More than 3.5 years after launch, Windows 10 has finally pulled ahead of Windows 7 in terms of overall popularity. It’s been something of a process for Microsoft to get here. While Windows 10 has been vastly more popular than Windows 8 and 8.1, the long tail now associated with the PC market and the slower pace of user upgrades have stretched out the amount of time it’s taken for end-users to shift from one OS to the other.
This data comes from Net Market Share, which shows the two operating systems’ finally crossing over in December, with 39.22 percent market share for Windows 10 and 36.9 percent for Windows 7. At the beginning of the year, market share sat at 34.29 and 42.39 percent for Windows 10 and Windows 7, respectively. (We aren’t displaying every tracked OS, so the totals do not add to 100 percent).
It’s always interesting to compare the adoption rate on the Steam Hardware Survey against the adoption rate of the OS in the general population. Steam shows Windows 10 with 63.79 percent of the market, up 2.55 percent from the prior month. Windows 7 64-bit is said to have dropped 3.53 percent, with other OS’s adjusting upwards and downwards slightly. Some of this may be an ongoing correction since it isn’t clear why Windows 7 (32-bit) would see positive adoption figures this late in its life cycle, but the size of the gap between consumer and gamer adoption of Windows 10 shows that the two markets are on very different trajectories. Gamers, who still tend to upgrade more frequently than ordinary users, have adopted the newer operating system in much larger numbers.
It would be interesting to know more about what drove those adoptions. It’s possible that games were more likely to adopt based on upgrade frequency or more likely to be exposed to Microsoft’s repeated update offers. Windows 10 usage among both groups has continued to rise steadily even after the official end of Microsoft’s free update period, but gamer adoption has remained well ahead of overall market penetration.
Windows 7 usage will likely drop throughout the coming year as the OS moves towards being phased out. Extended support and security patches end just over a year from now. Businesses and enterprises will have the option to pay for Extended Security Updates, but OS security updates for Windows 7 will cease for everyone else on January 14, 2020. Windows 8.1 users have a little longer, until 2023. After that, Windows 10 will be the only supported operating system Microsoft manufacturers — assuming, of course, that the company doesn’t change its mind and release a Windows 11 at some point between now and then.