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Windows usage won't end until Windows apps go away

People often tout the decline of Windows as a reason to move away from it. Windows usage is down slightly, but that doesn't mean you should hold off on finding new ways to manage the OS and the applications you run on it.

You've probably heard the joke that there are three things that can survive a nuclear war: cockroaches, Twinkies and Windows.

Wait, you haven't heard the Windows part of it? Well, you should add it to the list, because Windows isn't going away any time soon.

I wrote a few months ago that we had until at least January of 2020 before we were really under the gun to get away from Windows altogether, but some of the numbers indicate that the date could be much farther down the line.

Windows usage declines … kind of

People like to throw around the fact that Windows usage is on the decline as in indicator that you're going to be left behind if you're not moving all your apps to the cloud or -- depending on which vendor you're talking to -- your desktops to the datacenter.  Of course, a lot of that is marketing, but there is some truth to matter.

If you compare Windows devices to all the other computer-like devices we use today, it's true that use is declining. Ten years ago there were desktops and laptops and nearly all of them were Windows-based. When you look at the billion or so devices that were around back then, about 95% -- or about 950 million -- of them of them ran Windows.

Today, we've added smartphones and tablets to the mix, so there are far more devices than ever before. High estimates say there are almost 10 billion devices out there today, but to make that point, the estimates include smart devices like weather stations, security alarms and refrigerators. Windows usage is actually quite a bit higher than it was ten years ago -- estimates are around 1.5 to 2 billion Windows devices -- but because there are so many more devices, the share of the devices that run Windows is much smaller.

People who need evidence of the decline of Windows are quick to show how other operating systems are taking over, but adjusting the scale shows that Windows isn't in the dire straits that we might be led to believe.

Of course this doesn't mean that Windows is thriving, either. Its usage is on the way down, albeit only slightly. I recently wrote an article on BrianMadden.com that shows a less than 1% decline in Windows usage per year since the release of Windows 7 in 2009. The reason for this continued Windows use is the applications: Whether we want the OS or not, we need the applications. Until we find a way to move the applications off Windows entirely, our Windows usage will remain high.

This is why we need to find new, better ways of managing Windows. Many people are holding back and waiting to see what will come in the "post-PC era" before they make a decision, but that's hogwash. There's no reason to delay a project that increases your ability to manage your users and their applications. Using desktop virtualization, user environment virtualization and application virtualization only helps you down the line. As you compartmentalize things now, it makes them that much easier to move around when delivery models change. Today, that might still be physical desktops, but tomorrow you might host your desktops in the datacenter. Down the line you may move those desktops or applications to the cloud.

Besides death and taxes, only two more things are certain about the years to come: Windows will be there and you will have to manage it.

Next Steps

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This was first published in July 2014

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