Windows 10 had a promising start. The Insider Preview, a novel beta-testing program for Windows 10, unleashed an almost overwhelming enthusiasm for Microsoft’s new operating system. And the free upgrade helped to spread Windows 10 far and wide in record time.
On July 28, 2015, a day before the official Windows 10 release, Terry Myerson (Executive Vice President, Windows and Device Group) reported Microsoft’s ultimate vision:
Our vision was one platform, one store, and one experience that extends across the broadest range of devices from the smallest screens to the largest screens to no screens at all.
With the hype surrounding Windows 10, it was going to be a matter of time before it took over the operating system (OS) market. Myerson himself announced that Windows 10 would be running on one billion devices by its second or third year.
Yet, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Users accused Microsoft of executing unethical marketing tactics for Windows 10. Microsoft was sued by a small California business after their PCs upgraded without user consent and US attorney generals are pursuing further cases against Microsoft. Users have called Microsoft’s marketing tactics everything from strong-arm to malware-like.
With the one year anniversary coming up and the free upgrade coming to an end, we were wondering: What has Microsoft done to achieve its audacious goal and what’s the result?
Windows 10 at Present
Windows 10 is a record breaker in everything from customer satisfaction to OS adoption. As it stands, Windows 10 is active on over 350 million devices and has a 19.14% total desktop market share (according to NetMarketShare).
This makes Windows 10 the second most popular desktop OS ever, within its first year. Perhaps more impressive is its reception by gamers. 42.94% of all Steam users are running Windows 10 64-bit.
Microsoft continues to have big plans for Windows 10. The Anniversary Update, due on August 2, will bring more new features to Windows users, ranging from the new note-taking application Microsoft Ink to a complete security overhaul of the Windows Defender anti-virus software, newly named Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection.
Free upgrades to Windows 10 will end as of July 29. After the free upgrade ends, reminders to upgrade are expected to teeter off. This means these days are something of a last effort to convert Windows users to the last ever version of Windows.
What has led to this success? Some may attribute the numbers to the outstanding quality of the OS. Others attribute it to the marketing tactics carried out by Microsoft. This is a list of their methods.
1. Free Windows 10 Upgrade
Perhaps the greatest marketing method on Microsoft’s behalf is the free upgrade to Windows 10. Suddenly, millions of otherwise outdated PCs could catch up to the present with Windows 10. In fact, declined PC sales worldwide have been attributed to the growing adoption of Windows 10 for older PCs.
Upgrades to Windows 10 may decline shortly after the upgrade is no longer free. It may also incentivize users to buy new computers with Windows 10 already installed. Yet, it’s difficult to ignore that free upgrades were a double-edged sword. If you didn’t install Windows 10 out of the gate, chances are you have seen the upgrade notifications.
This may have even happened to you.
Unintentional updates are the main issue with Windows 10, and they’re a byproduct of two features: free upgrades, and “recommended” updates.
2. Jump From Optional to Recommended Updates
On October 25, 2015 Myerson reported a shift in the Windows 10 upgrade method. Windows upgrades would consider Windows 10 as a recommended update rather than an optional one. Optional updates can be manually selected for installation, while recommended updates are automatically installed, if the default setting to do so remains enabled.
Depending upon your Windows Update settings, this may cause the upgrade process to automatically initiate on your device. Before the upgrade changes the OS of your device, you will be clearly prompted to choose whether or not to continue.
Windows Updates are routinely installed by users without a second thought, so this shift became a big deal. Unaware Windows users complained that Microsoft was installing Windows 10 without explicit permission.
3. Upgrade via Secretive Updates
Microsoft has executed several updates for the sole purpose of spreading Windows 10. One such update occurred for Internet Explorer 11 (MS16-023). Although Microsoft considers MS16-023 a security update, non-security updates are packaged alongside the main download. One particular non-security update titled KB 3146449 is described as follows:
This update adds functionality to Internet Explorer 11 on some computers that lets users learn about Windows 10 or start an upgrade to Windows 10.
This non-security update intentionally adds banners to Internet Explorer, reminding users they can upgrade to Windows 10. Yet, another secret update downloaded the Windows 10 installer file — clocking in at up to 6 GBs — directly onto Windows PCs. When asked why Windows Updates were downloading the Windows 10 installer without consent, a Microsoft spokeman responded:
For those who have chosen to receive automatic updates through Windows Update, we help customers prepare their devices for Windows 10 by downloading the files necessary for future installation.
Remember, this is only the installer file. A complete installation of Windows 10 accidentally cost one user, an anti-poaching pilot and accidental IT consultant, a total of 17 GBs of data while working with a limited bandwidth connection in the remote Central African Bush. Although it’s understandable that Microsoft would want to ease the upgrade process, users with metered connection have suffered from secretive updates and official upgrades alike.
4. Malware-Like Upgrade Reminders
Users have reported malware-like popups asking to install Windows 10 onto their PCs. The first instances of these upgrade reminders were reported as early as December 2015.
