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Final Windows 10 upgrade forecast sees OS on 440M PCs by early '17

Gregg Keizer | July 27, 2015
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.

Many users of the latter may be satisfied staying with that they know.

Say consumers upgrade Windows 7 to Windows 10 at half the rate of Windows 8/8.1.... Under that scenario, 15 percent of all Windows 7 machines would have migrated to the new OS within 20 months (67% x 55% for consumers' part of the total, x 41% upgrade rate, or half the 82% of Windows 8.1).

The 15 percent would represent another 227 million Windows PCs.

Together, the Windows 8/8.1 and Windows 7 upgrades would total 443 million, and represent almost 30 percent of all Windows PCs.

But the projection is conservative for one simple reason: Windows 7 did better than that in its first 20 months. And people paid for a Windows 7 upgrade if they didn't get the new OS on a new PC. They paid $50 for the consumer-grade Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade, $100 for Windows 7 Professional during a very short discount period, then twice that under the regular pricing scheme.

True, Windows 7 debuted during the run towards 2011's "peak PC," as PC shipments surged 14 percent in 2010, virtually all of them Windows systems, virtually all of those equipped with the then-new OS. But if a free upgrade deal can't beat one priced between $50 and $100, even with computer shipments down 19 percent from 2010, then Microsoft should just go back to charging for its software.

Other factors that point to a better-than-30 percent adoption of Windows 10 include Microsoft's marketing, which has thumped the upgrade-to-Windows-10 drum much louder, much longer than it did the one for Windows 8.1.

For proof of Microsoft's target audience, one has only to look at the first Web advertisement unveiled earlier this week. Aimed directly at Windows 7 users, it touted the familiarity of the new OS. "With the best of Windows 7 ... and the best of Windows 8," the ad trumpeted, then highlighted "the desktop you know and love, only better."

Microsoft has also lit the urgency fuse by putting a one-year time limit on the free upgrade offer (it told Windows 8 users that they had two years to move to 8.1) to push people off the fence. And it's taken unprecedented steps to make customers, especially consumers, aware of the upgrade, using a nag-and-notification system fed to their devices that let them reserve a copy of Windows 10. It didn't do that for either Windows 7 or 8.1.

Most important, the Redmond, Wash. company has serious skin in this game, and not just because it's stamped a goal of 1 billion instances by mid-2018 on Windows 10.

The company is betting big that Windows 10 can restore the OS to, if not glory, then a turn-around. "I do believe that Windows 10 will broaden our economic opportunity and return Windows to growth," CEO Satya Nadella said Tuesday.

Nothing would cripple that restoration of growth more than a sluggish start to Windows 10's adoption. Fortunately for Microsoft, the numbers point to the opposite, a quick take-off.


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