1.5 Billion Windows PCs (Premium)

Microsoft has once again asserted that there are 1.5 billion "Windows-powered" PCs in use worldwide. This number gives us a bit of insight into the PC market, both compared to the past and to its more modern competitors.

News of the 1.5 billion number comes courtesy of the software giant's Microsoft By The Numbers website, which hadn't been updated in quite a while. But as Neowin pointed out this morning, it was just updated for the first time in about three years.

To be clear, the 1.5 billion number is not new. Microsoft used that same number three years ago when that site first went live. So this tells us that the size of the Windows PC market---its usage share---has remained unchanged over this time period. In other words, there are essentially no new PC users coming on board anymore. And all PC sales these days are upgrades that replace older PCs.

This isn't literally true, of course. But the data suggests that any new users that do enter the market are now offset by those leaving Windows, perhaps for another PC platform---like the Mac or Chromebook---or for mobile.

But this is still positive news, of a sort. As I noted last November, "Microsoft [had] long ago stopped using its 1.5 billion figure for total PC installed base, and the assumption, given several years of falling PC sales, is that the installed base has fallen." But it hasn't fallen. It's simply remained the same.

This number has interesting ramifications for Windows 10. With Microsoft admitting in mid-2016 that it would not hit its publicly-stated goal of getting to 1 billion Windows 10 PCs/devices within its first three years in the market, we've paid even more attention than usual to each Windows 10 usage milestone. And this year, frankly, has been weird.

As you may recall, Terry Myerson in April said that Windows 10 was in use on nearly 700 million PCs/devices. So given the then-understood monthly uptick of about 17 million new Windows 10 PCs coming on board each month, it was only a matter of time before Windows 10 crossed that milestone. Maybe one or two months at most.

But several months passed. And it wasn't until the end of September---almost six months after the initial statement---that Microsoft finally confirmed that Windows 10 had hit the 700 million mark. The reason for this weirdness will be revealed shortly, but suffice to say that there was some fuzzy math going on before. The 700 million figure today, however, is legit.

Which means that almost one-half of the Windows user base---47 percent---is running Windows 10 today.

In the wake of the one billion fiasco, that sounds bad. But Microsoft pushing almost half of all Windows users to a new version in just three years is actually really impressive. The real problem is going to be the next 15 months. Which is how much time Microsoft and the PC industry has to push the rest: Windows 7 support ends in January 2020.

This number also has interesting ramifications for Windows' place i...

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