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  • About Those 100 Million Windows 8 Sales

    May 8th, 2013

    If you can believe Microsoft, over 100 million Windows 8 licenses have been sold so far. This number is consistent with the initial uptake of Windows 7, so you have to wonder how these figures are being collected, since PC sales continue to decline. Is it possible Microsoft is just lying?

    Well, probably not. But what constitutes a sale?

    It's not just people downloading Windows 8 upgrades, actually. Microsoft earns most of its keep selling software licenses to OEMs, who bundle Windows with a new PC, any PC. So, yes, I suppose it's possible that Microsoft has booked 100 million sales into its ledgers. But that doesn't mean that 100 million copies of Windows 8, or anything close to that number, are in the hands of end users. It may also be true that there are tens of millions of unsold PCs in the channel. But that doesn't matter to Microsoft, since a sale is a sale even if nobody is actually using the product.

    This is similar to the IDC survey reporting that the percentage of Android tablets sold now exceeds the iPad, which is left with less than 40% of the market. Whereas Apple reports real sales, most of the other companies are reporting units shipped. It's very easy to rack up a couple of million or so of each model just to reach all the resellers and distributors. It doesn't mean all that product is actually sold, and it would be curious to see how many are eventually disposed of at fire sales, or returned to the manufacturer, depending on their return policies.

    When it comes to Windows 8, it's clear Microsoft isn't getting the love, despite the claim of how many were sold. If manufacturers aren't moving PCs as they used to, they will build less, which inevitably means sales of Windows 8 are doomed to decline.

    The larger issue is why Windows 8 isn't successful, and what Microsoft can do about it, if anything. One argument is the steep learning curve, that customers are forced to learn new skills, particularly the tiled interface formerly known as Metro. It's certainly not very discoverable, and, unaccountably, Microsoft killed the familiar Start menu, although it can be readily replaced with cheap third-party utilities. Also, to use the key productivity apps, and that includes Microsoft Office, Windows 8 users must return to the desktop, so why bother with another interface at all?

    Windows 8 becomes particularly irritating when you have a traditional PC that doesn't have a touchscreen. Mousing around is tremendously awkward and unintuitive, but Microsoft clearly hopes that customers will come around eventually once they learn how things work. But they seem to forget that, until fairly recently, most Windows users around the world were using XP, dating back to 2001. Nowadays, Windows 7 has the majority of users, and they appear quite satisfied, so why fix what isn't broken?

    Microsoft's planned fix is called Blue in development versions, an update to Windows 8 that reportedly will address some problems. While the feature set hasn't been fully fleshed out, it is expected that the Start menu will return, as will the ability to default boot into the desktop layer. In that sort of setup, Windows 8 might be closer in concept to a Windows 7.5, since it will be quite similar otherwise.

    This isn't to say that Windows 8 or its heirs are destined to fail. It's possible that, over time, as more and more Windows users buy new PCs with the OS preloaded, they will come to accept the changes and maybe embrace them. That might be true if PCs with touchscreens catch on, but that's by no means certain. While touch is perfectly viable for a mobile gadget, such as a smartphone or a tablet, using your fingers on a regular PC screen, notebook or desktop, is a decidedly awkward reach. Convertible notebooks, which can become tablet-like if you push and pull and tug and swivel and rotate them properly, are usually thick, heavy and awkward to use. Rather than offering the best of both worlds, you get the worst, the master of few tasks.

    But Microsoft is in a box. The company believes that we all want the PC and mobile gear to be essentially the same, which is why the interface formerly known as Metro also inhabits Windows Phone devices. But it's not as if Windows Phone has taken the world by storm, or even come close.

    I suppose it is possible that a Windows Blue, which may be called Windows 8.1 when it arrives later this year, will provide the fixes needed to improve PC sales. But that ship may already have sailed, and unless Microsoft can convince skeptical customers to buy more PCs with Windows 8, sales will continue to fall.

    Sure, Mac sales are flat too, but Apple still prospers if those customers move to an iPhone or an iPad or, even better, both. Windows users disgusted with Microsoft's tone deafness, who still want a personal computer, may actually buy Macs.

    So, yes, Microsoft may have moved 100 million Windows 8 licenses, but the new OS is far from successful.



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    23 Responses to “About Those 100 Million Windows 8 Sales”

    1. DaveD says:

      Microsoft is willing to shout about the Windows 8 sales and yet, nothing much about the Surface. Something doesn't add up here. It doesn't compute.

