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Microsoft's focus on Windows 10 upgrades is a mistake

Gregg Keizer | April 8, 2016
The most important customers to Windows 10's success are those who buy new PCs, analyst argues.

Microsoft made a mistake at its recent developers conference when it didn't use the opportunity to push customers to buy new hardware, an analyst said today.

"On behalf of the Windows 10 team, we're happy to welcome all of these customers to Windows 10, whether they have a new PC, a five-year-old PC, or a Mac [emphasis added]," said Terry Myerson, the executive who leads the company's devices and operating systems group, after touting a new number of active Windows 10 users.

Carolina Milanesi, principal analyst at Creative Strategies, picked up on Myerson's "five-year-old PC," and didn't like what she heard.

"While Microsoft stated it is fine with some of those users having five-year-old PCs, a clear response to Phil Schiller's recent comment on the topic during Apple's last launch event, we strongly believe Microsoft should actually be concerned about the issue," Milanesi wrote in an analysis published on Creative Strategies' website.

Milanesi referred to Schiller -- Apple's head of marketing -- because during the unveiling of the 9.7-in. iPad Pro two weeks ago he trumpeted the device as "the ultimate PC replacement."

"There are over 600 million PCs in use today that are over five years old. This is really sad. These people could really benefit from an iPad Pro," Schiller said, taking one of Apple's trademark shots at the competition.

Microsoft, not surprisingly, saw things differently, as Myerson welcomed older systems to Windows 10. But he also heralded the new. "Our hardware partners ... have launched more than 500 new devices designed for Windows 10," Myerson said.

Milanesi thought talk of "old" illustrated Microsoft's fixation on getting current users to upgrade to Windows 10 and signaled that the company is not focused enough on convincing customers that they should purchase a new PC.

Her premise is simple: Those with newer machines are more likely to actually use the PC, and thus the OS, than people who had let their system age without replacement. In other words, by fixating on upgrades rather than new machine purchases, Microsoft has acknowledged that it's attracting a less-valuable audience.

According to Creative Strategies' research, consumers with a PC less than a year old were much more likely to use it for tasks like social networking -- Facebook, Pinterest and the like -- playing video games, and running productivity software, than were people who had hung onto the same system for five or six years.

That makes sense: Those with older PCs haven't upgraded because they've transferred many tasks, and the time they spend on devices overall, to smartphones, tablets or a mix of the two. Likewise, new owners bought because they wanted to use their PCs for more chores.


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