In just one month, Windows 10 has rocketed to a user base that its two predecessors couldn’t ever dream of. And it’s done so almost completely via in-place upgrades, a process that was previously the most difficult to perform successfully. Success? That word doesn’t even begin to describe Windows 10.
To understand what I mean, let’s look at Windows 10’s two predecessors, Windows 7 and Windows 8.
Windows 7 is widely regarded—alongside Windows 95 and Windows XP—as being among the most successful of all Windows releases. Throughout the lifetime of Windows 7, I regularly noted that this OS—through careful manipulations on Microsoft’s part—was the recipient of almost exactly 20 million new installs each month for three straight years. Today, there are over 1 billion PCs still running Windows 7, based on Netmarketshare’s usage numbers (and assuming a total usage base of 1.5 billion, which comes from Microsoft).
So how well did Windows 7 do at launch? According to Microsoft, it sold 60 million Windows 7 licenses—not the same as usage, of course, since many were to PC makers and businesses that didn’t end up in users’ hands immediately—in its first two months in the market. That’s 30 million licenses in each of those first two months, on average, and as noted, the monthly license rate quickly settled in at the 20 million mark.
With Windows 8, Microsoft was quick to debunk stories about the impending disaster despite having internal data showing that things were in fact far worse than anyone suspected. It announced that it had sold 40 million licenses to Windows 8 after just one month. But it didn’t note that only a tiny percentage of those licenses, those copies of Windows 8, ended up in users’ hands. And the glut of licenses sitting unused by PC makers quickly triggered a major slowdown in Windows 8 “sales,” a slowdown that reflected immediately in usage too: Today, Windows 8/8.1 accounts for less than 16 percent of all PC OS usage, or about 240 million PCs.
With Windows 10, of course, we’re seeing a mix of free upgrades and new PC sales. I am willing to bet that the vast majority of the Windows 10 usage we’re seeing after one month—again, 75 million PCs—came from upgrades, not new PC sales. In fact, I would immediately concede that 90 to 95 percent of this figure is from free upgrades.
Some will argue that this negates the success of Windows 10, that one can’t compare a free upgrade to a paid license. But that view is nonsense, and for a number of reasons.
First, both Windows 7 and Windows 8 had special promotions at launch. Microsoft offered a 3-for-1 deal for Windows 7 Home Premium in the Family Pack, which later came back for a second go-round. And Windows 8 didn’t cost the normal price for many at launch, either: You could upgrade for $40. And Windows 8.1? Absolutely free. Not just to users, but to PC makers too.
Also, that 75 million figure is actual users, with actual PCs running Windows 10. Not licenses.
But forget all that. The real reason the Windows 10 figure is so astonishing is because of the upgrades. Before this release, in-place upgrades were one of the most unreliable and scary things a user could attempt, and it was so bad very few Windows users ever did try it. With Windows 10, the vast majority of the initial 75 million users did in fact upgrade their PCs. And they did so successfully. That’s the 75 million.
Folks, that is a triumph, no matter what you think of the math. And Windows 10? We’re on course for this thing being the single most successful Windows launch of all time. There is no way to see it otherwise.
Oh, and one more thing. The next milestone for Windows 10 is to surpass the entire user base for Mac OS X. Today, the Mac accounts for 7.66 percent of all PCs in use, or about 114 million devices. I expect Windows 10 to surpass that figure very quickly.