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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.

windows_10_upgrade_screen

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?

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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).

netmarketshare_windows_10

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.

steam_hardware_stats

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 Try Windows Ink on Windows 10, Run Android Apps on Your Chromebook... [Tech News Digest] Try Windows Ink on Windows 10, Run Android Apps on Your Chromebook... [Tech News Digest] Windows Ink lands on Windows 10, Google teases Android apps for Chrome OS, even Steve Wozniak thinks Apple should pay more tax, Spotify finds your Game of Thrones match, and follow the Olympic Torch on... Read More to a complete security overhaul of the Windows Defender anti-virus software, newly named Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection.

Free upgrades to Windows 10 Act NOW to Keep Your Windows 10 Upgrade Free After July 29 Act NOW to Keep Your Windows 10 Upgrade Free After July 29 Microsoft has confirmed that the free Windows 10 upgrade will expire. After July 29, a Windows 10 license will cost $119. We show you how to become eligible to install Windows 10 for free, even... Read More 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 Windows 10 Is the Last Version of Windows. Ever. Windows 10 Is the Last Version of Windows. Ever. Microsoft is sick of you not upgrading, and has a solution: Windows 10 will be the final "version" of Windows. Ever. This could mean that you will never again have to buy Windows. Read More .

Marketing Methods

What has led to this success? Some may attribute the numbers to the outstanding quality of the OS 10 Compelling Reasons to Upgrade to Windows 10 10 Compelling Reasons to Upgrade to Windows 10 Windows 10 is coming on July 29. Is it worth upgrading for free? If you are looking forward to Cortana, state of the art gaming, or better support for hybrid devices - yes, definitely! And... Read More . 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 Microsoft Strikes Again - How to NOT Upgrade to Windows 10 Microsoft Strikes Again - How to NOT Upgrade to Windows 10 Windows 10 is now a recommended update on Windows 7 and 8.1 computers. If you're not yet ready to upgrade, it's time to double-check your Windows Update settings. We show you how. Read More 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.

optional_updates_windows_7

Myerson warns:

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.

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.

windows_10_update_window

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.

windows_10_full_screen

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 Why to Upgrade Windows at the End of Extended Support Why to Upgrade Windows at the End of Extended Support Eventually, support for every Windows version expires, leaving PCs full of holes, entry points for malware, and opportunities for hackers. Windows 8 recently reached end of support status - we show you why and how... Read More , a quick upgrade to Windows 10 makes sense.

windows_support_timeline

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.

netmarketshare

This is also the case with StatCounter, another statistical measuring website that tracks online page views across more than 3 million websites globally.

statcounter

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:

netmarketshare_difference

These are StatCounter’s data points taken from the same time period:

statcounter_difference1

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.

netmarketshare_drop

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

Microsoft recently admitted that it’s unlikely to achieve its audacious goal of Windows 10 running on one billion devices within the next two years and blamed Windows 10 Mobile.

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 Why Windows 7 Won't Work On Intel's Current & Next Gen CPUs Why Windows 7 Won't Work On Intel's Current & Next Gen CPUs Microsoft doesn't want you to use old Windows versions on new hardware. Users on Intel Skylake processors won't receive updates for Windows 7 after July 2017. And next generation processors will be Windows 10 only. Read More , 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 5 Unintended Consequences of Windows 10 Upgradegate 5 Unintended Consequences of Windows 10 Upgradegate Microsoft is ruining everything with Windows 10. The upgrade disaster has unintended consequences for Microsoft and its customers. We talk about how Microsoft's tactics violate user trust and decreases security, among other issues. Read More .

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!

  1. ashley
    October 1, 2016 at 10:51 pm

    I talked with an actual person from microsoft to fix this problem all you have to do is go to settings then scroll down to updates & security then go to updates.. download and install updates and restart your computer and let the updates finnish and it works again.. easy fix with none of this other crap.?

  2. John
    September 4, 2016 at 11:47 am

    They gave Windows 10 away for free, and deliberately made it the only Windows OS that support DX12 for gamers (hence the high Steam percentage). And even after all this, a year it still has less then 20% marked penetration. How this can be called a success in any shape of form I do not understand. The only thing Microsoft excel at currently, is alienating their user base.

