Windows by the numbers: Windows 10 marches on, but pace may be a problem

Migration watch: Windows 10 in August continued to gain ground in user share and should supplant Windows 7 as the most popular version of Windows in October.

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Windows by the numbers: January 2018

Windows 10 added more user share in January than in any month since mid-2016, according to web analytics vendors Net Applications, the company said last week.

Data published Feb. 1 by the California-based Net Applications showed that Windows 10 had accumulated 1.4 percentage points of user share - the portion of all personal computer owners who ran the operating system - during January, ending the month powering 34.3% of the world's PCs and 39.1% of all those systems running a flavor of Microsoft's OS. (The second number is larger than the first because Windows accounted for 88.8% of all operating systems, not 100%.)

Windows 10's increase was its largest since August 2016, if the November 2017 drop of 2.7 points is ignored. The latter was part of an across-the-board revamp of Net Applications' data, designed to purge the numbers of bogus traffic originating from criminals' "bots," and thus was not proof of a sudden rush to Windows 10.

Meanwhile, Windows 7, the still-stalwart OS of the enterprise, ditched seven-tenths of a percentage point in January to post a user share of 42.4% of all PCs, equivalent to 48.3% of those running Windows.

The movements of Windows 7 and Windows 10 are of paramount importance to Microsoft at the moment, as the company plans to stop supporting the former in January 2020. During the next two years, Microsoft will push, nudge, prod, exhort, even threaten, users to get them to dump Windows 7 and move to Windows 10. How well the firm accomplishes that task will affect both its bottom line and reputation.

Using the 12-month averages of Windows 7's and Windows 10's user share changes, Computerworld revised its cross-over forecast. That cross-over - when Windows 10's share of all Windows PCs exceeds Windows 7's - may come as early as August, a month before the previous estimate. According to the 12-month trend, Windows 10's share that month will reach 41.3%, while Windows 7's will slip to 41.2%.

In this linear projection, Windows 7 will boast a user share of more than 32% in January 2020. At that time, Windows 10 should power approximately 59% of all Windows laptop and desktop PCs.

However, it is unlikely that the real expansion of Windows 10's share and the diminished pool of Windows 7 users will follow this model: Operating systems aren't adopted or discarded in such a straightway fashion. Instead, the migration rate often accelerates as the end-of-life date for the older OS approaches.

Even so, Net Applications' data illustrates the problem that Windows 7's stubbornness represents. If the forecast is in any way close to accurate, hundreds of millions of machines will be running Windows 7 come January 14, 2020, the day Microsoft serves up the final security update for the OS. In turn, that could create enormous opportunities for hackers able to exploit vulnerabilities that will never be patched.

This latest forecast claimed that Windows 7's remainder-at-retirement will be larger than XP's at its official demise in April 2014. Then, Windows XP accounted for about 29% of all copies of Windows worldwide, or several percentage points lower than the current estimate for Windows 7.

Elsewhere in Net Applications' January data, the user share for Apple's macOS climbed by nine-tenths of a percentage point, an increase on a scale not seen since April 2016 (again, with the exception of the November 2017 bot scrubbing). The boost put macOS at an even 10% of the global personal computer operating system user share, a milestone for Apple and the 34-year-old Macintosh.

Another data source, Ireland's StatCounter, painted a different picture.

According to StatCounter, Windows 10's usage share - a measurement of activity rather than of users - exceeded Windows 7's for January, edging out the older operating system for the first time. StatCounter recorded Windows 10's usage share at 42.8%, Windows 7's at 41.9%.

StatCounter ballyhooed the cross-over moment. "This is a breakthrough for Microsoft," said Aodhan Cullen, the company's CEO, in a statement. But Cullen also noted that Windows 7 "retained loyalty especially amongst business users," implying that while 10 now has the upper hand, there are large numbers of machines that still face an OS upgrade before 2020.

windows 10 gains in Jan. 2018 IDG/Data: Net Applications

Windows 10 added the largest chunk of user share to its tally since August 2016, accounting for 39% of all copies of Windows worldwide. The latest projection forecasts that Windows 10 will pass its ancestor, Windows 7, late this summer. 

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