Windows by the numbers: Real gains or just an illusion?

A sudden spike of Windows' overall share led to increased user numbers for both Windows 10 and Windows 7.

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Windows by the numbers: July 2019

Now we're talkin'.

A month after Windows users took a break from dumping Windows 7 for Windows 10, in July they put shoulders to various wheels and ... shoved.

According to web metrics vendor Net Applications, Windows 7's share of all personal computers plunged precipitously last month, falling 3.6 percentage points — the second-largest amount in a single month for the aged OS — to end July at 31.8%. Meanwhile, Windows 7's portion of only those PCs running Windows also plummeted, falling to 36%, a number not seen since late 2011 when the operating system was barely two years old and busily nibbling away at Windows XP.

(The second number is larger than the first because Windows does not power every PC; in July, Windows ran 88.5% of the world's machines. All but a tiny fraction of the rest ran macOS, Linux or Chrome OS.)

At the same time, Windows 10's share jumped by 3.1 percentage points to 48.9% of all personal computers and 55.2% of those running Windows. The monthly increase was the second-largest ever for Windows 10 (first place went to March 2019), while both percentages were records for the OS.

So, did millions suddenly drop Windows 7 and switch to Windows 10? (Net Applications' data and Computerworld's calculations pegged the leaving-Windows-7 number at 61 million, the moving-to-Windows-10 number at 51 million.) Unclear. The change rate wasn't implausible — other measurements have gone up, or down, just as dramatically and been proven to be accurate if not exact — and the time before Windows 7 falls off the support list is very short.

Earlier hints of Windows 10 acceleration were telling

Last month, Computerworld highlighted the quickening of Windows 10 growth by showing the difference between the 6- and 12-month averages. The sudden addition of another 3+ points in July only skewed the numbers further toward that acceleration. Also telling are the new forecasts that July's Windows 10 upswing — and Windows 7's downturn — generated.

Windows 7's future — based, as always, on the operating system's 12-month average change — must now be more palatable to Microsoft, which earlier had to have been concerned about the operating system's stubbornness. Computerworld's latest calculation says that in January 2020, when Windows 7 exits support, its user share should stand at 30.7%, a whole five points lower than our prognostication of the month before. That's a lot fewer PCs stranded without security updates.

Meanwhile, Windows 10 should account for approximately 62% of all Windows installations when the older OS drops off support, an increase of four points from the month-ago forecast. A year later — January 2021 — Windows 7 and Windows 10 will be at 20% and 76%, respectively.

Of special note is that the 30.7% currently forecast as Windows 7's user share at support expiration is very close to the 29% of all Windows PCs running Windows XP five years ago when it left support. For the last two years, the comparison between Windows XP's actual vanishing act and Windows 7's predicted performance always put the latter in the worst light; the data proclaimed that users were reluctant to give up Windows 7.

Not in July. In July, millions apparently didn't need anyone to pry the 10-year-old OS from their cold hands. They gave it up without a fight.

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