More than 800 million devices are now running Windows 10. This milestone wasn’t announced with a fanfare but was included on Microsoft’s “By the Numbers” site, a link that was then tweeted by Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s Corporate VP for Modern Life and Devices.
When Windows was launched in July 2015 Microsoft made the extravagant claim that it would be running on a billion devices within 3 years. It made a reasonable start and Medhi, whose title then was Corporate Vice President of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group, was able to announce Windows 10 On 300 Million Devices in May 2016. The fact that Windows 10 was a free upgrade to users of earlier versions of Windows for the first year probably helped its initial uptake.
However as early as July 2015 Microsoft conceded that it had to extend the timetable for the 1 Billion target saying:
due to the focusing of our phone hardware business, it will take longer than FY18 for us to reach our goal of 1 billion monthly active devices.
Originally a large proportion of Windows 10 usage was expected to come from mobile – specifically phones. But no one, including Microsoft, was interested in a Windows 10 phone and the project was phased out.
Despite no longer being a free upgrade Window 10 adoption continued so that it ranks as the fastest-growing version of Windows. It reached 500 million users by the time of its 2017 Build conference in May, increasing that to 600 million six months later in November 2107 and in August 2018,after being on the market for 3 years, hit the 700 million mark.
Windows 10 now claims to be on more than 800 million devices according to this graphic – which doesn’t give any breakdown of device type:
Assuming this pace of adoption continues – an additional 100 million devices every six months – then the one billion target should be about a year away. The growth rate might actually accelerate due to Windows 7’s impending end of support in January 2020 which will make Windows 10 a more attractive option.
Why are we so concerned about this 1 Billion target. Its because having a large potential market was intended to motivate developers to develop UWP applications that could run on Windows 10 dwevices – desktops, tablets, phones, and Xboxes. And for developers phone and tablets were the low-hanging fruit – if you had an Android or iOS app, here was another opportunity.
While UWP still has theoretical benefits, Win32 is very entrenched among Windows developers, as is the .NET platform. Without a significant mobile market, the advantages of switching to UWP are fairly minimal. It would be more informative if the 800 million was broken down into desktop and other devices. Then we could see if the upheaval of UWP was worth anything at all.
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