Microsoft orphans Windows 10 1809, prepares to jump 1803 users straight to 1903

Windows 10 1809 – the ill-fated version initially launched last fall – powered just 29% of surveyed Windows 10 systems as of late April. It's a clear sign that Microsoft has largely stopped pushing 1809 to users.

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New data has again hammered home the point that Microsoft has given up forcing Windows 10 1809 on users.

The Redmond, Wash. developer essentially stopped pushing the October 2018 Update, aka 1809, to customers last month, according to numbers published by AdDuplex, a Lithuanian company whose metrics technology is embedded in thousands of Windows Store apps. Unlike previous Windows 10 feature upgrades, which all non-enterprise users had been required to install every six months, 1809 has been allowed to dawdle in distribution.

Windows 10 1809 powered only 29% of surveyed Windows 10 systems as of April 26, AdDuplex said. The increase from March to April was just 3 percentage points, barely half the increase from February to March and but a third that from January to February. Rather than increasing, as one would have expected from past feature upgrade roll-outs, 1809's adoption has slowed over time, a first for Windows 10.

Windows 10 download trends IDG/Gregg Keizer

Figure 1: Microsoft showed virtually no interest in forcing last fall's feature upgrade 1809 on Windows 10 Home users. (Data: AdDuplex.)

"It's only natural, that Windows 10 ]1809] has grown only modestly in anticipation of the next release," AdDuplex wrote on its website, referring to the impending 1903 feature upgrade.

Until recently, Microsoft was the sole determiner of how quickly a feature upgrade was adopted by unmanaged PCs - primarily but not exclusively Windows 10 Home-powered machines - as it decided what systems received the automatically downloaded upgrade and when those upgrades were installed. Microsoft was thus responsible for the slow uptake portrayed by AdDuplex, whose metrics largely originated from consumer devices. Managed PCs are typically blocked from installing Windows Store apps willy-nilly.

(AdDuplex's data is best understood as leaning heavily toward consumer Windows 10 PCs; any insights into enterprise adoption should be considered suspect.)

The new normal?

Upgrades prior to 1809 were almost universally adopted by Windows 10 customers, or at least those visible to AdDuplex, leaving little fragmentation by the end of a cycle. Both 1803 and 1709, April 2018's and October 2017's versions, respectively, reached a 90% or higher share of the systems tallied by AdDuplex by the end of their fifth month of availability. In other words, five months after a feature upgrade's debut, just one in 10 Windows 10 PCs ran a predecessor or a preview of its successor.

The uniformity was, of course, due to Microsoft's heavy-handed distribution model, which brooked no hesitation by Windows 10 Home users and penned Windows 10 Pro in the 18-month support stockade, requiring it to hustle from upgrade to upgrade.

When Microsoft relaxed 1809's force-feeding, that version's share stalled at just three out of every 10 PCs, with the previous upgrade, April's 1803, retaining the lead. (Last month, 1803 accounted for 63% of all Windows 10, AdDuplex reported.)

It's likely that splits like that will become commonplace.

Later this month - and there's little time left in May - Microsoft is to offer the new "Download and install now" update option to users of Windows 10 Home and Pro who rely on Windows Update. The option will let them decide when to download and install a feature upgrade; Microsoft is to intervene and initiate an auto-install only when the version on the machine "is nearing end of support."

"Download and install now" will be included with Windows 10 1903 - slated to show up by month's end - but will also be added to 1803 and 1809.

It's unclear how the change will affect adoption of each feature upgrade; the result may not be immediately apparent. But one possibility is that even as some users continue to request an upgrade early in its availability, a majority will decline to use the "Download and install now" option's opt-in approach and simply wait for Microsoft to trigger the refresh when the current version comes close to the end of support. (Microsoft has not said what "near" means in this case.)

If that's the case, a feature upgrade's adoption would be back-loaded, with half or more of the installs due to the approaching end of support. That would be a 180-degree change from the current front-loaded adoption of Windows 10 Home, where 90% of systems moved to the newest version inside five months of its launch.

In a back-loaded scenario, a core group of enthusiasts - perhaps 25% to 30% of the total - would opt for a feature upgrade in the first six months by using "Download and install." A second six-month span would be composed of small monthly increases as Microsoft's nag messages convinced some users to upgrade. But the adoption line would not really jump until the third six-month period, when Microsoft used the end of support exemption to force upgrades.

Download and install  now option IDG/ Gregg Keizer

Figure 2: The new 'Download and install now' option could reset the adoption 'curve' of Windows 10 Home so that nearly half of all PCs wait until the last six months of an upgrade's support to install it.

Hello, 1903!

By curtailing its prior policy and slowing adoption of Windows 10 1809, Microsoft has signaled that the bulk of unmanaged Windows 10 PCs will skip that upgrade and instead move directly from the 1803 of April 2018 to this month's 1903.

As Figure 3 shows, the 60% or so still running Windows 10 1803 will have more than five months - June through mid-November - to leapfrog 1809 and install 1903.

Windows 10 releases IDG/Gregg Keizer

Users of Windows 10 1803 should have slightly more than five months to make the move to 1903.

With Windows 1803 slated to exit support for non-Enterprise customers on Nov. 12, Microsoft will probably declare the end of support exemption at, or soon after, 1903's debut so that it can push that build to Windows 10 Home. Computerworld would expect that Microsoft will deploy 1809 to those PCs only as a fallback option.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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