With less than a month remaining for the free Windows 10 upgrade, Microsoft has entered a kinder, gentler phase of the promotion. And I’m curious where Windows 10 adoption will stand at the one-year mark.
As you must know, Microsoft recently stepped back from its overly-aggressive attempts to force and deceive Windows 7 and 8.1 users into upgrading to Windows 10. Meaning that 11 months into a one-year schedule, Microsoft has finally given these users the chance to actually decline the Windows 10 upgrade. Previously, you needed to use a third-party utility to actually say no.
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But Microsoft isn’t giving up. In addition to the semi-subtle system tray-based upgrade reminder, it will now display a full-screen advertisement for the Windows 10 upgrade as well. Shown above, this advertisement is actually just an update of a previous screen that’s been in place for months. But according to Microsoft, it will appear more frequently than before.
“This notification is a reminder that the Window 10 free upgrade offer ends on July 29, 2016,” Microsoft explains. “Microsoft recommends that you upgrade to Windows 10 before the offer expires. You can choose to upgrade directly from the notification, dismiss the notification permanently, or choose to be reminded later.”
Presumably, if you decline the Windows 10 upgrade offer anywhere, you will not see this full-screen display. But, again, this is the right approach: You can get in people’s faces as long as you respect their right to say no. And once they do, just leave them alone.
In January 2015, Microsoft announced that it planned to have over 1 billion active Windows 10 devices in the world “within two or three years” of the system’s initial release. So, by July 29, 2018. Last week, it announced that there were 350 million active Windows 10 devices in the world, and [as I noted at the time, the pace of adoption has been going up in recent months](Windows 10 Now Has 350 Million Active Users).
It’s not possible to determine if this trend will continue, and I think the months following the Anniversary update launch will be more telling for the long term. We just don’t know the rate at which active Windows 10 devices will rise. But we can at least guess based on the data we have.
Looked at in broad strokes, Microsoft saw 200 million active Windows 10 device by early January, a time frame of five months. From January through June, the figure was 150 million (for a total of 350 million), a time frame of 6 months, for about 25 million per month. 350 million plus 25 million is 375 million.
Looking at the more recent data, we see a similar outcome, as the average monthly addition to the Windows 10 number has risen slightly each of the past few months. If we take the “the new pace” of almost 29 million additional devices per month that were logged as of June, we see about to 380 million.
OK, so 375 million to 380 million is a reasonable guess for the one-year mark. Unless of course you believe that there will be a final push in this last month as more users finally jump on board while the free offer lasts.
I think that’s a good possibility, to be honest. Is 400 million out of the question?
Maybe not. But the bigger question, of course, is the next two years. With the free upgrade behind it, Microsoft will need to deal with competing trends that stand between it and its goal of 1 billion Windows 10 devices.
First and most obviously is the PC market itself, which is still reeling from a downturn that has no end in site. PC sales have continued to fall year over year, and while we don’t yet know where sales will plateau, that number keeps getting smaller. Can Microsoft count on 200 million new Windows 10 PC sales per year? That sounds about right.
Second is the fact that fully 70 percent of the existing body of PCs in the world, or just over 1 billion units, are still running earlier versions of Windows. Surely some of these users will migrate to new Windows 10 PCs during the next two years. But PCs last longer than they used to, and users are holding on to existing devices longer.
On the strength of 200 million new PCs for each of the next two years, Microsoft will miss its deadline, and it won’t hit the 1 billion figure until the end of 2018, about six months too late. But I think it will benefit from two other constituencies. Businesses, which move at their own glacial pace and have yet to start mass Windows 10 PC deployments. And from other devices, too: Xbox consoles, phones, and even niche products like HoloLens and Surface Hub. These will help it pad the total and achieve that figure even earlier.
Still, July 2018 could be tight. It was bold of Terry Myerson to announce that 1 billion figure publicly.
But know this. Regardless of the speed at which Microsoft reaches the 1 billion figure, doing so is in fact assured. As is doing so faster than with any previous Windows version. So Windows 10, by any measure, is an incredible success story. And coming as it does during a time in which PCs are in decline and Microsoft couldn’t sell a phone if its very existence depended on it, this level of uptake is all the more impressive.