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5/7/2013
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What Microsoft Windows 8 License Numbers Don't Say

Microsoft says 100 million Windows 8 licenses have shipped to OEMs. There's a big difference between shipping licenses and gaining or even retaining customers.

In discussing the new license figures, Windows division CMO and CFO Tami Reller admitted to the New York Times that Win8's learning curve must be addressed. Windows Blue, whose enhancements are expected to be announced at Microsoft's BUILD conference in late June, will help, but Reller also stressed that retail staffers are being trained to highlight not only the new Live Tile UI but also the continued importance of the familiar desktop. Early Windows Blue rumors suggested that the update would focus on touch capabilities, sparking concern that Microsoft was forgetting its core audience of mouse-and-keyboard business users. Subsequent rumors, however, have suggested Microsoft is working to more harmoniously unite the two interfaces, and Reller's statements only reinforce this expectation.

Despite her candor, Reller extended Microsoft's efforts to cast Windows 8 in a favorable light. She said that when Gartner, IDC and other research firms describe the slumping PC market, they're describing only the sales channel, not the number of customer activations. Online activations of new machines, she said, have actually exhibited growth.

It's not clear how these activations break down among traditional PCs, tablets, Surface models and ultrabook convertibles. Nonetheless, that Microsoft has shipped 40 million additional licenses since January supports Reller's statement. Windows 8 discounts expired only a few weeks into 2013, making it unlikely that new licenses were being installed on old hardware. New devices, therefore, likely drove the majority of sales.

Even so, there's a big difference between selling 100 million licenses and gaining, or even retaining, 100 million customers. Microsoft's license figures refer only to Windows 8 copies sold to OEMs. They do not reveal if these licenses have found their ways into consumers' homes, or if they remain in warehouses or on store shelves. Reller's statement somewhat supports the former possibility, while Windows 8's lowly market share more strongly endorses the latter.

The 100 million licenses also excludes enterprise sales. Technically, this means Microsoft might have sold substantially more than licenses than anyone has guessed. But business adoption has so far been muted, with most deployments limited to specific verticals that can benefit from mobility.

Reller suggested that Windows 8 would have fared better if more touch-equipped devices had been available at launch. Such theories somewhat sidestep the extent to which UI dissatisfactions have hurt sales, however. The fact that Microsoft's Surface Pro has been only a good -- not great -- performer also diminishes Reller's claim.

Even so, Microsoft and its partners are currently putting Reller's theory to the test. It's possible that many consumers want a Windows 8 Ultrabook but are deterred by generally high prices; if recent cost reductions drive sales, the lack-of-hardware thesis will be validated. New touch-optimized models are also rolling into the market, raising the possibility that consumers who weren't impressed by the first wave of Windows 8 devices might be more tempted by the second.

If lower prices and a greater variety of options don't catapult Win8 to success? It will be up to not only Windows Blue but also a forthcoming range of mini-tablets. There have been indications that these 8-inch models could drop as low as $300, potentially bringing the functionality of a full OS into a market segment currently dominated by the iPad Mini and a number of Android tablets. A new Surface model is rumored to be among these new devices, and thanks to Amazon jumping the gun with a since-removed product listing, it's already known that Acer is readying a small Windows 8 device, too.

By this fall, new devices will include not only Windows Blue but also Intel's new Core and Atom processors, which are expected to offer substantially improved graphics and battery life, among other improvements. Between improved internals, a refined OS and more competitive prices, the forthcoming models should help Win8 improve its market standing. Businesses, many of which are currently too invested in Microsoft infrastructure to widely deploy anything else, could also join the Windows 8 party in the months and years that follow.

If Microsoft ultimately retains its business audience while claiming a decent share of consumers, Windows 8, despite taking early lumps, will be hailed as a success. But if enterprises resist Win8 by clinging to Windows 7 as long as possible, and if consumers continue to purchase iOS and Android tablets in lieu of Windows 8 devices, it will be clear that Microsoft's touch-centric gamble isn't paying off.

