Windows 10 has been growing steadily over the two years since its release, and it’s become a very mature and stable operating system in that time. Its combination of rolling release builds in the Insider Ring, and half-yearly updates in the consumer and business ring have been a very interesting change for Windows veterans like myself, and it’s brought with it better security, faster adoption of new features, along with a sizeable amount of controversy over privacy laws and government-mandated backdoors. Growth is slowing down, however, and Microsoft is back at the same point they were with Windows 7 in terms of market share. This doesn’t look like a battle they can win.
According to NetMarketShare, Windows 10 installations only increased by 5% over the course of the last year, while Windows 7 gained more market share moving back up to 49%. In the same time, Windows XP and Windows 8.1 dropped users, while MacOS picked up the remaining scraps. Active “other” OS installations also dropped by over 1%, which would include Linux. The table below shows the movements in the last six months. Take note that NetMarketShare’s method to track these statistics is to look at what browser strings are reported to websites that use their API. MacOS might not have reliable statistics because there may be many more users hidden in the “other”category thanks to older versions of Safari not reporting properly to the API.
Why did Windows 7 gain back market share? There are two possibilities. One is that users on Windows XP are doing most of the migrating. That platform is severely out of date, and exposing a Windows XP computer to the internet is a risky proposition these days (see my coverage on Wannacry for more). Two, a lot of companies will also be migrating to Windows 7 at this time, moving away from an older OS, and could be taking the plunge because they can seamlessly virtualise Windows XP, which may still be useful for critical legacy business applications and interfacing with old machinery. Perhaps, that’s why there was a spike in XP’s activity this past month.
But as for Windows 10, a 5% increase is quite measly. If we take their last statistic reported at roughly the same time last year that Windows 10 had 300 million active installations, that amounts to an increase of just fifteen million new installations over the course of a year. Microsoft has fallen well short of their one billion devices target for Windows 10, and it’s unlikely that they’ll see even half a billion users before the time comes to replace Windows 10 with the next version of Windows.