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Free upgrade gave Windows 10 a one-month boost

Gregg Keizer | Sept. 9, 2015
But increases flattened before the 30-day mark, and recently have fallen below Windows 7's gains in 2009.

windows 10

Recent data from an Irish metrics firm shows that the free upgrade to Windows 10 initially kick-started usage of the new operating system, but that within a month of its July 29 release, gains fell below the threshold set by Windows 7 six years ago.

Although the numbers reflect only the first 40 days of Windows 10's wider availability -- and the early burst of increases fueled a record for Microsoft -- they illustrate a shorter-than-expected impact of the free upgrade.

Data from StatCounter, which measures usage share, a percentage of the total desktop-and-laptop-driven online activity by a specific operating system, was used by Computerworld to analyze Windows 10's gains. Week-over-week increases in usage share for both Windows 7 and Windows 10 during their respective first 40 days were calculated, and then to eliminate daily variances -- usage of a new OS typically spikes on weekends because consumers compose the bulk of early adopters -- the results were charted using seven-day rolling averages.

The results were surprising.

Although Windows 10's average week-over-week increases started out extremely strong -- in the neighborhood of 2.4 percentage points -- they were halved by Day 21. Eight days later, Windows 10's increase was below Windows 7's at the same post-release point. Since then, Windows 10's usage share gains continued to slip, reaching four-tenths of a percentage point on Day 40.

Windows 10 usage share
Windows 10's week-over-week increases in usage share started out gangbusters, but have fallen sharply. Meanwhile, Windows 7's increases took a slower, steadier pace six years ago, and have recently surpassed those of its successor. Click on image to enlarge. Data: StatCounter

Comparisons to Windows 7 were also illuminating.

That operating system was a traditional release for Microsoft in that it was a paid upgrade for those who wanted to install the new software on an existing machine. Microsoft sold discounted upgrades for Windows 7 for less than two weeks prior to its October 2009 launch, pricing those upgrades at $50 (Home) and $100 (Professional). The bulk of Windows 7 gains, however, came not from the in-place upgrades, but from users purchasing new systems.

In light of the long-term shipment slump of PCs -- three and a half years and counting, with no immediate end in sight -- Microsoft felt it necessary to provide Windows 10 free of charge in order to jump-start usage. It simply couldn't wait for the usual replace-with-new-PCs model to gradually push customers to the new OS.

Windows 10 has continued to increase its usage share, according to StatCounter: On Sunday, the OS broke the 8% mark for the first time. And its lead over Windows 7, thanks to the early surge, remains secure. As of Day 40, Windows 10's usage share was 1.2 percentage points higher than Windows 7's, representing a 44% advantage.


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