Microsoft on Tuesday said that some 200 million enterprise workers now run Windows 10, a sign that corporations and other businesses are close to schedule to scrub Windows 7 from their machines before that older OS retires in about 20 months, an analyst argued.
"The 200 million resonates with me, based on what I'm hearing from clients," said Stephen Kleynhans of Gartner Research. Migrations to Windows 10, he added, are progressing "pretty aggressively."
Joe Belfiore, a corporate vice president who leads the Windows 10 team, revealed the number at Microsoft's Build developers conference Tuesday.
"Right now, there are over 200 million people in corporate accounts using Windows 10," Belfiore said as he claimed deployment is "really ramping up" in the enterprise. "We've seen that [Windows 10] adoption rate increase now at 79% year-over-year growth."
The day before, Microsoft contended that "nearly 700 million" devices are running Windows 10 worldwide. On that basis, enterprises accounted for less than 30% of all copies of Windows 10.
(Although the two numbers - Belfiore's 200 million people using Windows 10 in corporate settings and Microsoft's 700 million devices powered by the operating system - measured two different things, it's not uncommon for Microsoft to obfuscate this way to prevent direct comparisons.
In actuality, because Microsoft typically sells licenses on a per user basis, with multiple devices allowed for each user, 200 million people may be using more than that number of Windows 10 devices.)
While neither the percentage nor the 200 million are to be sneezed at, the former is significantly less than the average overall for commercial PCs, which have historically accounted for more than half - 55% has been an often-cited figure - of all personal computers.
And while Kleynhans did not dispute Microsoft's claim of 200 people running Windows 10 in the enterprise, he sounded a bit disappointed in the number. "Is it a low number? It's a little behind where I thought it would be," Kleynhans said, noting that he expected it to be around 250 million by this point, perhaps even close to 300 million.
Windows 10 deployment is, like previous iterations of the OS, on a timetable not of its own making. Instead, because of the vagarities of Microsoft's historical release schedule and corporate acceptance (or rejection) of some editions, there is a clock ticking on Windows 10 because of the impending retirement of the current corporate standard, Windows 7.
That 2009 operating system will fall off Microsoft's support list on Jan. 14, 2020, meaning that while Windows 7 will continue to work as before, the Redmond, Wash. will stop distributing security updates to it.
It's unrealistic to expect that all commercial customers will have purged Windows 7 by the retirement date, Kleynhans said, pointing out that he has recently spoken with clients who still run some instances of Windows XP (retired from support in 2014) and even Windows 98 (2006).
"What we [Gartner] expect is that enterprises will get to the 85%-90% level by the deadline," Kleynhans said of the percentage of corporate devices shifted to Windows 7, "maybe even a little higher than that." Nothing that's happened has changed that estimate, he added.
"There are always laggards," Kleynhans said.
According to other metrics, there may be a considerable number of them.
Estimates from analytics vendors, including U.S.-based Net Applications, which measure user and usage shares, signal that a large resorvoir of Windows 7 users will remain after the operating system's retirement in 20 months.
Net Applications' latest data, for example, drove a Computerworld forecast that of the world's Windows personal computers - all the PCs, not just those in the enterprise - 42% would still be running Windows 7 in January 2020, a much larger percentage than the 29% powered by Windows XP when that edition fell off the support list in April 2014.
In the end, large organizations will do what it takes to get off Windows 7 and onto Windows 10 by the former's support cut-off date. The 200 million touted by Belfiore this week will be quite different a year from now, Kleynhans was certain.
"The speed with which I see Windows 10 moving now, it's not going to be an issue," he said.