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Windows 11 adoption disappoints, but that’s only natural

Windows 11 adoption disappoints, but that’s only natural

Windows 11 is currently running on 400 million actively used PCs worldwide. In that respect, the latest version of Windows is doing a lot worse than Windows 10.

With Windows, the unwritten rule is that a popular version of the operating system is always succeeded by a less popular one. After Windows XP came Vista, after Windows 7 came Windows 8 and after Windows 10 we’re now at Windows 11, which is installed on more than 23 percent of Windows machines in the market two years after its introduction, according to figures from Statcounter. The rate of growth has also appeared to have tailed off since April of this year. In other words: the OS seems to have reached its ceiling.

According to internal Microsoft documents seen by Windows Central, Windows 11 currently stands at over 400 million active devices. That puts adoption well behind that of Windows 10. That version was already at this level of adoption after just over a year. Windows 10 is currently installed on more than 71 percent of the machines in the market.

Slow adoption of Windows 11 is no surprise

In itself, the above figures aren’t hugely surprising. Windows 10 was a major update and upgrade from Windows 7, which at the time many people and organizations were still running. Versions 8 and 8.1 of Windows never really lived up to the hype and were a practice range of sorts for Windows 10. Windows 10, according to Microsoft, was the last version you’d ever install. That’s what the company promised during the version’s launch. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Windows 11 appeared anyway.

Incidentally, Microsoft itself did not have tremendously high expectations for the new OS either, according to communications accessed by Windows Central. It had already set a low bar internally. Indeed, the 400 million installs is even above its own expectations.

Windows 11 doesn’t add too much new to the operating system, compared to Windows 10. They are mostly cosmetic tweaks. One of the most prominent changes is that the taskbar has moved closer to the center of the screen. There are of course several other annoying additions, such as a weather app on the desktop that most people probably turn off very quickly.

Besides offering little innovation, the hardware requirements with Windows 11 also caused some restrictions. PCs that have CPUs of a somewhat older vintage aren’t eligible for an update. In general, these are CPUs older than the 8th generation Intel Core and AMD Ryzen 2000. From models succeeding those onwards, the RAM requirements and the condition that the PC can enable TPM are also usually met.

How many PCs are unfit?

It’s difficult to say how many PCs were ineligible for the upgrade worldwide. From a business perspective, though, Lansweeper’s Windows 11 Readiness Audit offers an interesting insight. Of the 33 million Windows PCs that Lansweeper runs on, a rather low 67 percent have a CPU that falls within the system requirements for Windows 11. This audit is from last month. It’s positive, at least, that it’s up 10 percent compared to last September. Still, 1/3 of all PCs are still not Windows 11 capable.

Updating from Windows 10 to 11 doesn’t offer that much added value for business users anyway. Especially when an organisation has everything set up with Windows 10 and it’s running well, many IT departments will choose not to roll out large-scale updates at least until 2025, we expect. Why update something that doesn’t need to be updated? It’ll only become an issue when security updates stop in October 2025. As Ars Technica rightly points out, given the popularity of Windows 10, it remains to be seen whether Microsoft will actually stick to this date anyway. It didn’t follow through on its initial EOL roadmaps for Windows XP and Windows 7 either.

Incidentally, despite the system requirements issues, it is worth noting that Windows 11 seems to be more popular than Windows Vista and Windows 8 were. With the more than 23 percent that Windows 11 now sits at at Statcounter, it has already almost reached the score of those other two versions after three years (25 percent), except it has done so after two years. Mind you, there has been no meaningful growth to speak of for six months now, so Windows 11 may well be stuck around 25 percent as well.

Waiting for the next version

We actually don’t expect Windows 11 to become much more popular in its current form. Not just because of the stagnant growth in statistics, but mainly because of the arrival of the next major release. Whether it is going to be called Windows 12 or launched as a major update to Windows 11, this seems to be a rather fundamental update. We have published the necessary articles about this recently. Intel, for example, seems to be anticipating a solid rebound in the PC market with the arrival of the new version of Windows. PC manufacturers also seem to share this view. We heard the same from HP recently, when we attended HP Imagine 2023. Mind you, both Intel and the PC manufacturers are not exactly impartial in this discussion, to put it mildly.

The cause for optimism among both Intel and PC manufacturers is fairly predictable in 2023. It is, of course, AI. After all, the AI PC has to go all the way. Windows 12 will capitalize firmly on this as well. With Windows 11, Microsoft added whatever necessary AI capabilities it needed after the fact, but Windows 12 will aim to integrate AI from the ground up, is the idea. It appears companies are betting on Windows 12 to revitalize the PC market. If that is the case, the adoption of Windows 12 could also be rapid. That will mean updates from Windows 10, but also Windows 11. Whereas Windows 11 didn’t provide users with a reason to buy a new PC that did meet the system requirements, Windows 12 will have to be.

Right now, as far as we are concerned, there is still too much unclear about what an AI PC actually is. From what we’ve heard and read so far, we’re not really getting a firm answer. But, of course, that could still change. In any case, the role of Windows 11 seems to have been played out, if it even played a substantial role at all.

Also read: Windows 11 23H2 separates system apps from components