Windows 7 market share declines barely ahead of end-of-life

The Windows 7 market share has finally entered its terminal decline a little over nine months before Microsoft begins its end-of-life (EOL) phase in January 2020.

The proportion of Windows 7 market share fell sharply from 38.41% in February to 36.52% in March, representing the lowest figures for Microsoft's last-gen operating system since its peak, according to NetMarketShare.

With Microsoft set to phase out Windows 7 from 14 January, the sharp rise would seem to signal the migration of users away from the legacy system and towards Windows 10. Microsoft's flagship Windows 10 operating system (OS) also rose sharply between February and March, from 40.3% to 43.62%.

But these latest figures buck the trend for 2019, with Windows 7's market share actually rising steadily in the last few months from 36.9% in December to February's 38.41%. The small increase could, however, be attributed not to any new Windows 7 users, but a drop off in even older systems, leading to the overall proportion of users swelling.

Between December and March, for example, the proportion of Windows XP users fell from 4.54% to 2.29%. The user base for Windows 8.1 and Windows 8 installations also declined steadily, as did legacy macOS X 10 iterations.

When Windows 7 reaches EOL little more than nine months from now, businesses that haven't yet upgraded their systems to Windows 10 face paying additional fees for essential security updates.

Nearly ten years after it was first released, in July 2009, the legacy OS' popularity with organisations is proving difficult to shake, even today. For instance, the 'crossover' moment, where the proportion of Windows 10 installations surpassed Windows 7, only occurred towards the end of 2018.

By contrast, the migration from Windows XP to Windows 7 was much faster. Although historic data from NetMarketShare is not readily available, StatCounter figures show a massive gulf between XP and Windows 7 installations in the run-up to XPs EOL phase.

Nine months before its 8 April 2014 phase-out date, the proportion of worldwide XP market share had already been in steady decline for a couple of years, while Windows 7 market share was above 60%.

The 'crossover' period for the market share proportion of XP and Windows 7 happened during October 2011, as Statcounter records it.

The caveat, however, is that StatCounter recorded the Windows 7 to Windows 10 'crossover' as happening during January 2018 - a year before NetMarketShare.

The security risks of maintaining legacy systems like Windows 7 and Windows XP are all too apparent, with the untargeted WannaCry ransomware attack, for example, infamously crippling NHS systems in 2017.

As a result, the NHS struck a deal with Microsoft to migrate individual Trusts' systems to Windows 10. According to the agreement, NHS organisations will be able to upgrade from XP and Windows 7 free of cost so long as they opt-in before 14 January.