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11/29/2012
08:29 AM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
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Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless

Microsoft says it has sold more than 40 million Windows 8 licenses, but the information is worthless in absence of key data the company won't divulge.

Microsoft this week tried to mute reports that Windows 8 is off to a slow start, disclosing that it has sold about 40 million licenses for the OS since launch. Microsoft says that's on par with the debut of the highly successful Windows 7. But without additional context, which Redmond refuses to provide, the numbers are meaningless.

The most important fact that can't be gleaned from Microsoft's "disclosure" is the extent to which Windows 8, available to consumers since Oct. 26 and to businesses since mid-August, is driving new hardware sales. Microsoft may have sold millions of Windows 8 licenses to PC makers, but if their touch-tablets, convertibles and all-in-ones are languishing on store shelves or in warehouses, that doesn't bode well for the operating system's future.

We don't know because Microsoft isn't saying. We don't know how many of the 40 million licenses come from low-cost upgrades, from volume licensing sales that kick in automatically, or from direct sales to consumers. And we don't know how many of the 40 million licenses are sitting on systems that have yet to find a buyer.

If upgrades represent the vast majority of those licenses, that's something Microsoft could be pleased with, as it puts Windows 8 onto the desktops of millions of users. But at a cost between $15 and $40, depending on when the PC was purchased, upgrading to Windows 8 is a pretty low-risk proposition for most users. We don't know whether upgraders liked the OS, whether they kept using it, or if they later reverted to Windows 7 -- and that's a metric I'd like to see.

So why won't Microsoft provide a breakdown? What is it hiding? Its silence speaks volumes or, perhaps more accurately, low volumes.

I can clear up what has been one source of confusion about the 40 million. Reliable sources tell me it does not include copies of Windows 8 installed on Surface tablets, so at least Microsoft is not counting licenses that it, in effect, sold to itself.

It's worth noting that Microsoft deferred considerably more Windows revenue in the quarter prior to Windows 7's launch than it did for Windows 8. For the former it was $1.5 billion, for the latter about $1.2 billion.

Deferrals reflect the value of Windows presales and upgrades that Microsoft believes it will have to make good on in future quarters. An apples-to-apples comparison is difficult. Still, the deferral numbers are worth looking at in the absence of more data from Microsoft.

Regardless of whether you believe Windows 8 is off to a slow or fast start, one thing became clear this week. Microsoft plans to give the platform plenty of rope. In a previous column I suggested that the company might ultimately pull a Coke and introduce what I called "Windows Classic" if Win8 and the Metro interface don't catch on with users. Windows Classic could include all the security and manageability benefits of Windows 8, but lose Metro (also called Modern UI), which many users find confusing.

Not so fast, said Tami Reller, who was named co-chief of Microsoft's Windows unit following Steven Sinofsky's sudden and unexpected departure earlier this month. Reller said Microsoft is into Windows 8 and Metro for the long haul.

"Windows 8 represents really a generational shift of hardware, a generational shift of the operating system and apps, all together, all at once," said Reller, who spoke Tuesday at the Credit Suisse Tech Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz. The OS "was built for the future, not just any one single selling season," said Reller, whose comments may also have been meant to dampen expectations about holiday sales.

At this early stage, you wouldn't expect her to say anything else, at least not publicly. But I'm not convinced. If sales of Windows 8 tablets and laptops are tanking by this time next year, the company will have to come up with an alternative. We may yet see Windows Classic. Do you think Microsoft should stick with Windows 8 and Metro? Let me know in the comments section below.

Upgrading isn't the easy decision that Win 7 was. We take a close look at Server 2012, changes to mobility and security, and more in the new Here Comes Windows 8 issue of InformationWeek. Also in this issue: Why you should have the difficult conversations about the value of OS and PC upgrades before discussing Windows 8. (Free registration required.)