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expl
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expl,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/1/2013 | 8:04:23 PM
re: What Microsoft Windows 8 License Numbers Don't Say
Why don't we just get back to basics, every minute that a partner spends learning Win8 rather than using a computer to earn revenue costs the firm ~$4.00. How many minutes do you think we can afford on non-revenue computer usage. Its a tough world out there and we have each made some substantial sacrifices to cut costs, as well as increasing our revenue sources as not one of the partners either wants to cut their annual compensation, nore ask any of our para-professionals to do so either. It is a cooperative effort. I am sorry that so many folks out there don't like those of us who send our TV remotes to our adult (well sort of, anyway) children to program for us, get together for a few days each year to remind ourselves that we aren't the young agressive military officers & pilots that flew in SE Asia, perhaps need to have our suit made with the trousers slightly larger around the waste, etc. But, when a need arises, or someone finds themselves in trouble, the fact that our partners have a work ethic that doesn't say " its 0300, calm down & call back after 0900, we make sure that you know that your problem is our problem, even if it is 0300 and we will do everything we can to take care of the problem seems to sustain us in a satisfying practice. Perhaps a bit more professional time spent with clients resolving their issues, and more importantly LISTENING TO YOUR CLIENTS, you know, the decision-makers who buy products and services ILO expecting us to want whatever it is that the M$ code writers think we need to spend time learning would lead to a more balanced business environment.
expl
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expl,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/1/2013 | 7:47:41 PM
re: What Microsoft Windows 8 License Numbers Don't Say
Windows 8 is simply Vista II. No one wants it, but Microsoft insists we have it. I, unfortunately just bought a computer for a part time office because of its price/value (processor,RAM,etc) but it has Win8 on it. First thing Monday mornining I am going to contact Toshiba to see if there is a way to get rid of the "Dread (by me, & the other partners in the firm) Win8. Even if the upgrade(?) to Win8.1 is free, easy and really an improvement. We all prefer Win7 but it getting harder and harder to find computers that meet our needs that are Win7 computers. We are a small firm of tightly specialized professionals (in areas other than IT) & we have little professional IT support. Why is it that Microsoft can't just leave us alone. We would like to update our computers more frequently, but with the hassle of not being able to just migrate all of our software forward (forward the backed up data without the programs is useless to us), all of these new stupid, unwanted and unnecessary changes in operating systems, etc. it forces us to keep our computers until they crash or become so functionally obsolete that they can't be used any more. We are not thieve or cheats, we appreciate the value of intellectual property, but we also don't know why we have to endure all of these troubles just to replace a computer. We are not sneaking in additional users, we require our clients to certify that they have acquired an additional license if necessary if we use their software, and don't allow ours to be misused, but the paranoia in this industry is counterproductive. i just want to dump Win8, put Win7 on my new computer, that replaces an older Toshiba that will be retired to secure storage for both security and archiving reasons, e.g. eDiscovery, but it is getting to be such a challenge that we waste so many billable hours that we are about to quit replacing anything until it becomes totally dysfunctional, and I don't see how that benefits anybody, hardware, software, peripheral, etc. manufacturers, vendors, etc. If I must be missing something.
Nematoad
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Nematoad,
User Rank: Guru
5/30/2013 | 5:35:19 AM
re: What Microsoft Windows 8 License Numbers Don't Say
Us old dogs don't learn new tricks very well. that's why we prefer windows XP.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
5/13/2013 | 7:28:58 PM
re: What Microsoft Windows 8 License Numbers Don't Say
Ha! You're probably right that page views would drop-- Jodi Arias commanded more headlines in the last month than all the world's charities combined, so the public's appetite for carnage and negativity is not in question. I'll agree that journalism's slide toward info-tainment isn't a good thing, and I'll reiterate that some people definitely have an ax to grind when it comes to Microsoft. But assessing Windows 8 is - as Redmond SVP Frank Shaw said Friday - a nuanced process. That means including both the good and the bad. Here's an alternate test: if Windows Blue delivers the goods, will commentators find a way to resist Microsoft's accomplishments, or will the company be praised for incorporating user feedback? I'll be as interested as anyone to see how people react, and though I doubt Microsoft will silence all critics, I'm optimistic that they'll show off some pretty cool stuff during June's BUILD conference.
Terabyte Net
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Terabyte Net,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/13/2013 | 4:17:33 PM
re: What Microsoft Windows 8 License Numbers Don't Say
We will, of course, never know what would have happened if journalists had played a different tune. The press doesn't get repeat readers for good press the same way CNN doesn't keep viewers' eyes trained on the TV for good news. When was the last time hours or days were dedicated to feel-good news event? Just one would do. The fact is CNN and every news outlet make $$$$$$$ with negative news stories and until that changes writers and TV producers will continue to push negative stories on us.