  3. Patrick Kelley
    July 21, 2016 at 1:59 am

    I was blocked from Microsoft as an insider because I blasted Microsoft over the windows 10 VIRUS that has taken over our computers and that will not let us update windows 7 pro. I suggested that we all form a class action lawsuit against Microsoft for these tactics which should be illegal and they blocked my comments and actually removed all the responses and correspondence from MY Hotmail/Outlook account. I was receiving thousands of responses and they deleted them from my personal email account. They are above the law!!!! They removed MY EMAILS!!!!!!!!!!!!.
    They want us to pay a yearly fee for the operating system as they now do with their greed with Office and Word. Our government is letting us down by not going after Microsoft.
    patkelleyvail2@hotmail.com

  4. Grover
    July 20, 2016 at 11:37 pm

    In spite of the hype and dirty tactics and the fact that it is free, still only 20% of users have upgraded. Basically, they've completely captivated the idiot market!

  5. Jill
    July 20, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    I got a message that the free download of Windows 10 expires June 29. Then what? They really charge you? I've heard such horror stories of 10 that I really don't want to install it, but they're making it virtually impossible to say no?

    • Christian Bonilla
      July 21, 2016 at 6:28 pm

      There's no doubt upgrade popups and Win10 software downloads through security updates will cease considerably after July 29th. The monthly charge is aimed mostly towards businesses, so you shouldn't be charged in any capacity unless you enroll in the program.

      Upgrading to Windows 10 is a radical shift. Some would call it a positive change, but you should upgrade at your own discretion. There are plenty of resources available online to help prevent an accidental upgrade (http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/get-rid-windows-10-upgrade-notification-windows-7-8/). If you don't want to upgrade, don't let up!

  6. Stephanie
    July 19, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    I've yet to find anyone who has had Win10 forced on them actually say they like it. Perhaps the fact that it was FORCED on them is part of the reason. But as someone who works in IT, I have to agree. I don't like the look, everything I want to do takes more clicks than it did in Win 7 or 8, and almost every system that I have had to roll back for the users had driver issues in Win10, even though it has been out for almost a year!

    We all know that Microsoft's motivation is their telemetry services, which earn them tons of money from advertisers. Is it any wonder why it is so difficult to disable them?!?!

  7. Vespadot
    July 19, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    If Windows 8 had not been such an awful, awful platform, I may have more trust that Windows 10 would be a smart move. I am on Windows 7 and everything runs the way I want it to. I don't need their new features so badly that I would risk an unstable, terrible platform. I am thinking I'll give it a shot on an older, unused machine just to tinker with it but even then, my main laptop will not be upgraded.

  8. pierre
    July 19, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    so far - - have helped several Windows Users "downgrade".
    - back to where they were .. ..
    just didn't like it ..

  9. Tony
    July 19, 2016 at 11:37 am

    Everything Microsoft say is bull crap..Most of the people i know that downloaded that crap went back to what they had before and that was including me .Waste of RAM and it slowed down my lap top so much it is unusable.People that missed the deadline of 30 days to go back got their computers reformatted back to 7 or 8 or 8.1..Microsoft don't know what they are doing they keep on making mistake after mistake..........

  10. Fred B
    July 19, 2016 at 8:25 am

    Windows 10 has a terrible interface - it looks like a children's toy.

    Microsoft has trouble differentiating between what is good for Microsoft and what is good for the customer.

    The fragmentation argument is complete rubbish. Getting most users onto Windows 10 will still mean they have to provide updates to Windows 7 even if its only 1% of users.

    Getting people onto Windows 10 serves Microsoft's new business model only. The more users on this platform, the more money Microsoft can make. There is nothing noble about Microsoft's agenda in the least.

  11. fcd76218
    July 18, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    "while recommended updates are automatically installed"
    That sounds like a REQUIRED update. "Recommended" implies some semblance of choice on the part of the user. This sounds like a Vito Corleone-type of recommendation - We recommend you update or ELSE! The free upgrade to Win 10 is an offer the users literally can't refuse.

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