Spartan forecast: Browser of choice for 1 in 7 Windows users within a year

One of every seven Windows PCs will be running Microsoft's new Project Spartan browser within a year of the firm launching Windows 10 this summer, according to historical data from a Web metrics company.

The calculations by Computerworld, based on operating system and browser user share statistics from Net Applications, were conservative estimates that could be exceeded if users end up being more enthusiastic about Spartan than they have been about Internet Explorer (IE) in the past.

Microsoft hopes that that will be the case: One of the reasons why it will name Project Spartan -- the code name for Windows 10's default browser -- something other than "Internet Explorer" is to distance the new browser from IE's unfavorable reputation.

Computerworld's forecast for Spartan took into account previous projections of Windows 10's adoption rate during its first full year as well as current and projected reliance of Windows customers on IE.

The former pegged Windows 10 one-year user share at 23.6% of all Windows-powered PCs, a number based on the adoption rate of Microsoft's earlier free upgrades, -- Windows 8.1 in the fall of 2013 and Windows 8.1 Update, released last April. Computerworld has assumed that enterprise adoption of Windows 10 will be negligible, meaning the almost-a-quarter uptake will be limited to consumers who otherwise would run Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1.

For the IE usage variable, Computerworld looked at the percentage of all Windows users who now run IE, and more importantly, would run the browser a year after the introduction of Windows 10 if Spartan wasn't included.

Currently, about 62.7% of all Windows PCs rely on a version of IE. By August 2016 -- a year after an estimated Windows 10 release date -- that number would be 60.9%. (IE's user share has been slipping slightly each month over the past year.)

Project Spartan's projected user share for August 2016 would thus be 60.9% X 23.6%, or 14.4%. That's almost exactly one in seven Windows PCs.

Spartan will be available only on Windows 10, and will be set as the OS's default. Most Windows 10 users will, as all Windows users have in the past, stick with the default, but a significant minority will retain their current favorite, like Google's Chrome or Mozilla's Firefox.

Spartan's estimated 14.4% share of all Windows browsers could be boosted even higher if Windows 10 adoption beats the forecast or if Windows 10 users aggressively ditch Chrome and Firefox because they like the new browser more than they did IE.

Users of older operating systems, for example, may switch to Windows 10 in greater numbers than the estimate if Microsoft really pushes the new OS as the solution to its January 2016 browser retirement edict, as Computerworld expects the company to do. An increase of Windows 10's uptake to, say, 30% would lift the Spartan uptake to 18.3% within a year.

And if 75% of Windows 10 use Spartan as their primary browser because they fall in love with the new browser, its anticipated share would climb to 17.7%, or better than one-in-six Windows PCs. Combine the two scenarios -- a sharper Windows 10 adoption rate and an unprecedented affection for Spartan -- and the new browser's share would soar to 22.5%.

Microsoft has not yet given an official name to Project Spartan or added it in its entirety to Windows 10 Technical Preview. Both moves will reportedly be made at one of two impending conferences: Build, slated for April 29 to May 1 in San Francisco, or Ignite, set for May 4 to May 8 in Chicago.


Gregg Keizer

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