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S. Kyle Davis
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S. Kyle Davis,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/29/2012 | 9:31:01 PM
re: Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless
Yes, but Paul, you talk about the current sales reporting as if it's different than Windows 7. That's my issue. Apple reports specific numbers, but then they don't have OEM partners. They don't make money when an item is shipped to the store. They only make money when it is in the hands of the consumer. Microsoft, on the other hand, can count these shipments as sales, because it is revenue. Of course, it's not an honest look at true sales, but then that's a long-standing practice, not a new methodology.
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/29/2012 | 9:22:13 PM
re: Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless
Here's an idea if you're going to upgrade from Windows 7 to 8:

1) Simply make a System Image backup of Win7. If you upgrade and don't like Win8, restore the Win7 System Image.

-or-

2) Buy a new hard drive. Create a Win7 System image, restore it to the new drive, and then upgrade to Win 8 from there. That way you have a disk refresh and your original Win7 boot disk if you want to fall back.
toothie007
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toothie007,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/29/2012 | 9:03:17 PM
re: Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless
By the way, just to rub it in a little. Today, I lectured about heteroskedasticity in my Applied Regression class, and about Perfect Competition in my other two classes. Now what did you do today?
toothie007
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toothie007,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/29/2012 | 9:00:32 PM
re: Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless
Yes, the salary I earn at the University I lecture. Now what do you do for a living? I will be happy to show you up if I can figure a way to do so without giving too much away. Not everyone lives in their mother's basement. Have some darn respect.
wht
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wht,
User Rank: Strategist
11/29/2012 | 8:38:55 PM
re: Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless
What is truly "meaningless" are the endless string of articles by Information Week and ZDNet about Windows 8 being this or that, bad or worse. It's missinformation by supposedly tech journalists. Your publications are not worth the bandwidth wasted to view them. Half the time you are complaining about RT not the version of Windows that tech professionals will use. Forget complaining about the consumer version, it is not what we use now or in the past.
wht
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wht,
User Rank: Strategist
11/29/2012 | 8:36:24 PM
re: Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless
You are wasting your time and money. Just use Win8 and quit complaining. If you adopt it you will find out it's not a problem or that different after you learn the basics.
JCUXDDDB
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JCUXDDDB,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/29/2012 | 7:53:08 PM
re: Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless
You can use the assessment tool to check your PCs - in fact, it's built into the upgrade process and I think you don't even pay for it until you get a "go" from the check (granted that's if you're doing it all digitally - hard copy is obviously different).

I've installed it a few times now on a varying degree of machines and haven't run into any serious issues with drivers (pretty much anything Win7 compatible works on 8, it's usually just their device specific programs that need updating). The only real problem with the upgrade process that I've come across is that some software vendors validation/registration needs to be reapplied after upgrading. But really it's only been like 2 or 3.

I would imagine that some very specific devices or software may have issues, but at the same time if you're using that kind of stuff, you should already know this.

I will agree that the time involved from a business standpoint is a huge factor in sales and adaption. It does take time and IT resources to upgrade everyone and make sure all is working well. Depending on the size of your business, that could be anywhere from weeks to even years in man-hours and you've just got to eat the cost. And as someone mentioned before the only thing in the news now is gloom and doom of the economy, so I imagine that makes people even more hesitant.
PMcDougall
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PMcDougall,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/29/2012 | 7:41:19 PM
re: Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless
point taken, I meant low risk financially
Don108
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Don108,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/29/2012 | 7:32:41 PM
re: Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless
Be aware there are allegations that Microsoft is paying shills to go on forums and counter any negative publicity. I hope toothie007 and his overlords feel he has earned his salary
Don108
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Don108,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/29/2012 | 7:29:51 PM
re: Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless
I respectfully disagree with your claim that " upgrading to Windows 8 is a pretty low-risk proposition for most users." Spending hours installing and updating applications and drivers and new conflicts is not "low-risk." Nor is the time you will spend de-installing and reinstalling Win7 and updates if you don't like or can't use Win8. Right now, upgrading is a high-risk proposition and people should consider, CAREFULLY, if they really need this upgrade or can wait until this OS is ready for primetime.
<<   <   Page 2 / 5   >   >>
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