Windows 10 has 825M users, but over 700M still haven't moved over

Microsoft is still short of the lofty goal of "one billion devices," but the clock is ticking for holdouts running Windows 7.

Windows 10 May 2019 Update: Everything you need to know Changes are coming to Windows 10 with the release of version 1903 that affect everyday users and IT decision makers. Here's what you need to know.

Adoption of Windows 10 among consumers and businesses is still lagging behind expectations, as installation has only now exceeded 825 million active devices, according to figures seen by Microsoft watcher Paul Thurott. At Microsoft's Build 2015 conference, Terry Myerson—then-head of Windows—declared that Windows 10 would be installed on 1 billion devices within two to three years, a timeframe that was walked back just over a year later following the death of Windows 10 Mobile.

Despite literally giving away Windows 10 to users of Windows 7 and 8, cultivating enthusiasm for Windows 10 has been a significant challenge for Microsoft. Despite the quickly-approaching end of extended support for Windows 7—on January 14, 2020—only 75% of professional PCs will be running Windows 10 by 2021, according to a Gartner market forecast published in April.

SEE: Microsoft Build 2019: The biggest takeaways (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

NetMarketShare counts Windows 10 users as 44.10% of the desktop and laptop market, with Windows 7 at 36.43%, and Windows 8.1 at 4.22%. Combining the two percentages, it is possible to conclude that approximately 760 million Windows users who would have been eligible for a free upgrade have not taken that option. (This is a slightly hasty estimate, and extenuating circumstances do apply.)

The Gartner market forecast indicates that sales of new PCs are unlikely to buoy Windows 10 installations, as the firm estimates shipments will decrease by 2.5 million (0.6%) in 2019, as consumers are retiring PCs without purchasing replacements. The PC market has been in a relative standstill since 2011, a situation further complicated by shortages of low-power Intel CPUs.

Why is Windows 10 not more broadly adopted?

Initial reception of Windows 10 was not overwhelmingly positive, and Microsoft's track record for privacy has been less than stellar. While nobody is likely to overtake Facebook's storied history of making bad decisions followed by apology tours, Microsoft's campaign criticizing Google for scanning email contents for advertising now ring hollow, as Windows 10 telemetry sends usage details to Microsoft. Two years after the release of Windows 10, Microsoft released a tool that shows what information is actually being sent.

Updates to Windows 10 have been roundly criticized for poor testing and quality assurance, leading to system-breaking updates, and uneven performance.

What are the alternatives to Windows 10?

Typically, consumers abandoning Windows move to Mac OS, though the high price of Apple hardware can deter potential adopters. Proponents of Linux have been championing "The Year of the Linux Desktop" for decades, and while it may seem cliché, the recent release of Fedora 30 represents the culmination of significant efforts to make Linux more accessible to non-technical users, without getting in the way of IT professionals. Likewise, for enterprise workstation deployment, RHEL 8 is a solid, enterprise-supported alternative to Windows.

As most programs have moved to a web-based, Software as a Service delivery model, most end users can get by with a Chromebook. Other form factors, like an all-in-one Chromebase, also exist.

For more, learn about the top ten Windows 10 May 2019 Update features, and check out TechRepublic's cheat sheet for Windows 10.

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Image: Matt Elliott/CNET

By James Sanders

James Sanders is a technology writer for TechRepublic. He covers future technology, including quantum computing, AI, and 5G, as well as cloud, security, open source, mobility, and the impact of globalization on the industry, with a focus on Asia.