Windows 10 usage continues to rise, but users say no to the Edge browser

The latest figures from multiple analytics firms show that usage of Windows 10 has doubled in the past six months, with as many as one in four Windows PCs running Microsoft's latest OS. But the default Windows 10 browser, Microsoft Edge, is struggling.

Microsoft's aggressive campaign to upgrade older PCs to Windows 10 appears to be working.

That's the inescapable conclusion from the latest data from two commercial web analytics services and the U.S. Government's open analytics program.

jason perlow

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For this story, I've gathered the latest data, covering the months of March through May 2016, from Net Applications (aka Net Market Share), StatCounter Global Stats, and the United States Government's Digital Analytics Program (DAP). For the first two, I removed non-Windows operating systems from the data set and then normalized the results so that all the comparisons show the share for each version of Windows based on a population of all Windows PCs.

Rather than rely on the oversimplified bar and pie charts that Net Market Share and StatCounter publish each month, I downloaded the raw data from all three sources and analyzed it carefully.

Remarkably, all three sources are in general agreement. Among the population of Windows-based desktop PCs, laptops, and tablets, Windows 10 usage has doubled in the past six months, with all other versions down noticeably.

The following chart shows the DAP data for November 2015 and May 2016, which measures hundreds of millions of visits per month to public websites. There's no statistical manipulation, as with the commercial analytics services. (For a discussion of what's in the DAP numbers, see the note at the end of this earlier article: "U.S. Government data shows Windows 10 usage climbing as Windows 7 share drops sharply.")

win10-usage-doubles-may-2016.jpg

Data from the U.S. Government Digital Analytics Program shows Windows 10 usage up, all other versions down.

As you can see, more than 25 percent of all Windows PCs that accessed U.S. Government websites in May were running Windows 10 (the list of websites includes NASA's popular Picture of the Day, National Weather Service forecasts, U.S. passport and immigration services, the Social Security Administration, and and the Internal Revenue Service).

The numbers from Net Applications and StatCounter show similar trends:

According to Net Applications, 9.8 percent of all Windows PCs were running Windows 10 in November 2015. That number is up to 19.4 percent in May 2016.

For StatCounter, the corresponding numbers jumped from 11.9 percent last November to 23.6 percent in May 2016.

Windows 7 usage continues to drop slowly, although all three sources have Windows 7's share at more than half of all Windows PCs in use. According to the DAP numbers, usage of Windows 7 has dropped 4 percent in the past six months and is now below 60 percent. Net Applications and StatCounter show drops of 7 and 6 percent, respectively, with Windows 7 usage measured between 54 and 57 percent worldwide.

And older versions of Windows are finally receding to low single digits, with the DAP data showing that total usage of Windows XP, Windows Vista, and older versions is now well under 5 percent.

A much more interesting story that emerged from a close analysis of the data involves Microsoft Edge, the new default browser in Windows 10. The raw numbers show Edge usage as very small, ranging from 2.5 percent (StatCounter) to 5 percent (DAP). But those numbers are misleading, because they count PCs and mobile devices on which Edge isn't available. Windows 7 users, for example, don't have the option to choose Edge, even if they want to.

Fortunately, through the magic of spreadsheets, I was able to tease out the numbers for Edge usage on Windows 10, the only platform for which it's available. Over the past three months, as Windows 10 usage has risen steadily, the percentage of traffic from Microsoft Edge has dropped slightly, as measured by all three services.

win10-users-reject-edge-may-2016.jpg

More than 70 percent of Windows 10 users use a browser other than Microsoft Edge.

Regardless of which numbers you use, it's clear that more than three out of four Windows 10 users are choosing an alternative browser, despite Microsoft's best efforts to make Edge the default in Windows 10.

Those numbers may creep up slightly later this year, as the browser continues to mature and especially when support for extensions arrives in this summer's Anniversary Update. But for now, Edge is still in use by only a minority of Windows 10 users.

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