There comes a time in every product’s lifecycle where it simply isn’t going to grow anymore. For Windows 11, that time may have already arrived, only two years after its launch. Which begs the question: how much longer can Microsoft leave it before unleashing Windows 12?
Leaked figures published this week by Windows Central suggest Windows 11 is now installed on more than 400 million devices. For sure, that’s no small figure and reportedly ahead of Microsoft’s expectations, but it’s weak by comparison with Windows 10. This reached that same figure in little over a year and went on to surpass a billion active installs – a number that Windows 11 will frankly never achieve.
The graph of Windows version market share from Statcounter embedded below shows that Windows 11’s modest growth has stalled at around 24%. That’s 24% of Windows installations, by the way, not 24% of all operating systems.
As the graph shows, Windows 11 has barely dented Windows 10’s market share – its growth has largely come at the expense of the decrepit Windows 7, presumably when people have finally retired dying Windows 7 PCs and replaced them with new machines that come pre-installed with Windows 11.
Windows 11: what’s gone wrong?
Why has Windows 11 failed to ignite? Partly by design. Windows 11 raised the system requirements bar significantly, meaning a fair chunk of the installed Windows 10 base couldn’t take advantage of the free upgrade even if they wanted to.
Although hard-and-fast data is hard to come by, it seems businesses and large enterprises have largely eschewed Windows 11 too, preferring to stick with the known quantity of Windows 10. A general slowdown in the PC market (Gartner figures claim the worldwide market dipped by 17% in Q2) hasn’t helped to close the chasm on Windows 10 either.
But perhaps the biggest reason for Windows 11’s flatlining growth is that it offers few – if any – compelling reasons for Windows 10 users to upgrade. It’s not a bad operating system, but it’s not a huge improvement either. Which leaves Microsoft with a problem: what to do now?
What will Windows 12 offer?
We know from an indiscrete Intel interview that Microsoft is primed to launch Windows 12 in 2024, but the days of a guaranteed wave of upgrades just because Microsoft releases a new version of Windows are long gone. What will entice consumers and businesses to make the jump?
The carrot may be the same one that almost every software company is dangling at the moment: improved AI features. Yes, Microsoft has already built its Copilot AI into Windows 11, but that’s undercooked with only surface-level integration into the operating system. If Windows 12 actually delivers Microsoft’s initial promise of an AI that’s fully capable of interacting with its own and third-party apps, that might be enough to tempt consumers and businesses, as well as give Windows 12 a genuine point of differentiation from macOS, ChromeOS and other Linux distros.
The stick is the Windows 10 support deadline, which is now only two years away. Will Microsoft realistically be able to stop providing security updates for an operating system that still accounts for two-thirds of the installed Windows base within two years? Probably not. But the deadline and the risk of having to pay for expensive third-party support will certainly have IT managers at least exploring the upgrade path.
Microsoft won’t announce Windows 12 this side of Christmas, through fear of killing what’s left of festive PC sales. Expect an announcement very soon in the New Year, though.
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