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Microsoft stakes out ambitious goal of 1B Windows 10 devices

Gregg Keizer | May 4, 2015
Microsoft's chief operating system executive yesterday put a stake in the ground, saying that in three years, tops, Windows 10 would be running on a billion devices.

Microsoft's chief operating system executive yesterday put a stake in the ground, saying that in three years, tops, Windows 10 would be running on a billion devices.

"Our goal is that within two to three years of Windows 10's release there will be one billion devices running Windows 10," Terry Myerson said during the keynote address opening Microsoft's Build developer conference.

Later in the keynote, Myerson kept returning to the goal as motivation for developers to create Windows apps, and how they could potentially monetize their work. "With Windows 10, there will be one billion devices ready to run your applications," Myerson said.

One billion. A big number. To make that goal, Windows 10 would have to appear on 57,000 devices each hour over the next two years, 38,000 over three.

Some analysts thought that the goal was doable, conservative even. Others, however, questioned the number, as well as whether it much mattered.

"It's not only a reasonable goal, but the way they phrased the statement, they gave themselves a fair amount of wiggle room," said IDC analyst Al Gillen of the two-to-three-year spread Myerson offered. "They were cautious about what they said, and conservative I think."

He attributed the cautiousness to an attempt not to oversell the possible success, which if not met would anger investors years ahead.

Gillen went on to do a back-of-the-envelope calculation that assumed 300 million PCs sold each year, with half of them to consumers, for a total of 300 million over two years, 450 million over three. "Even if no devices are upgraded to Windows 10, that's at least 300 million right there," Gillen said. Then he added a quarter of the 1.5 billion existing Windows PCs — consumers accounting for half of the 1.5 billion, then half of the resulting 750 million as likely to upgrade — for another 375 million.

Gillen's 825 million over three years would still shy of the 1 billion, but he was confident that Microsoft could collect the remaining from sales of mobile devices, like tablets and smartphones.

Michael Silver of Gartner concurred. "Assuming the vast majority of new personal computers will be running Windows 10, the [billion] makes perfect sense," Silver said.

Gartner's own device shipment projections supported Silver. Last month, the research firm published its latest long-term forecast, pegging Windows device shipment at 358 million in 2016 and 383 million in 2017. For this year, Gartner estimated 331 million Windows-powered PCs, tablets, 2-in-1s and smartphones.

Those forecasts total 850 million. Assuming a third of 2015's are Windows 10 — accounting for a four-month stretch of sales later this year — putting a billion within reach when the first eight months of 2018 are thrown into the mix.

 

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