Windows 10 after three years: A greatly improved report card

As Windows 10 approaches its third birthday, it’s maturing steadily. A worldwide installed base of more than 700 million active users is impressive, but what will it take to convince Windows 7 users to switch?

Microsoft released Windows 10 three years ago this month.

That three-year anniversary used to be a very big deal for Microsoft’s OEM partners and for its corporate customers running Windows, because it signaled the expected arrival of a new Windows version.

With Windows 10, that calendar is no longer relevant. Instead of a “big bang” release every three years, Microsoft has been trickling out new features for its flagship desktop operating system, releasing a total of five feature updates in the past three years.

The most recent release, the April 2018 Update, might not seem like that big of an upgrade compared to the version that came out a mere six months earlier. But compare it to the original Windows 10 release from July 2015 and the contrast is striking.

The Windows 10 you see today is the equivalent of one of those big-bang releases, and perhaps even more impressive because Microsoft’s customers have been able to provide real-time feedback as new features have evolved in the intervening three years.

The mid-2018 Windows 10 user experience, for example, would be familiar to anyone who just woke up after a three-year nap, but a closer look would reveal countless usability improvements.

The transition from the old Control Panel to the new, modern Settings app has been impressive, especially if you factor in the graphic changes that come with Fluent Design.

Microsoft’s designers have been tweaking and tuning the Notifications pane steadily, with the biggest change coming in the way that potentially annoying notifications are grouped for the sake of efficient management. When you add in the integration with Cortana and the ability to link a mobile phone to Windows 10, the experience is surprisingly useful.

And then there’s a completely new feature like Timeline, which was supposed to debut in 2017 but was delayed until this year. It’s a downright transformative use of the old Windows key + Tab shortcut.

I issued report cards for Windows 10 after its first and second years. As we approach the three-year mark, it’s time to do it again. My 2018 report card uses the same categories (with one noteworthy exception) as in the previous two years.

Adoption rate: B

The Windows 10 installed base is growing at a rate of roughly 200 million new active users per year. At that pace, the number of worldwide devices running Windows 10 will hit the 1 billion mark sometime around New Year’s Day 2020.

That’s an impressive number on its own, but maybe too little, too late. Because there’s another major milestone that will arrive just a few weeks later: the end of support for Windows 7, on January 14, 2020. With that deadline only 18 months away, Microsoft’s enterprise customers appear to be in no hurry to make the switch from 7 to 10.

Usage data from the United States Data Analytics Program offers a good measure of how that migration has been going so far. As of June 30, 2018, Windows 7 still accounts for nearly 40 percent of visits to U.S. government websites from Windows PCs.

Source: U.S. Data Analytics Program


Microsoft insists it won’t extend the support deadline for Windows 7, as it did with Windows XP. But if the bulk of its business customers refuse to budge by the end of next year, this could turn into a very dangerous game of chicken.


Source: ZDNet by Ed Bott