Credit: Mark Hachman
By February 2017, Microsoft should have Windows 10 on more than 440 million personal computers, according to a new analysis of user share data and upgrade tempo.
More than eight out of every 10 PCs now running Windows 8 or 8.1 will migrate to Windows 10 in the first 20 months of Windows 10's life. Meanwhile, approximately one in four systems now running Windows 7 will also make the move to Windows 10 in that same timeframe, adding even more machines to the tally.
Those calculations are based on the upgrade performance of Windows 8.1 and a conservative estimate of how quickly consumers with Windows 7 PCs will make the switch.
According to California-based metrics firm Net Applications, which measures operating system user share, 82 percent of all the PCs running either Windows 8.1 or Windows 8 ran the former last month, a 12-percentage-point increase from 6 months ago and up almost 30 points compared to 12 months prior.
Computerworld used Windows 8.1 adoption because it was the best yardstick available: In the same way that Windows 10 will be a free upgrade from Windows 8.1 or 7, Windows 8.1 was gratis to users of Windows 8.
So it's a good bet that 82 percent of all Windows 8 and 8.1 PCs will run Windows 10 within 20 months, or by the end of February 2017. Using Microsoft's oft-stated figure of 1.5 billion PCs now on Windows, that translates into 217 million machines worldwide (17.6% user share for Windows 8/8.1 at the end of June x 82% = about 14.4% x 1.5 billion).
Estimates of Windows 7's adoption of Windows 10 are fuzzier.
IDC says that approximately 55 percent of all PCs are in the hands of consumers, the remainder in businesses, governments or other organizations. Apply that ratio to Windows 7 -- which accounted for 67 percent of all Windows PCs at June's end -- and it means 37 percent of all Windows 7 machines are consumer-owned.
Computerworld has discarded commercial PCs from its series of forecasts because while businesses must eventually upgrade to Windows 10, analysts have said it's unlikely that their migrations will ramp up until 2017.
Likewise, it would be reckless to count on consumers owning Windows 7 PCs to upgrade to Windows 10 at the same rate as those running Windows 8 or 8.1. For one thing, Windows 7 runs on more than half a billion consumer PCs, about twice as many as 8/8.1, and moving such a large number will be time consuming. For another, Windows 10 is largely a course correction for Windows 8 and 8.1, as it restores many of the UI (user interface) elements Microsoft ditched, like the Start menu, that exist in even-more-familiar forms in Windows 7.
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