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Windows 8 sales figures may hide true story

Actual OS adoption rates may not add up to ‘40m licences’

Windows 8 sales figures may hide true story
Microsoft’s new OS must impress a tablet-hungry market.

Some 40 million Windows 8 licences have been sold in the month since the OS launched, Reuters reported, but the number may not represent a particularly large adoption of the new OS.

According to Tami Reller, who shares Microsoft’s Windows business helm with Julie Larson-Green after Steven Sinofsky’s exit earlier this month, the new OS is surpassing Windows 7’s sales performance of three years ago.

But the figures may not yet be cause for much celebration. According to technology industry researcher StatCounter, approximately 1% of the world’s 1.5bn PCs are running Windows 8.

Reller suggested much of the licence revenue came from upgrades (which are relatively cheap) rather than sales of new licences pre-installed in newly purchased devices.

"Windows 8 upgrade momentum is outpacing that of Windows 7," said Reller, speaking at an investor conference held by Credit Suisse. Windows 8 upgrades cost $40, whereas a new licence costs $70 and a new PC, hybrid or tablet will likely sell at hundreds of dollars.

In addition, a large proportion of the sales are to manufacturers for installation in machines that may yet be sitting in warehouses or showrooms.

Reller also did not cover sales of Microsoft’s ARM-chipped surface, the software giant’s first foray into own-brand PCs. The first edition showed limited backwards-compatibility, but a bigger, Intel-powered version is due to be released in January.

The Credit Suisse conference was Reller’s first public appearance since being named finance and marketing head of the Windows business following Sinofsky’s departure. She took the opportunity to assure curious delegates that the Windows team had moved on smoothly.

"The team holistically is in great, great shape. And the product is in great shape," she said. "I think transitions are always somewhat of a challenge, but I think that timing-wise it is a reasonable time, and the team is busy."

Earlier in the day Microsoft announced that Xbox console sales were down 22% in the US Thanksgiving week, compared with sales in the same week last year. The drop is consistent with many gamers moving to cheap or free online entertainment in the midst of the economic downturn.

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