Businesses are likely to accelerate their adoption of Windows 11 next year, as the 2025 Windows 10 support deadline trumps underlying economic concerns.
Almost two years after the operating system’s launch, the total installed base for Windows 11 stands at around 25% to 30%, said Linn Huang, research vice president for devices and displays at IDC. That lines up with the most recent StatCounter figures, which put Windows 11 adoption at 29% — still far behind Windows 10’s 67%.
Huang expects Windows 11 adoption to reach an “inflection point” early in 2024. “I think, ballpark, we're probably a quarter to a third of the way there in the total installed base [now]. But we're really going to see a strong movement on that starting at the turn of this calendar year, into the next year,” he said.
Many businesses have already started moving some users to 11, said Huang. Anecdotally, it’s a mixed bag at this stage: many clients are more than halfway through their migration, he said, while some have completed the move, and others haven’t yet begun.
In Microsoft’s Q3 earnings call in April, Satya Nadella said 90% of Fortune 500 companies are trialing or have already deployed Windows 11. The picture is likely to be different for smaller firms, which tend to move to the latest OS more slowly due to upgrade cycles, said Ranjit Atwal, a research director at Gartner.
The bulk of business Windows migrations usually occur 18 to 24 months prior to end of support (EOS) date for the outgoing Windows version. For Windows 11, that date is set for October 2025. While there’s no significant lag at this stage, macroeconomic concerns mean businesses migration "is not going gangbusters” either, said Huang.
“We think a lot of this would have happened in earnest Q4 of this year, but the macros have punted a lot of projects into '24,” said Huang.
Despite initial concerns about new hardware requirements for Windows 11, the operating system is “well-received by users and IT,” he said. But the launch of the OS in late 2021 “came about at a really awkward time from a market perspective.”
The first involved supply-chain issues brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic; more recently, there’s been a slump in demand for PCs amid an uncertain economic environment.
“Assuming the economic environment gets better, budgets get released and then Windows 11 gets increased adoption,” said Atwal. “The question then is if the economic environment doesn't get better, do they still move to Windows 11 next year?”
Delaying migration until 2025 is unlikely at this point, Atwal said, as businesses would risk missing the end of support deadline and have to pay for extended support.
One potential danger for Microsoft involves businesses that might be looking to other platforms, with Apple devices gaining traction in the enterprise. “In a lot of these instances, Windows 10 PCs might not get migrated to Windows 11. MacOS is coming on very, very strong,” said Huang.
ChromeOS is less of a competitor these days, however. “Four years ago, I would have told you that Chrome was also a threat to eat some of that Windows install base, but we've really seen a slowdown in Chrome growth at the enterprise level.”