Technologizer

For What It’s Worth: Microsoft Has Sold 40 Million Windows 8 Licenses

Is the new version of Windows selling well? It's tough to tell.

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Steve Ballmer and Cassidy Masons, 12, check out Windows Vista at a Best Buy store in New York during the operating system's launch on January 30, 2007

It’s been slightly over a month since Windows 8 launched. There have been rumors that Microsoft is disappointed with the operating system’s sales. And now the company is sharing details on how the software is faring, sort of: At a Credit Suisse conference, Tami Reller, the new head honcho of the business side of Windows, has announced that Microsoft has sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses so far, a quantity that’s “outpacing” Windows 7 sales.

How does that compare to earlier versions of Windows? Well, back in 2007, Microsoft said it had sold more than 20 million Windows Vista licenses in the first month — and said that figure was more than double what Windows XP did in its first month. So Microsoft is saying that Windows 8’s first month has been around twice as strong as Windows Vista’s, and four times as strong as Windows XP’s.

Except it’s not that simple. There are more PC users than there were in 2001, when Windows XP shipped, so you’d expect sales in 2012 to be higher. And Microsoft knocked down Windows 8’s upgrade price to $39.99, far less than it’s traditionally charged for new versions of Windows, which should goose sales. And every version of Windows enters a marketplace in a different state of economic health, which presumably impacts the sales of operating-system software.

Basically, so many factors are at play that unless the number of licenses sold is astonishingly low or high, it’s impossible for those of us outside of Microsoft to know whether the figure tells us anything beyond the fact that millions and millions of people and businesses use Windows and buy Windows computers. Which we already knew.

(Ed Bott shares a useful reminder of the scale of Microsoft’s customer base: Those 40 million Windows licenses are equal to more than half of Apple’s total installed base of Mac users.)

What would be really interesting is any definitive word on how Windows 8 sales so far stack up against Microsoft’s not-for-public-consumption expectations. That we don’t know. And actually, it isn’t even entirely clear what “selling” a Windows “license” means: ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley asked, and the company declined to elaborate.

Microsoft also isn’t addressing a burning question which many of us have: How are its Surface tablets selling?

I’ve written before that I don’t think that Windows 8 sales mean much at this early point, and the forty-million license news doesn’t change that. Windows history is instructive here — a decade ago, some analysts thought Windows XP wasn’t doing that well, and it went on to be the most indomitable operating system of all time. And then, five years later, Microsoft’s crowing about early Windows Vista sales didn’t mean Vista was a success. So my advice to both Windows 8 optimists and skeptics is the same: Don’t come to any hasty conclusions. A year from now, it should be obvious whether the upgrade is catching on.

9 comments
leninlukose
leninlukose

People are buying Windows tablets. Some will prefer that to PCs. It doesn't mean anything to PC manufacturers since these are the same players who is making windows tablets. That is why Windows 8 sales are still high, when PC sales are bad. Really bad for iPad, people are crossing the fence now to jump into windows 8.

johnalauro
johnalauro

Sales numbers mean little, especially the first few months.  It's usage numbers that matter, such as from:

http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_os.asp

I find it funny how people claim desktop market is dying.  Problem is people treat phones as disposable and desktops last much longer...  However if you look at usage stats, mobile is only 1.8% despite a lot more mobile devices being sold than desktops.

After a few months we will see if these "sales" are actually being used or not.

thettk
thettk

At what point will people admit that this OS will do well? They sell 40 million in one month and it is not good enough? So pray do tell, what is the magic number?

bodzi1
bodzi1

'there are more p.c users since windows xp launched so you'll expect sales to be more'......how logical is that? In a saturated market? You expect more sales..... who hired U?

jayblanchflower
jayblanchflower

I've had every version of Windows, post 3.5 and Windows 8 is the best yet by a million miles.Install footprint is smaller and memory allocation is much more refined.I've recommended it to a few friends running older hardware (10yrs +) and it's given their machines a new lease of life.If you've got 16GB spare primary drive space and at least 2GB RAM, believe the hype and buy it, you won't be disappointed.

Justice007
Justice007

"For what it's worth?"

I do not recall ever seeing this sort of skepticism when Apple says they have sold a given amount of anything. Bias much? Is Time still a professional magazine/site? Or is it now a place where open bias is shown for what ever reason? Is Time now on the take? Just asking.

johnalauro
johnalauro

How many of those sales are enterprise subscriptions that are essentially presold and they may or may not be installed anytime soon?  Will trust reports of browser agents from web browsing usage, as that means it's actually being used or not.

WaltFrench
WaltFrench

Unlike @EdBott to plagiarize Steve Jobs. But in case anybody's forgotten, Jobs told devs that Microsoft won the PC-vs-Mac war—16 years ago, in 1996.

The question today is whether Win8/WP8 will allow Microsoft to climb up from a ridiculously distant #3 or worse in the installed OS that people are using on devices they buy in 2012, 2013 and beyond. Having spotted Apple a 5-year head start, it'd seem that a lot of IT purchasing types are going to have to switch gears ferociously and get behind touchscreen ultrabooks, OEM partners will need to reverse course on hardware, indie devs will have to take a gamble on the chick/egg problem of zero installed WinTouch devices, and consumers will have to trust the firm that EOL'd WP7.X phones *months* after they went on sale. (Remember those promises of WP7.8?)

It's just crazy enough that it MIGHT just work! But not because Win8 is selling more units (albeit generating much lower revenues) than Apple's oldest, and 4th-best-selling product line.

BrentonKlassen
BrentonKlassen

Wow!  That's a lot of sales!  I know I'm sure enjoying Windows 8.