Microsoft Corp. has finally figured out how to achieve the sort of rapid adoption rates for Windows that Apple Inc. sees among its Mac OS X users – free is the key.

Yesterday, Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice-president of Windows and devices group, shared that Windows 10 is pursuing the best OS adoption rate that Microsoft has ever seen. It’s active on more than one billion devices, and is on the fastest growth trajectory of any version of Windows, he writes. Compared to Windows 7, its adoption rate is 140 percent faster, and compared to Windows 8, 400 per cent faster.

While Mehdi says many people are upgrading “because they want the safest and fastest Windows,” he doesn’t mention the real secret behind the success of Windows 10’s skyrocketing adoption rate – it’s a free upgrade for most Windows users. Add that to newly purchased devices from the holiday season carrying Windows 10 (NPD Group data shows 40 per cent of Windows 10 devices were activated after Black Friday), and you have a less-than-surprising success story.

By making Windows 10 a free update for many, Microsoft is finally discovering the same sort of adoption rates that its rival Apple enjoys with OS X. The company regularly releases free updates to OS X and has historically seen much better adoption than Windows. While it can be argued the most iterative OS X updates are sort of like Windows service packs, it still illustrates that a free update is more rapidly embraced than a paid one.

Take OS X Yosemite for example, which saw a 12.8 per cent adoption rate just one week after its Oct. 16, 2014 release, according to data collected by the Chitika Ad Network. Mavericks, another free OS X update made available in 2013, saw a similar adoption rate. But Mountain Lion, coming with a price tag of $19.99 USD, hit only 5.6 per cent.

The difference is even more stark when you compare Windows 8 against OS X updates. Data backup firm Blackblaze compared its userbase adoption of Yosemite to Windows 8 in a blog post Oct. 28, 2014. It found that Yosemite reached the same percentage of Mac users in four days that it took Windows 8 two years to reach among Microsoft users.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 numbers are a signal the company has latched onto the right strategy, making the OS free to many in order to attract many users quickly. Monetizing those users through the Windows Store and other means can follow.

Plus, it will finally avoid having the adoption rates of Apple’s major OS releases compared to simpler and more iterative releases from its rival.

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  • gisabun

    So Windows 10 finally reached 200 million. At this rate, to hit 1 billion would take 2.5 years. The wildcard could be corporations who generally wait [traditionally] until the first service back. I would guess November’s v1511 is like a service pack.
    Notice OS X 10.11 [El Capitan] wasn’t mentioned. I’m wondering if that’s because of the problems it has had [crashes after installing, crashes for unknown reasons, incompatibility issues, etc.].
    For Microsoft to reach their target in Windows 10 “devices:”, they will need to extend the free upgrade deadline.
    For me as yet, I haven’t upgraded. I am waiting for proper video card drivers which ASUS has failed to produce since W10 came out. Don’t buy their video cards.