Windows by the numbers: Windows 10 backtracks, Windows 7 remains resilient

Migration watch: Windows 10 unexpectedly slipped in September as Windows 7 gained ground, delaying the point where the newer OS will supersede its predecessor.

windows 10
Microsoft

Windows 10 in September faltered in its battle to replace Windows 7, losing its chance this month of putting the older operating system in second place.

According to California analytics vendor Net Applications, Windows 10 retreated by four-tenths of a percentage point in September, putting its user share at 37.4% of all personal computers and 42.8% of those running Windows. (The second number is always larger than the first because Windows never powers all personal computers; in September, Windows ran 87.6% of the world's systems. The remainder ran macOS, Linux or ChromeOS.)

September's decline was one of only five recorded in the 38 months since the mid-2015 launch of the newer OS. More common has been Windows 10 advancing its user share: its monthly average has been an eight-tenths of a percentage point increase. In all but one of the prior cases where Windows 10 lost user share, the slide was brief and gains immediately resumed.

That will likely be what happens in October.

For September, however, Windows 10's growth was put on pause while Windows 7's was set to fast forward: The almost-retired Windows 7 climbed six-tenths of a percentage point to 40.9% of all personal computers and 46.7% of all PCs running Windows.

The crossover point - the moment when Windows 10 powers a larger percentage of all Windows PCs than Windows 7 - now looks to be December, according to Computerworld's calculations using the average monthly movement of each. As recently as last month, the crossover was predicted to occur in October.

Crossover will not put an end to Windows 7, of course, nor put Windows 10 on every PC. Trends for the two operating systems now indicate that in January 2020, when Windows 7 reaches the end of standard support, Windows 10 will run 57% of all Windows systems, with 38% still be powered by Windows 7. Because of the uncharacteristic decrease of Windows 10 and the just-as-odd increase of Windows 7, those figures were lower and higher, respectively, then they were a month ago.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft had a different take. In a presentation at last week's Ignite conference, Brad Anderson, a corporate vice president in Microsoft's enterprise mobility and management group, asserted that Windows 10's crossover would take place much sooner. "Within the next two weeks, we will cross the point where there will be more Windows 10 in the enterprise than any other version of the operating system," said Anderson (emphasis added). "In fact, it will cross the 50% line."

According to forecasts that rely on Net Applications' data, Windows 10 won't break the 50% bar (of all in-use PCs, not just those in the enterprise) until May 2019. The difference could be explained by Anderson's enterprise citation, which would omit consumer machines as well as those running in any business that doesn't manage its Windows PCs with SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager) or Intune.

It's to Microsoft's benefit to advance the change narrative. Only with Windows 7's demise can the Redmond, Wash. firm sell business customers pricey Microsoft 365 subscriptions - now one of the cornerstones of its strategy.

Anderson used the 50% bar to throw Microsoft's make-haste pitch. "You can benchmark yourself. Where are you at today in your upgrade to Windows 10? Are you half-way through? If you're not, you're behind the rest of the industry. If you're ahead of that, you're ahead."

Elsewhere in the September data, the user share of Windows again fell, shedding three-tenths of a percentage point to 87.6%. The combined share of all macOS and OS X editions accounted for 9.5%, an increase of one-tenth of a point. Linux remained flat at 2.2%.

Net Applications calculates user share by detecting the agent strings of the browsers people use to visit its clients' websites. It then tallies the visitor sessions - which are effectively visits to the site, with multiple sessions possible daily - rather than count users, as it once did. Net Applications thus measures activity, although differently than rival metrics sources which sum page views.

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