      The way I see it, Microsoft was trying to ram their vision of a PC+ world into the mind of a future PC buyer. As a result, the buyer balked at the notion of a new user interface and the smarter one questioned the need of that particular feature on a non-touchscreen PC.

    2. Russ says:

      Gene - With all due respect, I do not think you are being consistent or fair here. You ding Microsoft for reporting sales of Windows 8, even though those sales may not make it into an end users hands. Then you ding Android for reporting shipments, not sales. This is not the same thing. Microsoft is doing the same thing that Apple does - it reports sales of units. While Apple sells primarily to the end user directly, Microsoft does not. Microsoft does not know, with any degree of certainty, what the sales of their OEM customers are. They only report what they know.

      I agree with the call out on Android reporting shipments, not sales. It makes it very difficult to compare this to Apple's shipments. It is probably done by design to confuse the analysts. While Windows 8 may not be doing well, I just don't think you are being fair to complain about Microsoft reporting sales.

      Gene Steinberg Reply:

      @Russ, With all due respect, Microsoft sells Windows mostly to PC makers. But if many of the PCs on which Windows 8 is loaded aren't in the hands of customers, it doesn't increase the reach of the OS. When Apple makes a sale, it goes to an end user. See the distinction?

      Peace,
      Gene

    3. [...] “About Those 100 Million Windows 8 Sales: If you can believe Microsoft, over 100 million Windows 8 licenses have been sold so far. This number is consistent with the initial uptake of Windows 7, so you have to wonder how these figures are being collected, since PC sales continue to decline. Is it possible Microsoft is just lying?” — “The Tech Night Owl” (www.technightowl.com) [...]

    4. Carl says:

      One issue that was not addressed is the downgrade option when business computers are purchased. When Vista was released and I worked for Dell technical support, some 90% to 95% percent of the systems we dealt with had an XP downgrade in the order details. That meant Microsoft could record the sale of a Vista license, but in reality, XP was pre-installed on the hard drive and the Vista installation disc sat in the box collecting dust. Though I no longer work with Dell now, I am sure much the same is happening with Windows 8. Many business computers that have the option are taking the Windows 7 downgrade, or the computer is being given a corporate image right out of the box, usually Windows 7 these days.
      Microsoft can report sales numbers, but the actual usage statistics show a very different story. I don't see Windows 8 garnering the type of usage that XP or Windows 7 has enjoyed.

      Gene Steinberg Reply:

      @Carl, Microsoft would rather not tell you how many Windows 8 users end up downgrading.

      Peace,
      Gene

    5. Andrew says:

      Gene, I unfortunately have to agree with Russ.

      Don't get me wrong, I am an Apple certified and also an MCSE. My preference is Apple though. So making a statement siding with Microsoft is not what I really enjoy doing.

      The fact is though - they sold that many. Bottom line. Now you can argue about usage statistics, unused licenses, license removal to install a free OS like Linux, etc, but it does not change the fact that MS got paid for the licenses regardless of whether the end product was sold or even used.

      If you wrote the article that way then I would definitely agree 100%, but you did not.

      I do wish that everyone HAD to report the same way and under similar criteria, but they don't.

      It is sad when you think that if this were cars and trucks and Ford said they "sold" 100 million units because all Dealers had to actually purchase the vehicles outright to put them on their lots, you would see exactly the truth in the bullshit. You would see nothing but miles and miles of unused Ford logos lined up everywhere. But hey, they would count as "sold" right?

      I think in a few years we will really begin to see the error of reporting statistics this way.

      Gene Steinberg Reply:

      @Andrew, And you also miss the key point of the argument. Selling tens of millions of licenses to OEMs doesn't represent the actual user base of people running Windows 8. It's not about how many customers paid Microsoft, but how many people are using the product.

      Peace,
      Gene

    6. SockRolid says:

      Re: "Also, to use the key productivity apps, and that includes Microsoft Office, Windows 8 users must return to the desktop, so why bother with another interface at all?"

      Boom. That's the deep, intractable, killer problem with Windows 8. It doesn't matter how good the interface-formerly-known-as-Metro is. Sure, it might be a way for newbie Windows users to avoid the clunkiness of the legacy menu-driven Windows 7 interface. And it helps to make Microsoft look hip and trendy in TV ads.

