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Windows 10's pushy upgrade tactics pay off with share growth

Gregg Keizer | March 18, 2016
Two data sources show significant gains by Windows 10 during the stretch when users reported upgrades completing without their approval.

Microsoft's recent campaign to force-feed the Windows 10 upgrade to older PCs appears to have been successful, generating a short but sustained increase in usage, according to a pair of data sources.

Last week, users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 systems began reporting that the automatically-downloaded Windows 10 upgrade had been installed, with an accompanying glut of complaints that they had not had the opportunity to decline the offer, or if they did see a way to reject 10, were stuck in a loop where the demand endlessly reappeared.

In some cases, users were unable to regain control of their machines until they acquiesced and let Windows 10 install.

Although the automatic download of Windows 10 and its upgrading a PC from older OSes has been expected for months -- and was switched on six weeks ago -- the process was supposed to require user approval at some point. Yesterday, Microsoft again confirmed that, with a spokesman saying, "Customers continue to be fully in control of their devices" in a statement. Yet many users claimed that they had not been asked, and had, in fact, lost control of the procedure.

Whether such behavior was part of Microsoft's plan or an error -- either on Microsoft's part or because of PC configurations -- is unknown. Microsoft has declined to explain why Windows 10 had been installed without any user action.

The result was clearer.

According to analytics vendor StatCounter, Windows 10 posted substantial week-over-week increases in usage share starting March 10. In four of the next five days -- through Monday, March 14 -- those gains were near a full percentage point.

The last time StatCounter's Windows 10 numbers increased that much during even a short stretch was at the end of 2015 and the first few days of 2016, when growth was likely buoyed by a combination of new PCs and the holidays. (Because Windows 10 has gotten only a minor foothold on business systems, when consumers are at their own PCs -- on weekends but also on U.S. or global holidays -- 10's usage spikes.)

StatCounter measures operating system activity using page views from the websites belonging to its clients.

Another source of Windows 10 activity -- the U.S. government's Digital Analytics Program (DAP) -- signaled a similar boost in the new OS's usage.

DAP tallies visits to more than 4,000 websites on more than 400 domains maintained by U.S. government agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The bulk of the traffic DAP measures originates within the U.S.

Like StatCounter, DAP showed that Windows 10's share jumped beginning March 10, and maintained week-over-week increases of about a percentage point through yesterday. The gains were the largest and longest-sustained that DAP had measured since January 22-28.


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