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Windows 7's grip on the enterprise desktop is loosening

And so is Microsoft's as PC sales fall, making strong growth for Windows 10 unlikely

Windows 10

Microsoft last week updated its Windows 10 usage data, claiming 270 million devices now run its newest operating system.

We've updated our numbers, too, namely the three sources we use to assess desktop operating system market share. And on our numbers, if Windows 10 is on 270 million devices Windows 7 is on about 750 million devices.

Here's the last quarter's data from Netmarketshare and StatCounter, summarised into a table.

  Windows 7 Windows 8 Windows 8.1 Windows 10 Server 2003 Vista XP
Netmarketshare Jan 52.47%   10.40% 11.85%     11.42%
  Feb 52.34%   9.83% 12.82%     11.24%
  March 51.89%   9.56% 14.15%     10.90%
Statcounter Jan 46.66 3.15 11.67 13.65 0.17 1.77 7.98
  Feb 46.08 3.01 11.43 14.86 0.11 1.62 7.61
  March 45.76 3.45 10.94 16.53 0.12 1.53 7.5

As the data shows, Windows 10 is growing nicely, Windows 7 and Windows 8 are declining gracefully and Windows XP just won't die. Vista is close to being a statistical irrelevancy – indeed, Netmarketshare's not bothering any more, lumping it in with the un-loved “Other”.

Here's the third source of data we're using these days, the 90-day record of Windows versions hitting US government web sites.

Windows 7 Windows 8 Windows 8.1 Windows 10 Server 2003 Vista XP
Jan 63.77% 1.39% 11.73% 17.63% 0.06% 2.29% 3.13%
Feb 62.36% 1.40% 11.65% 19.39% 0.06% 2.20% 2.94%
March 61.30% 1.33% 10.59% 21.82% 0.06% 2.07% 2.83%

Here's another look at that data, expressing Windows 10 traffic to US government web sites as a percentage of all traffic hitting Uncle Sam's servers.

Windows 10 90 days to April 3 on US gov websites

This might just be the money shot for Microsoft as it shows that in 90 days it has gained five per cent share of weekday traffic on US government websites, which means users in businesses. Weekend share is up even further, from 26 per cent peaks in January to 34 per cent peaks on the first weekend in April.

Time for some back-of-the-envelopery. If Microsoft says it has 270 million devices running Windows 10 and the OS has around 15 per cent market share (remember, the US government data doesn't count other operating systems), we can deduce that one point of market share is about 18 million devices. Windows 8.1 is therefore on about 180 million devices and Windows 7 is on about 800 million.

That's enormous upside for Microsoft, but with one problem: we know that PC sales are slowing to fewer than 300 million a year and that the likes of HP say Windows 10 isn't helping matters.

So even if every PC sold this year runs Windows 10 – which won't happen, because lots will be Macs – the new OS is likely to score only about 10 per cent more market share. Remember, also, that smartphones are selling at a rate of a billion a year, most on Android. iPads are still selling decently. Some PCs just won't ever be replaced.

Let's not belittle Microsoft's achievements to date: 270 million devices means about a million installs a day for nine months. But consider also the immense challenges it faces defending its richest patch on the business desktop. ®

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