May I suggest a test. Try a month of nothing but positive articles. Don't write a single negative word and see how your page views go. Titles have to be 100% positive. Content has to be 100% positive. I think it'd be very interesting to see what real page hits show. I could be very wrong, but I doubt it. I'm betting your page hits drop by a statistical margin and then return the following month if you go back to normal writing.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
5/11/2013 | 8:08:12 PM
re: What Microsoft Windows 8 License Numbers Don't Say
Thanks for your thoughts, Terabyte Net. Windows 8 gives some users reason to be passionate, and I'm glad you're bringing that perspective to the conversation.

I'll grant that some within the media probably have it in for Microsoft. But to blame Win8's sales on journalists and bloggers is to exclude a lot of factors. I won't get into the merits of the UI, since that's obviously subjective. But even if we assume that Windows 8 is a worthy OS, its adoption has faced a lot of challenges, many of which have nothing to do with what members of the press say or think.

First, there's the choice factor, which I described in my reply to Chrisgull, as well as in a recent column.

Second, there's cost. The first round of Windows 8 devices weren't cheap. Microsoft and company are in the process of rectifying this problem-- but I'm sure I'm not the only one who decided that the Surface Pro, though an attractive device, was just too expensive.

Third, there's Microsoft's Windows 8 marketing. Until recently, most ads focused on hyperkinetic editing, stomping school girls, and boardroom meetings that spontaneously burst into breakdancing. Some of the ads are kind of cool-- but they do almost NOTHING to communicate how the devices work. If Microsoft had showed off some interesting capabilities, people might have been more willing to deal with the learning curve. Put another way, Windows Phone 8 has made relatively better progress than Windows 8. I personally found many of the celebrity-driven WIndows Phone 8 ads disingenuous, but the commercials nonetheless showed off the user experience. I don't have hard proof, but I think this difference in marketing tactics probably contributed to Windows Phone 8's relative advantage in consumer adoption. (To be fair, Intel's Ultrabook ads did a better job communicating the UE of Windows 8-- but any victories those commercials might have achieved could have been offset by the cost of the advertised devices.)

There's also the state of the computing market and the larger economy. If you're a business user that already relies on Windows 7, does Windows 8 offer some advantages? Yes. Are these advantages enough to demand an upgrade? Not for everyone. Some of the individual buyers for whom Windows 8 might be appealing haven't had a clear reason to upgrade. They already have legacy applications and portability with their existing Windows 7 laptops-- and if they don't need something thinner or lighter, or something with a touchscreen, I can see why a lot of would-be buyers have thus far decided that Win8's under-the-hood improvements in stability aren't worth the expense.

Enterprises, meanwhile, aren't going to even think about deploying a new OS until 2014, if not later. That delay, combined with the point in the previous paragraph, basically means that the population of users most likely to prefer Win8 over tablet-based alternatives hasn't had an irresistible need to upgrade.

Then there's consumers. A lot of them just don't need the full OS experience. Some do. But many just don't-- or they at least don't feel like they do, and Microsoft, as noted above, hasn't offered the marketing to persuade them otherwise. If consumers already have iPads for the things they do most often, why buy an expensive new Windows 8 device? This limitation would be present even if the Windows 8 UI were more universally praised. I'm a big camera person, and I think Canon's 1DC and BlackMagic's Cinema Camera are pretty cool devices. But do I NEED them? Not at all-- which is the reason I haven't bought either. I think the same logic applies when some tablet users consider upgrading to Windows 8.

