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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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Larry22
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Larry22,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/29/2012 | 2:58:57 PM
re: Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless
Bet you'd ask the same question at the Windows 7 launch. I'm very sure the Windows 7 numbers are basically the same structure as 8 now. Also, there were 2 weeks promotion that Microsoft were selling Windows 7 Upgrade for $49.99. And Microsoft were giving away Windows 7 Upgrade from Vista PC promotion buyers where it was $14.99 for Windows 8 Upgrade from 7 PC buyers.
Gussy2000
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Gussy2000,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/29/2012 | 3:00:48 PM
re: Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless
I have ZERO intention of buying/moving to W8. I bought a W7 laptop last September and I plan on keeping that for at least the same 10 years I had an XP machine. I tried the W8 consumer preview and hated it for all the reasons it has been criticized for. Last night, I played around on a Samsung W8 tablet and that seemed slightly better but I still preferred the Asus tablet on display next to it (the price of the Asus was easier to swallow; $399 vs $649).

If I am smart, I will buy up a copy or two of W7 for future PC purchases provided MS does not strong arm us all into using W8 by dropping support for W7.
VasyaPupkinsan
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VasyaPupkinsan,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/29/2012 | 3:08:12 PM
re: Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless
Based on the quality of Windows App Store, the way it navigates and how applications are discoverable, I say their development is now 90% outsourced to monkeys in jungles of india.

Heil Ballmersoft, Heil Ballmer.
supreme commander of monkeys and out-monkey coding standards.
markmi300
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markmi300,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/29/2012 | 3:12:24 PM
re: Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless
I played with Win8 over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and could only find two "pros" with it. Fast booting and Native ISO mounting. There were too many "Cons" to mention here. Needless to say, I will continue to use Windows 7.
toothie007
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toothie007,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/29/2012 | 3:16:54 PM
re: Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless
So, the numbers don't fit the narrative you want to trumpet, so you dismiss the numbers. Show me an article you wrote questioning a sales number declared by Apple for example. I bet Apple numbers also include all iMacs, iPhones, and iPads etc. sitting on the shelves at Best Buy and other distributors as well. By law, they have to report those numbers for they represent sales given that Best Buy for example purchase them from Apple then sell to the public.

Grow up a little. The world is bigger than you. You do not control reality. Why does it matter to you so much whether MS succeed or fail with windows 8? Are you on the take to spread bad news?
PMcDougall
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PMcDougall,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/29/2012 | 3:26:51 PM
re: Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless
Apple tends to disclose specific sales numbers for specific products. (And no, I'm not on the take to spread bad news. I've written lots of columns praising Windows 8 technically. It's the sales and marketing that are becoming an issue for Microsoft and partners.)
Frenchynh
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Frenchynh,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/29/2012 | 3:32:02 PM
re: Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless
I tried Win8 on my friends computer and after that experience have no thought of leaving Win7 after that experience
aflavia
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aflavia,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/29/2012 | 3:38:01 PM
re: Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless
Then the question will be Gǣwhat are the real benefits of moving to something pretty similar to W7?Gǥ; is not that everything else goes bad with W8, itGs probably that Metro is the THING for really moving on (looking forward). In other hand, why not having a Classic taste? In the Enterprise, for example, itGs not clear whether or not the Apps will bring immediately value; we can turn down those features but having a lighter version can also be a nice choice. Consumer should be open for options!
toothie007
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toothie007,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/29/2012 | 3:47:05 PM
re: Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless
Really? Like we sold 3 million new ipads when the iPad 4 and iPad mini went on sale the first weekend? How much were iPad 4's and how much iPad minies? They never said. Were they hiding anything? Possible!
Greg Bishop
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Greg Bishop,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/29/2012 | 3:51:59 PM
re: Microsoft's Windows 8 Numbers Meaningless
Windows is for BUSINESS. 8 is unusable garbage. Save your money. That's the only way to get MS to pull their thumbs out.
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