Introduction and consumer adoption
Five months. That's all it took for Microsoft to sell 200 million copies of Windows 10. It is easily the fastest selling operating system the company has ever released, and possibly the best. However, as several industry experts told techradar, while the number is a positive indicator of success, it's still important to understand the breakdown of those 200 million devices.
For starters, it may be too easy to see the Windows 10 launch as a raging success and push through adoption and deployment faster than necessary. The truth is, Microsoft achieved that number as a result of changing consumer habits, not fanatical business interest.
Roger Kay, a consumer analyst with Endpoint Technologies, makes a great point about the 200 million number. Consumers seem to have lost their "fear of the unknown" and are now much more likely to purchase, use, and adopt new devices and new operating systems. He says they will put up with apps not working, crashes and bugs, and even outright failures if they feel they can ultimately benefit from something new, shiny, trendy, and cool.
That's not exactly a good measuring rod for the enterprise. Interestingly, Kay says that in business, the OS should be more like the plumbing. A plethora of features and advancements are not as important as having an operating system that's stable and stays out of the way.
"Microsoft has the commercial segment to lose," says Kay. "Windows is still the main environment for the vast majority of businesses. Despite inroads, Apple hasn't made that much progress, particularly in larger organisations, which are very price sensitive. CIOs may even like Apple better personally, but will only pay for Microsoft."
The X Factor
As IDC analyst Steve Kleynhans explained to us, the biggest reason that rollout number is so high is due to the Xbox One, which accounts for at least 20 million installs. Unofficially, he said he's heard that leaves about 180 million computers that are now running Windows 10, which is still incredibly high and means that, in just five short months, Windows 10 has become the fastest selling OS ever released.
However, it's a good reminder about the story behind these numbers. Xbox One users tend to agree to updates as a way to improve the experience. (You could argue that the new Windows 10 interface on an Xbox One is more confusing than the previous version). It's also free, and has nothing to do with enterprise computing purchasing cycles.
Furthermore, it's also a reminder that, according to Kleynhans, a vast number of the installs for the remaining 180 million computers were on consumer devices, not in the enterprise.
"Enterprise-based Windows 10 rollouts haven't really started and won't really get going for another six months at least," says Kleynhans. "Companies just take a lot more time to plan and test – and cost justify – any significant project. Today we see a lot of piloting across the majority of companies, and the feedback is typically positive."
Slow enterprise launch?
It's easy to forget that the initial rollout of Windows 10 was not exactly smooth.
Kleynhans mentioned several negatives at launch – users were initially concerned about privacy and how the operating system tracks online usage patterns and can even display relative ads in games. The end-user license agreement also came under fire for being a bit too aggressive. Most of these concerns proved to be unfounded, however. The uproar died out quickly when Microsoft clarified some of the "features" and addressed privacy concerns.
Charles King, an analyst with PUND-IT, told techradar that business installs are only about 20 million units, as mentioned in a Microsoft blog post. That's mostly due to the long rollout cycles for the enterprise, which King estimates at about 12-18 months.
However, the enterprise might start moving quickly. King says that Microsoft insists there are as many as 600 million aging computers in the world that are four-years-old or more. That's a springboard already, and combined with the consumer upticks, it could boost sales even more and lead to wider enterprise adoption, especially for those older systems.
The big billion
Is Windows 10 really a hit?
Even though there is a ripe market, most of the sales of Microsoft's new OS have been in the consumer market. It begs the question for larger companies – is Windows 10 as popular as the 200 million installs seems to indicate? Kleynhans says it's important to evaluate the actual operating system, its features and UI, and plan your strategy rather than give in to the hype.
For starters, there are some features that look attractive but may be superfluous. One is Windows Hello, the authentication system that can use a fingerprint reader, your face, or your iris. The biometric technology involved already exists from vendors like HP and Lenovo.
"Only a handful of devices have shipped that enable Hello – most notably Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book but not much else," says Kleynhans. "It was a nice feature for the ads, but the market wasn't ready with the devices needed to support it. To the best of my knowledge there still isn't a consumer-friendly aftermarket option for adding Windows Hello to your PC."
The one billion target
200 million devices is an incredible number. What's even more incredible? The ultimate goal of one billion devices, a number that Microsoft has stated publically without giving a detailed timeline for when it aims to hit that major milestone. It's a given that the market has to expand well beyond the consumer sales we've seen so far and reach critical mass in business.
"It is reasonable to assume that by the end of 2018, hitting that target should be straightforward if enterprise upgrades continue and as long as the consumer PC market doesn't get too much worse," says Kleynhans. "It would be surprising but not impossible by the end of 2017. That would require a sharp jump in users taking the free upgrade – which may still happen – and companies to move at lightning speed through their testing and deployment."
"For Windows 10 to be widely accepted, it has to replace the remnant of Windows XP and all the Windows 7 that's out there," adds Kay. "I think the company has made the point that Windows Vista and Windows 8 are not real problems from an upgrade point of view. Three years sounds reasonable, although in a bad economy, people will hold onto computers longer."
The final analysis? Microsoft is on a roll with consumers, and that should make you pay attention. It should not change your rollout strategy. As usual, the numbers point to a positive trend, even if the numbers don't always tell the whole story.