18 months late, Microsoft finally puts Windows 10 over the 1 billion mark

18 months late, Microsoft finally puts Windows 10 over the 1 billion mark

It took Windows 7's retirement to put Windows 10 on 1 billion devices

Credit: Dreamstime

Microsoft has claimed that Windows 10 has powered a billion devices, a milestone the company originally said it would meet between one and a half and two and a half years ago.

"Over one billion people have chosen Windows 10 across 200 countries resulting in more than one billion active Windows 10 devices," asserted Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president, in a March 16 post to a company blog.

The bulk of those devices were undoubtedly desktop and notebook PCs, although Microsoft also tallied Xbox game consoles, which run a version of Windows 10, as well as extremely niche devices, like the Surface Hub.

Microsoft set the billion-or-bust objective months before it launched Windows 10. In April 2015, the Redmond firm's chief operating system executive, Terry Myerson, said, "Our goal is that within two to three years of Windows 10's release there will be one billion devices running Windows 10."

Windows 10 was released at the end of July 2015, so Myerson's two-year mark would have been July 2017 (32 months ago) and his three-year target, July 2018 (20 months ago).

At the time, analysts said Microsoft's ambitious goal was actually conservative or if not that, then certainly reachable. Yet less than a year after Windows 10's debut, Microsoft had disowned the billion-device target.

"Due to the focusing of our phone hardware business, it will take longer than [end of fiscal year 2018] for us to reach our goal of 1 billion monthly active devices," a company spokesperson said.

The "focusing" the spokesperson mentioned was a reference to the disastrous path Microsoft forged for its mobile business. Less than two years after announcing the acquisition of Nokia's phone assets — and just weeks before launching Windows 10 — Microsoft admitted the move was a catastrophe when it wrote off $7.6 billion.

The resulting collapse of Microsoft's smartphone strategy, along with a cratering of consumer PC sales — all that kept that business afloat were commercial sales as businesses prepped for Windows 10 — put the billion out of reach.

It wasn't the first time that Microsoft's number crunching led it to set boastful goals. In 2012, then-CEO Steve Ballmer seemed to say that the at-the-time impending Windows 8 would be on 500 million devices within its first year.

Although Microsoft later contended that Ballmer's comments had been miscast, he and others at Microsoft kept arguing that upgrades to Windows 8 would create a lucrative audience for app developers. In the end, Windows 8 was judged a flop, peaking at under 18 per cent of all Windows devices, a lower crest than even Windows Vista six years earlier.

Today's one billion device claim came remarkably close to a Computerworld estimate based on data from analytics vendor Net Applications. According to the California company's February data, Windows 10 accounted for 65.1 per cent of all versions of Windows.

Microsoft has long touted the number 1.5 billion as the installed base of Windows PCs. The 65.1 per cent of 1.5 billion for February represented approximately 976 million desktop and notebook personal computers, just a baker's-dozen-plus-one millions shy of Microsoft's magic number.

Windows 10 has only open seas in front of it. With Windows 7 now retired from support and Windows 8/8.1 already under a five per cent share, it won't be long before 10 is the last Windows standing.

It was no coincidence, of course, that Windows 10 reached the billion benchmark after the veteran Windows 7 had been pushed aside. One could conclude, then, that Microsoft might only have made its time-sensitive goal if it had moved up Windows 7's retirement two years.

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