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Blame sluggish Windows 10 adoption on unenthusiastic Windows 8 and 8.1 users

Gregg Keizer | Nov. 13, 2015
They moved to Windows 10 at a rate less than half that of Windows 8 users to Windows 8.1 in 2013

(The number of devices was based on the fraction of 1.5 billion, a number Microsoft has regularly cited as the global tally for all Windows-powered PCs.)

But while Windows 8 and 8.1 users have been more hesitant to upgrade than expected, Windows 7 users nearly made their forecasted quota for the first three months of Windows 10's existence.

Previously, Computerworld had estimated that consumers with a Windows 7 machine would upgrade to Windows 10 at half the rate of Windows 8.1 in its first three months. Because of Windows 7’s dominance in the Windows world -- at the end of July it accounted for 67% of all Windows PCs -- Computerworld had forecast that the OS would contribute 6.3 percentage points to Windows 10’s user share within 90 days, shifting 95 million devices from the “7” column to the “10” column.

Windows 7 came close, dropping 5.4 percentage points -- losing 81 million PCs -- during the three months since Windows 10’s debut.

The difference between the forecast and reality was due to a lower-than-forecast upgrade rate for Windows 7: Rather than the shot-in-the-dark guess by Computerworld that they would be half as likely (or 50% as much) to upgrade as were those who moved to Windows 8.1 back in 2013, the upgrade pace for consumer-owned Windows 7 PCs was about 42% of 8.1’s.

If Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 had upgraded at the forecast rates, Windows 10 would have gained approximately 12.3 percentage points of users share since July, which would have represented about 185 million systems. Instead, Windows 10 finished October up 8.4 points, or 125 million. The bulk of that 60 million machine shortfall -- 47 million -- came from Windows 8’s and 8.1’s poor showings in the upgrade sweepstakes.

Net Applications’ data was a surprise: Traditionally those with the newest operating systems are much more likely to upgrade than consumers with older OSes. Under that rule of thumb, Windows 8 and 8.1 were almost certain to quickly jump to Windows 10.

While they did that in the first month at a higher rate -- Windows 8 and 8.1 lost 12% of their combined user share in August -- than did Windows 7 users, it quickly slowed. Windows 7 featured the same front-loaded trajectory, losing 5% in the first month, but the sheer size of its starting user share meant it could shed smaller percentages and still contribute more to Windows 10 than the Windows 8/8.1 cadre.

Microsoft was only ever going to get to its self-imposed goal of 1 billion Windows 10 devices by mid-2018, of course, by tapping deeply into the Windows 7 user base. But perhaps by stressing the advantages of Windows 10 to those users, it forgot how to convince Windows 8 and 8.1 PC owners that they, too, should upgrade to 10.


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