Windows 10 posts user-share gains after multi-month stall

Windows 10 posts user-share gains after multi-month stall

Return of growth may be due to early migrations by enterprises

After a two-month stretch of no growth, Windows 10 in November gained user share, powering more than a quarter of all Windows PCs for the first time, data published today showed.

According to U.S. metrics vendor Net Applications, Windows 10 gained 1.1 percentage points of user share last month, ending with 23.7% of all personal computers. Windows 10 ran 26.1% of all Windows machines: The difference between the user share of all PCs and only those running Windows stemmed from the fact that Windows powered 91% of all personal computers, not 100%.

User share is an estimate of the proportion of all personal computer users who run a device powered by a specific operating system. The analytics company measures OS user share by counting devices whose browsers reach websites of Net Applications' clients.

November's 5% month-over-month growth rate was smaller than during the year that Microsoft offered consumers and many businesses a free Windows 10 upgrade, but it was a turnaround from September and October, when the operating system slipped by four-tenths of a percentage point in user share.

That decline was the first ever for Windows 10.

Others analytics firms showed results that resembled Net Applications'. Ireland's StatCounter pegged Windows 10's usage share -- more a measure of activity than of users and their devices -- at 26.2% for November, a 1.4-point gain that represented a 6% month-over-month increase.

StatCounter had also tracked a dramatic slowing of Windows 10 growth, although its two-month stretch was August-September. During that period, Windows 10's usage share increased by less than four-tenths of a percentage point, far off the average of 1.7 points in the year's first seven months.

The November uptick as measured by Net Applications and StatCounter may have had multiple causes. New PC purchases typically accelerate in the last months of the year as consumers and businesses open their wallets for holiday and tax reasons, respectively. But with PC shipments continuing to contract, a more probable cause of 10's growth was corporate migrations to the new OS.

While most experts have bet that enterprises will get serious about Windows 10 only in 2017 and beyond, they have also noted that companies seem willing to start those migrations earlier than they did during the last major upgrade cycle, the one to Windows 7.

Microsoft has been loudly pounding the update-early drum. It has not only used longstanding marketing tactics -- touting better security provisions in the latest edition, for example -- but has also taken unusual approaches, including ones to discourage customers from sticking with Windows 7. Among the latter were an October change to how security updates are packaged and delivered to Windows 7, and a more recent decision to retire an important anti-exploit tool that many IT administrators deploy to protect Windows 7 PCs.

Windows 7 remained the most popular operating system on the planet in March, according to both Net Applications and StatCounter. The former pegged Windows 7 as accounting for 47.2% of all PC operating systems, and gave the 2009 OS a slim majority (51.9%) of all versions of Windows. Meanwhile, StatCounter put Windows 7's usage share at 40% for November, its highest mark since July when it began a multi-month slide.

Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 accounted for 11% of all Windows by Net Applications' tallies, while the long-retired Windows XP stood at 9.5%.

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