On Microsoft’s earnings call for the first quarter of its 2019 financial year, CEO Satya Nadella said that “more than half of the commercial device installed base is on Windows 10.”
A Microsoft spokesperson “clarified” this to say, “based on Microsoft’s data, we can see that there are now more devices in the enterprise running Windows 10 than any other previous version of Windows.” That description offers a little more wriggle room; Windows 10 might only have a plurality share of enterprise systems rather than the majority share Nadella claimed. But either way, a substantial number of machines in the enterprise are currently running Windows 10.
Equally, however, it means that there’s a substantial number of machines not running Windows 10. Those systems are likely to be running Windows 7. Windows 7 is due to drop out of support in January 2020. Beyond that date, Windows 7 users will either have to pay for up to three years of patches or switch to Microsoft-hosted virtual machines, which will receive the three additional years of patching at no cost.
This leaves just 14 months for most businesses to migrate away from Windows 7. The last “big” migration in the corporate world was from Windows XP to Windows 7 in the run-up to Windows XP’s end of life in April 2014. At a comparable stage in that transition, Windows 7 had 45 percent of the installed base, to 38 percent for Windows XP. Those proportions aren’t too far off current estimates for the Windows 10/Windows 7 mix: StatCounter puts things at about 48 percent for Windows 10 to 39 percent for Windows 7.
This similarity is a little alarming. Come the end of Windows XP’s life, it still held about 28 percent of the market, with 60 percent on Windows 7 or better. If Windows 7 follows a similar trajectory, there will apparently be a vast number of systems no longer eligible for free security patches.