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article imageOp-Ed: 50 million people use Windows 10: Why that doesn't mean anything

By James Walker     Aug 16, 2015 in Technology
Three weeks after its launch, Windows 10 is now in use by 50 million people worldwide. Although the figure sounds impressive, it's still far off the company's target of one billion Windows 10 devices in two years — something I'm not sure is possible.
The number was reported on Friday by WinBeta's Zac Bowden, citing unnamed sources. If correct then it suggests that Microsoft has added around 25 million devices to the roster of completed installs in just the past seven days.
Without context, it's difficult to understand whether this is actually indicative of success though. In a Microsoft blog post from 2010, eight months after the release of Windows 7, the company wrote that it had already sold 150 million Windows 7 licenses — around 600,000 per day.
If the 50 million Windows 10 installs figure is accurate then it can be assumed that around 2,800,000 people (rounded to a suitable degree of accuracy) have been upgrading each day in the 18 days since launch.
That remains very impressive. But what hasn't been taken into account is that Windows 7 ultimately sold more than 500 million licenses. Microsoft claimed in February last year it had sold 200 million Windows 8 licenses and based on that claim — from over 20 months ago — we see that the potential pool of Windows 7 and 8 computers totals in excess of 700 million users. The figure is actually going to be much higher as clearly people have bought new Windows computers since then.
Sticking with the 700 million figure though, we see that even if 50 million people are actually using Windows 10 then that still only equates to around 7.14 percent of the total possible number of users, excluding the troops of new Windows devices bought in the last 20 months.
Overall, 1.5 billion Windows devices are said to be used worldwide. Taking 50 million out of that vast pool, only 3.3 percent of people have actually taken the upgrade so far. Microsoft wants 1 billion devices to be running Windows 10 in two years but it is only 5 percent of the way to that target. Even assuming that the install rate continues to progress at 5 percent every three weeks for the next two years, the company will still end up just shy of the 1 billion bulls-eye .
The install rate can be expected to decline quite dramatically in the next few weeks as the last waves of upgrades roll out to reserved devices and everybody who has requested it completes their install. Microsoft will be relying on new device purchases from there on but how many typical consumers will actually immediately buy a new computer straight after upgrading their old one for free?
Another integral component of Microsoft's Windows 10 strategy is the Internet of Things. Windows 10 IoT Core allows Windows to power pretty much anything intended to be connected to the Internet of Things and Microsoft will be counting these devices in its "1 billion" countdown.
The platform still isn't quite ready though and it doesn’t look like you'll be decking your house out with Windows 10-powered lights, fridges, blinds and water fountains for a few more months. Even when such products do become available, Microsoft still has to convince people that "Internet-connected everything" is a good idea - ideally in the space of two years.
I believe that Microsoft's target of 1 billion Windows 10 devices in two years is admirable but very optimistic. I do think that it could be possible but I also think that the declining computer market and free upgrade offer means that we'll be seeing the install rate begin to fall very quickly very soon.
I think the key sign here is that Windows 7 sold 500 million copies during its life. Of those, 240 million were in the first 12 months. Windows 10 needs to perform twice as well as Windows 7 to even get close to the golden 1 billion target.
It is Windows 7 that remains a firm favourite with users today though, showcasing what Microsoft can do when it really tries and creates an undeniably popular product. But even when Windows 10 gets to the 500 million mark (and I don't doubt that it will) it is still only halfway to the immense goal it has been set by its creators.
As it stands, Microsoft is 5 percent there. The 5 percent was gained after just three weeks of availability but the company cannot possibly expect to continue gaining 5 percent every three weeks. The 5 percent is the ultimate peak and a consequence of Windows enthusiasts, professionals, developers and fans rushing to upgrade all of their devices as soon as possible.
The nature of rolling Windows 10 upgrades out in waves means that some people who have reserved a copy will still be waiting today. But very soon all of those reservations will be fulfilled and Microsoft will need to ensure that new devices have a very strong "buy me" factor to entice people away from using their free copy of Windows on their old device.
It's probably best not to forget Steve Ballmer's prediction for Windows 8, made before its 2012 launch. The then-CEO of Microsoft claimed that 500 million people would be using Windows 8 in 2013. In 2014, only 200 million copies had actually been activated.
Although Windows 10 is a much stronger offering than Windows 8 — despite bugs, incompatibilities and some deep-running user privacy concerns — Microsoft has possibly set another wildly over-optimistic target.
One billion Windows 10 devices in two years is definitely possible but it just doesn't seem likely at this point in time. We are only three weeks past the launch but demand will surely fall once the free upgrades end, leaving Microsoft with a tough challenge to push people into buying new Windows 10 phones, tablets, computers and smart things.
50 million Windows 10 installs sounds great today. In the much wider context of the entire Windows ecosystem, I don't believe that it means very much at all unless Microsoft keeps the currently high adoption rate up for longer than seems even remotely possible.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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