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Windows drops below 90% market share for the first time in years; Windows 7 falls below 50%

Windows hit a pair of significant milestones in April, though they may not be exactly what Microsoft was hoping for. First, some good news, at least as far as Redmond is concerned: Windows 7’s market share has dipped below 50% for the first time according to the usage market share analysts at Net Applications, thanks in part to continued gains in Windows 10 adoption:

The bad news is the drop in Microsoft’s total market share. Microsoft held 89.23% of the OS market in April 2016, as Hot Hardware notes. It’s the first time in years that the company has been pushed below the 90% threshold, even if the cause is somewhat unclear. Looking at Net Applications logged data over time, the company has recorded a significant increase in “Other” market share. In January, “Other” accounted for 5.4% of the market. In April, it held 8.59%. Some of this gain is likely from previous versions of Mac OS X, which used to be broken out independently, but it’s not a net positive for Microsoft, no matter what.

Windows 10 adoption, meanwhile, continues to slow. The OS gained 1.89 percentage points of market share from December to January, 0.97 percentage points from January to February, and 1.33 percentage points from February to March. The February-March bump may have been due to changes in Microsoft’s update policies, but the effect was transient — the March-April increase was just 0.21 percentage points, the smallest on record.

It’s worth noting, as The Verge does, that Stat Counter and Net Applications present rather different public data sets. Stat Counter doesn’t weight its metrics to correct for sampling bias, and Net Applications doesn’t publicly disclose how it performs its own weighting, which makes both metrics trickier to understand. StatCounter shows a much larger decline for Windows 7 than Net Applications, but both firms show Windows 7 holding the largest single share of the total market.

Microsoft’s decision to make Windows 10 a free upgrade may have goosed its early adoption, but the company will have to come up with a new approach if it really wants to put its operating system on a billion devices over the next 2-3 years. Meanwhile, its decision to release the OS for free has been blamed for at least some of the continuing weakness in the PC sector.

If Microsoft is serious about driving adoption more quickly, it would do well to examine some of the persistent issues generating negative press about its operating system. To cite just a few, most of the major games that launched on the Windows Store this year have been in rough shape at best, and UWP titles are missing features and flexibility that PC gamers have long taken for granted. Some of these issues are set to be fixed in the upcoming Anniversary Update, but the quicker the company responds, the better.

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