(Bloomberg Business) – Over the past 20 years, releases of new Windows operating systems have been marked by midnight sales parties, junkets crammed with reporters, and Microsoft’s biggest marketing campaigns. The introduction of Windows 10 on July 29 is much quieter: no ringing the Nasdaq opening bell, no promos with sitcom stars or Rolling Stones songs—just 13 parties around the world to thank volunteers who’ve helped debug and refine the operating system during the past year. “Having a big launch with celebrities, it might be newsworthy, but it’s not necessarily the step to a billion happy and engaged Windows users,” says Windows chief Terry Myerson.
Microsoft has promised shareholders that Windows 10 will reach 1 billion users within three years—which would give it the fastest adoption rate ever—even as the company shifts its focus to other products. It’s relying in large part on the 5 million volunteer bug testers, known as Windows Insiders, not only to make Windows 10 better but also to build loyalty for the OS. It’s a humbling acknowledgment that as consumers shift from PCs to smartphones and tablets, the software synonymous with Microsoft isn’t the required tool it once was. In 2000, Windows ran on 97 percent of the world’s consumer computing devices including phones and tablets, Goldman Sachs estimates; today, it’s under 20 percent.