Mar 28 2014, 6:28pm CDT | by Forbes
It’s obvious that Windows 8 is not the most successful operating system launch Microsoft has ever had. Microsoft has struggled with user backlash over the dramatic changes to the UI, and it has worked through Windows 8.1 and the reportedly impending Windows 8.1 Update to “right the wrongs” and appease the revolting masses. If you look at the numbers, though, Windows 8 is actually quite successful.
According to Microsoft, Windows 8 just recently crossed the 200 million license mark. This seems a little anemic compared with its predecessor—Windows 7—which had sold about 240 million licenses in roughly the same amount of time. However, sales of the Windows OS are typically closely tied to PC sales in general, so it helps to view Windows sales as a function of PC sales in order to get a fair comparison.
According to current data from Net Market Share, Windows 8 only owns just over six percent of the desktop OS market, while Windows 7 still dominates at just under 50 percent, and Windows XP—which Microsoft will officially stop supporting in just over a week—still claims nearly 30 percent. Meanwhile, Mac OS X 10.9—which came out less than six months ago—has more than two and a half times the share of the preceding version, and almost as much market share as the past four versions of Mac OS X combined.
Clearly, Windows 8 is not a blazing success, and I don’t intend to try and paint it as such. That said, the numbers don’t support the contention that it is a complete failure, and certainly don’t warrant calling it the new “Windows Vista”.
Think of it like blockbuster movies. The movie that holds the title for largest domestic box office revenue in the United States is Avatar with over $760 million. When you adjust for inflation, though, and compare box office revenue on an even playing field, Avatar is actually number 14. Gone With the Wind, with a total domestic box office of less than $200 million is actually the leader, because it achieved that goal in 1939. When you adjust for inflation, the movie took in the equivalent of $1.7 billion.
So, let’s go back to Windows sales. Just as there was a difference in the movie economy between 1939 and 2009, there is also a difference between the overall PC market in 2001 compared to 2014. A post on Tom’s Guide broke down some of the math back in 2011 when Windows 7 passed 400 million licenses. The author breaks down sales of different versions of the OS relative to PC sales at the time, and found that Windows XP averaged 55 licenses per hundred PCs sold, while Vista didn’t do quite as well with only 47 licenses per 100 PCs sold.
Windows 7, on the other hand, was a massive success. It achieved 240 million licenses sold over the course of a year that saw roughly 350 million PCs sold. That works out to roughly 68 licenses per 100 PCs sold—45 percent better than Windows Vista, and 23 percent more than Windows XP.
How has Windows 8 done so far? Well, it didn’t beat Windows 7, but it isn’t far behind, and it is far better than either Vista or XP. The 200 million Windows 8 licenses compares against a slower PC market with only 314 million sold, so it works out to 63 Windows 8 licenses per hundred PCs sold. That makes Windows 8 sales a 34 percent increase over Windows Vista, and about 15 percent higher than Windows XP. It also puts Windows 8 only about 7 percent behind Windows 7.
Granted, none of this is very scientific. There is a wide variety of other factors which may have influenced Windows and/or PC sales over the last decade. For one thing, analyst firms like IDC have arbitrary definitions of PC. A Surface Pro 2 is not a “PC” by IDC terms because it is a touch-enabled device with no permanent keyboard and a display less than 16 inches, while the Dell XPS 18 is considered a “PC” simply because the display is larger than IDC’s arbitrary line in the sand. It doesn’t matter that a Surface Pro 2 has the same internal architecture, and runs the same Windows OS that any traditional desktop or laptop PC run.
If IDC did count Windows 8 tablets as PCs, though, it would probably negatively affect the Windows 8 math. It would increase “PC” sales by combining traditional PCs and tablets together, but wouldn’t change the fact that Microsoft claims only 200 million Windows 8 licenses have been sold. It is also fair to say that if Windows 8 were more popular, PC sales would be higher—which would raise both numbers, but may not necessarily impact the ratio between the two.
The bottom line is that Windows 8 isn’t doing nearly as bad as the “Chicken Little” hype would have you believe. It stumbled out of the gate, but Microsoft made huge improvements with Windows 8.1. The combination of the end of support for Windows XP, and the expected Windows 8.1 Update could drive momentum in favor of the much-maligned OS.
Source: Forbes Business
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