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Windows 10 forecast: On as many as 342M PCs at one-year mark

Gregg Keizer | April 6, 2016
Microsoft should be one-third toward its 1B device goal by end of July

Windows 10 will have grabbed between 19% and 21% of the personal computer operating system market by its one-year anniversary, putting Microsoft a third of the way toward its goal of 1 billion devices, according to an analysis of the upgrade's uptake rate so far.

Data published last week by analytics vendor Net Applications pegged Windows 10's user share -- an estimate of the percentage of the world's computers that run individual operating systems -- at 14.2% for March, an increase of 1.3 percentage points over the month prior.

Eight months after its launch, Windows 10 powered about 15.6% of just those PCs running Windows; the percentage among Windows systems was higher than for all machines because Windows ran on 90.5% of the world's PCs, not 100%.

The average Windows 10's growth over the last three months was 1.4 percentage points per month, while the average over the last six months was 1.3 points. With those trends in place, a forecast for 10's user share come the end of July -- when the OS reaches its first anniversary -- can be calculated.

Using the six-month average, Windows 10 will end July at 19.2%, while plugging in the three-month average results in 20.6%.

Both numbers would be slightly ahead of Windows 7's one-year mark of 18.9%, again illustrating that while Windows 10 -- as Microsoft has repeatedly claimed -- may be the fastest-growing version of Windows ever, it has not overturned historical adoption trends. That's true even with the company's notable free upgrade offer to millions of customers.

When only Windows systems are considered, 10 would account for approximately 21.3% of all Windows-powered PCs by the end of July under the more conservative six-month growth rate. Using the larger average gains over the last three months, Windows 10 would be on a 22.8% share of all Windows machines.

Those figures, in turn, translate into between 308 million and 342 million personal computers running Windows 10, assuming that Microsoft's often-cited 1.5 billion Windows PCs is accurate. That means Microsoft will be a third of the way toward meeting its self-imposed goal of 1 billion Windows 10 devices by mid-2018.

Surprisingly, the upper end of the 308-342 million range is close to what Computerworld forecast in February 2015, when it pegged approximately 358 million Windows 10 PCs at the one-year anniversary. At that time, Computerworld based its projection on the performance of Windows 8.1, the free upgrade Microsoft shipped in October 2013 as the follow-up to the original Windows 8 of 2012.

That Computerworld's prognosis was even close to the mark said less about divination skills and more about dumb luck: The crude estimate relied on several dartboard premises, including that Windows 7 users would rally to the free upgrade at a rate of about half that of Windows 8.1's uptake.


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