iPadOS data was substantial. In December, for instance, Net Applications had pegged macOS' user share as 11.1%; that month's adjusted share now? 9.2%.

From September to November, macOS' adjusted shares were similarly lower than the originals. November's 11.6% (reported at the time) fell to 9.7% (adjusted by eliminating iPadOS); October's 11% became 9.2%; and September's 11.6% sunk to 9.4%.

In January, macOS added six-tenths of a percentage point to climb to 9.7%.

And because share was zero-sum, never more than, never less 100%, when macOS was incorrectly boosted, Windows had to take a hit. Adjusting macOS downward by dumping iPadOS, then, raised Windows' total. For December, Windows went from 86.8% (as originally reported) to 88.7% (after adjustment); in November climbed from 86.1% to 87.7%; for October changed from 86.8% to 88.5%; and in September, went from 86% to 87.8%.

During January, Windows slumped six-tenths of a percentage point, to 88.1%.

The screw-up over iPadOS, which in turn reported erroneous numbers for both macOS and Windows, necessitated adjustments in the individual Windows versions, too. (The increased total had to come from somewhere.) The new figures, for example, showed that Windows 10 had surged in October (+2.7 points), rose slightly and stayed flat in November and December, respectively, before shooting up in January.

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 operating system activity.

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