Microsoft Expects 1 Billion Windows 10 Devices In 2-3 Years

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At its Build developer conference today, Microsoft announced that it expects Windows 10, its forthcoming operating system, to run on 1 billion devices in two to three years. That’s the idea, at least.

The goal is reasonable, given the company’s decision to offer Windows 10 to current Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 users for free for a year. That, combined with the normal PC sales cycle and the upgrade of Windows Phone users, is how Microsoft gets to the 1 billion-device figure.

Keep in mind two things: Microsoft has granted itself quite a lot of wiggle room — a multi-year timeframe that has a full year of slack is a pretty wide band. But that’s hardly surprising, given that Microsoft has something at risk in this case. If the company cannot attract a mass of users quickly, developers might pass on building for the platform.

And if developers don’t opt-in, consumers might eschew using the Windows Store. That cuts downloads, revenue for Microsoft and, of course, developer incomes. It’s a negatively reinforcing cycle.

The 1 billion figure is a good stab into the future for Microsoft (who can ignore that amount of potential reach?), and it’s a benchmark that now must be met. Windows 10 is coming out in a few months, and then for Microsoft, this particular clock begins to tick.