The Appeal of Free: 75 Million Users Download Windows 10 in First Month


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The chief of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, center, at a Window’s 10 event in Nairobi last month.Credit Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

Free Windows is proving to be a very attractive price indeed. Seventy-five million users have downloaded Windows 10 to their personal computers and tablets in the first month of its release, Microsoft announced on Wednesday.

The Windows 10 adoption rate came as point No. 1 in a top 10 list tweeted by Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s senior vice president in charge of Windows.

Among his other Windows 10 bragging points:

  • The new operating system has been downloaded in 192 countries.
  • Ninety thousand unique PC or tablet models have upgraded to Windows 10.
  • More than 122 years of gameplay have streamed from Microsoft’s Xbox One to Windows 10 devices.
  • The Cortana intelligent assistant in Windows 10 has told more than half a million jokes in response to the prompt, “Tell me a joke.”
  • The Windows Store for Windows 10 has seen six times more application downloads per device than for the previous operating system, Windows 8.

The goal of Windows 10 for free, of course, was to try to jump-start the old Microsoft magic of building a flywheel of rising numbers of users and developers around its operating system platform. That was once so easy, but has become more difficult as user and developer interest has shifted to other platforms, namely Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.

So the early audience-building of both users and developers is crucial for Microsoft, and the early results look encouraging. It took the previous version of the operating system, Windows 8, released in October 2012, six months to reach 100 million licensees. (And license counts don’t necessarily mean users, since its big corporate licenses are bulk subscriptions, whether the software is installed or not.)

Despite the encouraging early returns, Microsoft still has the challenge of not having a real presence in the critical smartphone market, unlike Google and Apple. But the fast adoption out of the gate does show Microsoft is in step with the new economic reality of platform software for consumers. As my colleague Nick Wingfield wrote last month, “The decision to make free a product that once cost $50 to $100 is a sign that charging consumers for software is going the way of the flip phone.”

Most of the Windows 10 downloads, said Al Gillen, an analyst for IDC, are done by consumers upgrading from Windows 8. There are nearly 140 million consumers worldwide, IDC estimates, who had installed Windows 8.

“We expected a steep trajectory of adoption for Windows 10, but this is a really good first step,” Mr. Gillen said. “Microsoft needs this first proof point to attract developers, to show them there’s a market out there.”

While the 75 million users is a healthy first-month number, Mr. Mehdi said in a midday interview that the daily user-satisfaction rating is the measurement he follows most closely rather than total download volume.

“It’s the user experience that will drive adoption over time,” he said.

The daily satisfaction score, Mr. Mehdi said, is a composite of 1-to-5 ratings on online surveys, tracking the use of features like Cortana or the app store, monitoring social network comments for sentiment and aggregating customer-service inquiries.

“We’ve got good success so far,” Mr. Mehdi said, “but we have lot more work to do.”

A version of this article appears in print on 08/27/2015, on page B9 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Free Windows 10 Is Downloaded 75 Million Times .



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