      But for the vast majority of Windows users, it's awkward and unnatural. Just something to fight with until they can get to the familiar Windows 7 desktop. It's not a natural evolution of anything in Microsoft's desktop OS history. They did nothing to prepare users for it. Other than Windows Phone 7 / 8, of course. Which were, by the way, also completely alien to any Windows Mobile user and totally incompatible with any and all Windows Mobile apps.

      So now they have to backtrack and put back the legacy desktop. And why, exactly, did Microsoft bother with the ex-Metro interface at all? I think it was simply the quick-and-dirty solution. Truly evolving an OS takes 1. a long-term strategic roadmap, 2. steady additions / deprecations in the APIs, frameworks, and programming language, and 3. slow and steady (preferably yearly) improvements to the overall user experience. Microsoft doesn't even have #1. No long-term strategy. Just copy Apple's latest OS (but not too closely) every 5 years or so.

      And without a long-term roadmap, you can't steadily improve the programming platform or the user experience. You just milk the status quo until it becomes intolerable, then nuke and pave to try and bring things up to date. Didn't work with Vista. Probably won't work with Windows 8. Good luck with XP Compatibility Mode, Ballmer. You're going to need that forever.

    7. [...] About Those 100 Million Windows 8 Sales by TechNightOwl, May 8, 2013 – Whereas Apple reports real sales, most of the other companies are reporting units shipped. It’s very easy to rack up a couple of million or so of each model just to reach all the resellers and distributors. It doesn’t mean all that product is actually sold, and it would be curious to see how many are eventually disposed of at fire sales, or returned to the manufacturer, depending on their return policies. [...]

    8. HLee says:

      "Selling tens of millions of licenses to OEMs doesn't represent the actual user base of people running Windows 8. It's not about how many customers paid Microsoft, but how many people are using the product."

      I completely agree with this. Perception affects naive developers, buyers and investors alike. Back in the late 80's and early 90's a major sotware reporting association drove untold numbers of developers away from a major player simply by the way "sales" were (mis-)reported.

      Reporting sales that do not make it to "market" skews the sales towards one and away from another, and taken by spin news/blogs, investors and developers and then buyers are affected. It is a shame that so many people are so ignorant of the differences in the end result.

      Gene Steinberg Reply:

      @HLee, I'm always troubled by how many so-called reporters take these numbers as gospel, and never, ever question them. They seem afraid to ask the hard questions. So they aren't reporters; they are copying machines.

      Peace,
      Gene

    9. [...] Did Microsoft Really Sell 100 Million Windows 8 Licenses? (TechNightOwl) Microsoft says it sold 100 million licenses to Windows 8, which means the new operating system’s uptake would be on par with what was achieved by Windows 7. But it may be that those licenses never materialise in consumers actually getting Windows 8 into their hands. They’re merely evidence that some manufacturers have signed on to put Windows 8 on some devices. It’s like talking about shipments rather than sales. Windows 8, Microsoft’s bet on a tablet and touch-screen friendly operating system, is far from being able to declare success. Read >  [...]

    10. [...] Did Microsoft Really Sell 100 Million Windows 8 Licenses? (TechNightOwl)Microsoft says it sold 100 million licenses to Windows 8, which means the new operating system’s uptake would be on par with what was achieved by Windows 7. But it may be that those licenses never materialize in consumers actually getting Windows 8 into their hands. They’re merely evidence that some manufacturers have signed on to put Windows 8 on some devices. It’s like talking about shipments rather than sales. Windows 8, Microsoft’s bet on a tablet and touch-screen friendly operating system, is far from being able to declare success. Read >  [...]

    11. [...] Did Microsoft Really Sell 100 Million Windows 8 Licenses? (TechNightOwl)Microsoft says it sold 100 million licenses to Windows 8, which means the new operating system’s uptake would be on par with what was achieved by Windows 7. But it may be that those licenses never materialize in consumers actually getting Windows 8 into their hands. They’re merely evidence that some manufacturers have signed on to put Windows 8 on some devices. It’s like talking about shipments rather than sales. Windows 8, Microsoft’s bet on a tablet and touch-screen friendly operating system, is far from being able to declare success. Read >  [...]

    12. [...] Did Microsoft Really Sell 100 Million Windows 8 Licenses? (TechNightOwl) Microsoft says it sold 100 million licenses to Windows 8, which means the new operating system’s uptake would be on par with what was achieved by Windows 7. But it may be that those licenses never materialise in consumers actually getting Windows 8 into their hands. They’re merely evidence that some manufacturers have signed on to put Windows 8 on some devices. It’s like talking about shipments rather than sales. Windows 8, Microsoft’s bet on a tablet and touch-screen friendly operating system, is far from being able to declare success. Read >  [...]

