Are users really in love with Windows 7? Or are they clinging to old habits as Windows 10 rolls out? Three popular data sources offer very different answers. Regardless of which one you choose, take that data with a heaping helping of salt.
Long-term shifts in the installed base for Windows PCs are nothing new. For decades, businesses have been dealing with the logistics and the costs of migrating from one Windows version to another.
As my colleague Steve Ranger noted earlier this week
, the shift to Windows 10 is following that familiar pattern, with the current corporate standard OS, Windows 7, hanging on tenaciously.
I've been following the same transition, and my view of how it's playing out differs a bit from Steve's. Part of the difference of opinion is just a matter of interpretation, of course, but a larger part comes from the data itself.
His analysis was based on numbers from Net Applications (aka NetMarketShare). I find that data source extremely problematic.
I first wrote about the problems with this data three years ago (see Net Market Share vs. StatCounter: Whose online measurements can you trust?
). A fresh look at current data reveals that those problems still exist.
For this post, I've assembled the latest usage figures from NetMarketShare and from two other highly regarded sources that release similar data. The first is StatCounter Global Stats. The second is the US government's Digital Analytics program, which I've written about previously (November 2015
, February 2016
, and June 2016
The following series of tables offer a summary of Windows usage worldwide over the second half of 2016. (Note that for the sake of apples-to-apples comparisons, I have normalized the StatCounter numbers so that they represent the same population of Windows PCs as the other two data sources.)
Three data sources, three very different views of the Windows installed base.
A few obvious conclusions leap off the chart.
First, Windows 7 and Windows 10 completely dominate PC usage, accounting collectively for 72.7 percent to 88.9 percent of visits from the installed base. That's a pretty wide range, though, which I'll get into in a moment.
Second, about half of the installed base continues to use Windows 7, with all three data sources pegging the number within a couple points of 50 percent.
Windows 8.x usage is steadily shrinking, and all three sources agree that only the most determined of dead-enders (roughly 1 percent) still use Windows Vista, whose end-of-support date is less than 90 days away
Finally, Windows 10 usage has increased since the one-year free upgrade offer ended in July 2016. Converted to an annualized rate, Windows 10 usage grew by somewhere between 8 percent and 12.5 percent per year. Again, that's a pretty big spread.
Where the three sources diverge most dramatically is in their measurement of how many people are still using Windows XP, which has been unsupported for nearly three years. NetMarket Share says a staggering 9.1 percent of its visitors use XP, while DAP shows XP usage down near Vista levels, under 2 percent.
So, who do you believe? Start by looking carefully at where the data comes from...