Three and a half months after its release, Apple's OS X Yosemite powered almost half of all Macs, a statistic that may predict success for rival Microsoft later this year when it issues its own free OS upgrade.
According to Net Applications, Yosemite accounted for 49% of all instances of OS X in January, up from 45% the month before. The analytics company estimates operating system user share by counting visits to the websites that deploy its metrics package.
Apple released Yosemite to the Mac App Store on Oct. 16, 2014.
By comparison, OS X Mavericks, Yosemite's predecessor, ended its third month with a user share of 42%. Mountain Lion, released in 2012 and Apple's last OS with a price tag, had a 29% share at the same post-launch point. Mavericks and Mountain Lion took 5 and 13 months, respectively, to reach Yosemite's three-month mark.
Apple's bet on free OS X upgrades has been successful at moving more Mac users to the newest edition faster than any other edition, including cut-rate upgrades like the $20 Mountain Lion and 2013's also-free Mavericks. Yosemite's quicker uptake compared to Mavericks' hints that as free becomes standard, adoption speed increases.
Microsoft may not be able to match OS X Yosemite's tempo when it offers free upgrades to Windows 10 later this year, but Apple's success provides a favorable template for the company's effort.
When Microsoft releases Windows 10 -- "later this year" is the official target, with September or October most likely -- it will let all consumers and some business users running Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 upgrade free of charge. The decision means giving up the revenue normally booked from upgrades, but will push Windows 10's adoption, thus theoretically enticing developers to create new software and building a larger pool of potential buyers of services.
The free offer will run for one year after Windows 10's official launch.
Computerworld has forecast that up to 65% of all Windows 8.1 systems will upgrade to Windows 10 in that year. In a best-case scenario, about 18% of those running Windows 7 will also take the free offer.
Microsoft will have a harder time moving major portions of the Windows base to version 10 than Apple had in shifting Mac owners to Yosemite: The law of large numbers is against the Redmond, Wash. firm, as Windows PCs outnumber Macs by approximately 20 to 1. Nevertheless, Yosemite's performance should be encouraging to Microsoft as it shifts to not only the 12-month free upgrade, but a new practice of providing free updates and upgrades for the "supported lifetime" of a device.
The company has yet to define what that means. "Details on our device supported lifetime policy will be shared at a later time," Microsoft said last month.
Yosemite can be downloaded from Apple's Mac App Store.