    13. [...] Did Microsoft Really Sell 100 Million Windows 8 Licenses? (TechNightOwl)Microsoft says it sold 100 million licenses to Windows 8, which means the new operating system’s uptake would be on par with what was achieved by Windows 7. But it may be that those licenses never materialize in consumers actually getting Windows 8 into their hands. They’re merely evidence that some manufacturers have signed on to put Windows 8 on some devices. It’s like talking about shipments rather than sales. Windows 8, Microsoft’s bet on a tablet and touch-screen friendly operating system, is far from being able to declare success. Read >  [...]

    14. [...] Did Microsoft Really Sell 100 Million Windows 8 Licenses? (TechNightOwl)Microsoft says it sold 100 million licenses to Windows 8, which means the new operating system’s uptake would be on par with what was achieved by Windows 7. But it may be that those licenses never materialize in consumers actually getting Windows 8 into their hands. They’re merely evidence that some manufacturers have signed on to put Windows 8 on some devices. It’s like talking about shipments rather than sales. Windows 8, Microsoft’s bet on a tablet and touch-screen friendly operating system, is far from being able to declare success. Read >  [...]

    15. Ian Waring says:

      Say I'm an organisation with 100,000 users and a three year Enterprise Agreement (the chief way all large orgs buy their Microsoft desktop licenses, to deploy on their complete base of PCs). Microsoft will normally straight line the assumed license take up over that time period.

      The minute Windows 8 ships, there is no longer a SKU (part number) for Windows 7. From that point, every license counts as Windows 8, independent of what ends up being deployed and used on that organisations PCs.

      So, claiming V8 sales is one thing, but assuming this translates to V8 deployments is a completely different story. It is a fiction. And even the corporate sales teams of Microsoft are more fixated on moving large enterprises onto Windows 7 (from XP) in their current financial year (ends June 2013) than actively going to V8. V8 is, at this stage, a consumer and OEM play, and not where MS actually make most of their money.

    16. [...] Did Microsoft Really Sell 100 Million Windows 8 Licenses? (TechNightOwl)Microsoft says it sold 100 million licenses to Windows 8, which means the new operating system’s uptake would be on par with what was achieved by Windows 7. But it may be that those licenses never materialize in consumers actually getting Windows 8 into their hands. They’re merely evidence that some manufacturers have signed on to put Windows 8 on some devices. It’s like talking about shipments rather than sales. Windows 8, Microsoft’s bet on a tablet and touch-screen friendly operating system, is far from being able to declare success. Read >  [...]

    17. [...] Did Microsoft Really Sell 100 Million Windows 8 Licenses? (TechNightOwl)Microsoft says it sold 100 million licenses to Windows 8, which means the new operating system's uptake would be on par with what was achieved by Windows 7. But it may be that those licenses never materialize in consumers actually getting Windows 8 into their hands. They're merely evidence that some manufacturers have signed on to put Windows 8 on some devices. It's like talking about shipments rather than sales. Windows 8, Microsoft's bet on a tablet and touch-screen friendly operating system, is far from being able to declare success. Read >  [...]

    18. [...] Did Microsoft Really Sell 100 Million Windows 8 Licenses? (TechNightOwl)Microsoft says it sold 100 million licenses to Windows 8, which means the new operating system’s uptake would be on par with what was achieved by Windows 7. But it may be that those licenses never materialize in consumers actually getting Windows 8 into their hands. They’re merely evidence that some manufacturers have signed on to put Windows 8 on some devices. It’s like talking about shipments rather than sales. Windows 8, Microsoft’s bet on a tablet and touch-screen friendly operating system, is far from being able to declare success. Read > [...]

    19. [...] Did Microsoft Really Sell 100 Million Windows 8 Licenses? (TechNightOwl)Microsoft says it sold 100 million licenses to Windows 8, which means the new operating system’s uptake would be on par with what was achieved by Windows 7. But it may be that those licenses never materialize in consumers actually getting Windows 8 into their hands. They’re merely evidence that some manufacturers have signed on to put Windows 8 on some devices. It’s like talking about shipments rather than sales. Windows 8, Microsoft’s bet on a tablet and touch-screen friendly operating system, is far from being able to declare success. Read > [...]

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