Making sense of the new Windows 10 stats

Is Windows 10 adoption slowing down or speeding up? It depends where you check.

It's that time again, the monthly stats are out and everyone is trying to make heads or tails of Windows 10's growth trajectory based on some of the popular usage counters.

Three separate vendors are in agreement that Windows 10 adoption is slowing down, a trend that has been going on for a few months. Although there was a nice spike in January as Christmas PCs came online, things are slowing down across the board despite Microsoft now pushing out Windows 10 through Windows Update.

Net Applications reports Windows 10 is now on 14.2% of the PC market, a 1.1 percentage point increase from January. StatCounter saw similar figures, putting Windows 10 at 14.9%, up 1.2 percentage points from the January.

Finally, there's the Digital Analytics Program (DAP), a relatively new entry in the stats field. DAP collates visits to more than 4,000 websites on more than 400 different domains maintained by the U.S. government, so unlike Net Applications and StatCounter, which offer a global view, its data has a U.S.-centric slant.

DAP also gave Windows 10 a 1.2 percentage point gain but its cumulative installed base at 19.2% of all Windows PCs. The increase was half of January's gain.

Then there's Steam. Usually not covered by IT publications due to its audience, Steam gives a different picture. Steam is to PC games was iTunes is to music. It's published by Valve Software and has pretty much taken the PC sales business away from Best Buy and GameStop, delivering games right to gamers' hard drives.

So Steam can be found on gamer PCs across the country and they are embracing Windows 10 a lot faster. The results for February put Windows 10 at 34% percent share, virtually tied with 64-bit Windows 7 at 34.2%. When you add in another 7.8% for 32-bit Windows 7, it keeps its lead by a decent margin. Windows 8.1 is down at 13.2% and XP is virtually extinct with 2.3% share.

It's something of an apples-to-oranges comparison and a frustrating one. Net Applications, StatCounter and DAP all measure use, whether in the U.S. or worldwide. But Steam tells you the installed OS. It's just that it's home PCs, not work PCs (I'd hope).

One interesting takeaway from Net Applications is that over the past year, which includes the launch of Windows 10, Windows 7 has lost just three percentage points of share. It had 55% in February 2015 and has 52% now. Windows 10's gains have come at the expense of Windows XP – which fell from 19% to 11.2% in the space of a year – and a section called "Other," which is presumably Linux since Mac OS has its own category. The Other category fell five percentage points, one-third of its total, from 15% in 2015 to 10% in 2016.

Interestingly, Windows 8.1 hardly gave up anything. It had 10.0% in February 2015 and 9.8% one year later, which would seem to indicate people came to accept the OS and are sticking with it.

The slowdown shouldn't set off alarm bells. This is a slow time of year for PC purchasing anyway. IT interest in Windows 10 is incredibly high and large-scale rollouts are expected to begin this year. IT has embraced Windows 10 a lot faster than its predecessors, so I expect in the coming months to see those numbers, especially from DAP, to increase considerably.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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