So, did the media have some role in Windows 8's sales? Yes. But would Microsoft have sold 2-3x as many copies if journalists and bloggers had played a different tune? I doubt it. If Microsoft had sold 2-3x as many Win8 copies, it would have blown Windows 7 adoption out of the water-- and given the above variables, I'm skeptical that ANY amount of positive press could have precipitated that result.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
5/11/2013 | 7:31:28 PM
re: What Microsoft Windows 8 License Numbers Don't Say
Hi Chrisgull,

Thanks for the comments. I've met some people who adapted to Windows 8 within a few seconds-- so you have a point. But I also know people who've taken much longer to get used to the new UI, and others who gave up before making it through the learning curve. But I don't think anecdotal observations - yours or mine - give us a definitive idea of Win8's intuitiveness or lack thereof. One can criticize people for abandoning interest too early, sure-- but that's a different conversation than talking about the UI's user-friendliness for novice users.

Speaking personally, I've run around conferences with a few Windows 8 tablets, which are much nicer to haul around than the Win7 Lenovo ThinkPad that InformationWeek issued to me. Did the new UI get in the way? Sometimes, but I figured it out pretty quickly, and I was happy to have a real computer that starts up in a flash and gives me different options (e.g. as a tablet, with an attached keyboard, etc) for interacting with it. Some Win8 quirks annoyed me - like the fact that I couldn't modify some settings without jumping between the two environments - but Microsoft looks like it will address those problems with Windows Blue.

Now, did my experience convince me that Win8 is a must-have upgrade? That depends-- but for a lot of users, probably not. If you need something that's mobile but that has a full OS, some of the Win8 models are really nice (though I've found the touchscreens a bit non-responsive on some models, and I've found that some of the last-generation Atom-based devices freeze up). But depending on the software you need, the MacBook Air must be just as good. And if you don't need a full-fledged OS, the iPad or an Android tablet might fit the bill too. Some of the Win7 Ultrabooks are mobile enough. And if you don't need a computer that travels with you, a Win7 or OS X desktop could serve you better than a Win8 one.

Some of the Win8 vs. OS X/ Win7/ iOS/ Android/ etc. debates remind me a bit of camera snobbery. That is, just because someone runs around with a professional-grade Nikon D800 or Canon 5D Mark III, does that mean he or she should look down on the people who are content to use their smartphone's camera? Should the Photoshop users of the world belittle those who are content with Instragram's filters? Do those with flashier gear always produce better work than those who rely on the consumer-grade stuff? The answer is "no" on all counts. DIfferent horses for different courses.

And that, I think, is the important point. If Windows 8 had been released a few years ago, it might have sold like gangbusters. But different groups of buyers have different needs. When Windows was the default OS, people used it regardless of their individual priorities. But now there's greater choice, which means some options cater to certain niches better than others. That naturally limits Win8's growth. That's not necessarily an indictment against WIn8's worth; rather, it's just the reality that Windows 8 will fit some people's needs better than others.

As Microsoft improves the UI and as Win8's app library grows, the OS's appeal might grow to include more users. The lower prices of forthcoming models will help too. But the OS market has fragmented along different divides. Some of them can be characterized as "consumer vs. professional" but even that's a generalization that's not always true.
Terabyte Net
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Terabyte Net,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/10/2013 | 5:32:34 PM
re: What Microsoft Windows 8 License Numbers Don't Say
Wait, You bash Win8 but fail to make any legitimate arguments. Have you used the e-mail clients in iOS or Android? They make Outlook Express look like a luxury car and Microsoft wants its users using Outlook.com for e-mail. I'll take Outlook.com up against anything from Apple or Google and I've had a Gmail account since its very early days. What's in Win8 is still better than any factory app in iOS or Android.
Terabyte Net
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Terabyte Net,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/9/2013 | 6:10:55 PM
re: What Microsoft Windows 8 License Numbers Don't Say
Every vendor counts licenses sold as shipped. Microsoft is no different than any other vendor. Show me one that only shows actual usage.
Terabyte Net
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Terabyte Net,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/9/2013 | 6:09:33 PM
re: What Microsoft Windows 8 License Numbers Don't Say
No one is forced to use Metro. Microsoft, unlike Apple, allows 3rd party addons like Classic Shell and you instantly bypass Metro right to the traditional desktop and if the GUI is the only problem, which you seem to indicate it is, then you have no reason not to use 8 on new machines with Classic Shell then you never have to see Metro again. It's like Win7 on steroids.
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