On a Windows 8.1 PC. Mostly full screen pop-up. No clear "No thanks" button, just download Windows 10 now or later. pic.twitter.com/RRoaFMST9r
— Brad Chacos (@BradChacos) December 11, 2015
Some would consider these popups textbook examples of dark patterns. Dark Patterns are elements in certain websites and computer windows, which entice the user into downloading programs or clicking ads. Microsoft has since revamped the look of the Windows 10 update window, but the focus to upgrade still remains.
Closing the particular window below would also upgrade your PC automatically at the chosen date and time rather than cancel the update altogether.
Newer upgrade windows don’t schedule the upgrade, but provide a full-screen popup which reminds you to install Windows 10 before the free upgrade ends.
Microsoft has acknowledged the complaints with some of these popups and has informed the BBC that they are making changes to the existing upgrade windows. Microsoft has since released other updates, which allow users to cancel scheduled installations and decline the free offer.
5. Corporate Responses From Microsoft
Microsoft has not stayed silent throughout their push to Windows 10. Marketing Chief, Chris Capossela, was interviewed on the podcast Windows Weekly. In the interview, he answered a series of questions about the issues of updating to Windows 10. Regarding Microsoft’s hard push towards Windows 10, Capossela says:
For us, it’s just so incredibly important to try to end the fragmentation of the Windows install base, and so we think every machine that is capable of running Windows 10 we should be doing everything we possibly can to get people to move to Windows 10.
Capossela goes on to give his frank opinion of why Microsoft has marketed Windows 10 to users.
We are going to try to find that right balance, but we just know there’s a lot of people out there who constantly kick the can down the street without a little bit more of a, frankly, a push…We don’t want to anger anybody, but we do feel a responsibility to get people to a much better place, and Windows 10 is a much better place than Windows 7.
Capossela’s honesty speaks volumes about Microsoft’s vision for Windows 10. Microsoft’s marketing strategy is, frankly, a push towards Windows 10 for the user’s benefit. Those who opt out of Windows 10 may be doing themselves a disservice.
Let’s take Caposella’s desire to convert Windows 7 users. Although Windows 7 is the most popular desktop OS to date, its official support life-cycle ended January 13, 2015. It has since entered the extended support life-cycle, which lowers Windows 7’s update priority. In light of the looming end of support, a quick upgrade to Windows 10 makes sense.
Microsoft’s gear towards Windows 10 may be due to fear that Windows 7 will go the way of XP — a vastly popular OS that has become dated, yet is still largely used. A decrease in OS fragmentation — or variety — would allow Microsoft to focus their efforts on Windows 10, rather than distribute effort across various Windows versions.
Data at a Glance
Observing the growing reception for Windows 10 is interesting when compared to other Windows versions. Graphs from NetMarketShare show the impact Windows 10 has had on the desktop PC market. You’ll notice an inverse proportion between Windows 10’s rising popularity and previous Windows version’s declining popularity.
This is also the case with StatCounter, another statistical measuring website that tracks online page views across more than 3 million websites globally.
These graphs differ in percentage from point to point, but both show the same general trend. They also show two distinct time periods where Windows 10 percentage increases relatively sharply, while other Windows versions decline. These are the differences in percentage points per month for NetMarketShare:
These are StatCounter’s data points taken from the same time period:
Both graphs show the greatest increases in Windows 10 adoption, beside its release, are December/January and May/June. These two time periods correspond with the two largest marketing methods executed by Microsoft: the shift from optional to recommended updates (early 2016) and the announcement that free upgrades would end soon (early May 2016). Although this correlation does not imply causation, the general trend towards Windows 10 and away from other Windows versions, especially Windows 7, is clear.
This is made even clearer when we note — from June 2015 to July 2016 — Windows 7’s market share dropped 11.68 percentage points (60.73 – 49.05), Windows XP’s dropped 1.94 percentage points (11.72 – 9.78), and Windows 8.1’s dropped 5.1 percentage points (13.11 – 8.01) for a total market loss of 18.72%.
In turn, Windows 10 gained a total of 18.75 percentage points over the same time period (0.39 – 19.14) mirroring the percentage loss of previous Windows versions almost exactly.
Too Much Is Not Enough
Conservative estimates have long forecast disappointment. Even with the aggressive marketing tactics and free upgrades, Windows 10 was only running on around 350 million devices, according to Microsoft.
Yet, there’s no doubt Windows 10 will continue to dominate the market. With the feature packed Anniversary Update, a continuing focus towards Windows 10 updates, a strong reception with gamers, a growing hardware monopoly, and a new subscription offer for businesses, Windows 10 will slowly, but surely usurps the Windows 7 market share.
In the end, what matters isn’t when Windows 10 will hit an arbitrary number, but whether it will be economically sustainable. This is going to be tough if users continue to have issues with the platform or distrust Windows 10.
What do you think of Microsoft’s Windows 10 promotion strategy? Did it convince you to upgrade? What has been your experience? Please let us know in the comments!