Microsoft’s Windows 7 Problem Isn’t Going Away

Posted on January 23, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows, Windows 10 with 91 Comments

Microsoft's Windows 7 Problem Isn't Going Away

Windows 7 usage share didn’t change much over the past year. That is a huge problem for Windows 10, and for Microsoft.

After the many issues it had getting the Windows XP installed based moved forward to more modern and secure Windows versions, Microsoft is basically facing the same problem again. That is, Microsoft doesn’t want Windows 7 to be the next Windows XP. But Windows 7 is absolutely the next Windows XP.


To see what I mean, simply examine the NetMarketShare usage share data that Microsoft also uses. Over the past three Januaries, Windows 7’s usage share has hovered around the 50 percent mark:

  • January 2015: 55.92 percent
  • January 2016: 52.47 percent
  • January 2017: 48.34 percent

Windows 10 was released in August 2015, basically. So looking at the past two Januaries, we see the following for Microsoft’s latest platform:

  • January 2016: 11.85 percent
  • January 2017: 24.36 percent

So Windows 7 usage has barely fallen but Windows 10 usage has of course catapulted upward, though if you look a bit closer you’ll see that this progress has slowed dramatically in recent months.

It’s obvious that much of that Windows 7 usage is coming from slow-moving corporations, but I will argue here that tons of that usage—tens if not hundreds of millions of users—are consumers too. We can’t just wipe our hands, say businesses are the problem, and then walk away: There were over one billion Windows 7 users out in the world when Windows 10 first shipped. Many are still Windows 7 users, despite Microsoft’s sometimes-deceptive attempts at getting them on the Windows 10 train.

Windows 10’s ascent has to have come from somewhere. After all, it’s not like the PC market is growing, so that usage is coming from the install base. And it’s easy to see what happened: Both Windows XP and Windows 8.x have seen their usage halved between January 2015 and this month. Windows 8.x usage dropped from 13.83 percent to just 6.9 percent, while Windows XP fell from 18.93 percent to 9.07 percent during this time frame.

Microsoft knows all this, of course. And while its bizarre attempts at discrediting Windows 7 have rightfully been derided by its customers, the underlying theme is familiar. Yes, Microsoft promised to support Windows 7 through January 2020. But it would really like you to upgrade to Windows 10. Like, now.

This mindset got Microsoft into trouble in 2016 when it stooped to deceiving consumers in order to get them to upgrade to Windows 10. Since then, it has taken various steps to make Windows 7 updating miserable for consumers as well, despite claiming otherwise.

On the face of things, this shouldn’t be necessary: After all, if Windows 10 is such a great upgrade over its predecessors—and, yes, I do think it is—then the switch will happen organically.

But I see where Microsoft is coming from. And its contention that we, collectively, are all safer when the majority of the user base is on a modern, more easily protected platform is of course correct. Wanting to avoid last minute (and post-end-of-life) manic upgrades from Windows 7 to Windows 10 down the road is likewise understandable. (Some businesses are still using XP years after supported ended. That is both stupid and dangerous.)

Just guessing, but those Windows 7 PCs out in the world are never going to be upgraded at this point, so making the Windows 10 upgrade free again might not help. (That said, Microsoft should still make the Windows 10 upgrade free for Windows 7 and 8.x users. It certainly wouldn’t hurt.)

And businesses … geesh. They really do move slowly. They always do.

And that’s really the story of Windows in a nutshell. Whether you’re talking about PC makers or the businesses that are about 65 percent of the user base, its greatest strengths—diversity, size—are also its greatest weakness.


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