Oh, come on, Microsoft: 60 million copies of Windows 8?

Microsoft needs to stop showering us with mumbo-jumbo sales numbers for Windows 8 and show us the activations

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How does that compare to Windows 7 sales? Good question -- the last reliable sales number I can find for Windows 7 came more than six months ago, on June 6, 2012. Microsoft OEM vice president Steve Guggenheimer, speaking at the Computex trade show in Taipei, said Microsoft had sold 600 million copies of Windows 7. At that rate, through the middle of 2012, Microsoft had sold an average of 600,000 copies per day.

By that measure, Windows 8's sales aren't keeping up with Windows 7, and they're falling.

But in many ways the numbers are just paper tigers. In November I wrote about the ways Microsoft fudges Windows 8 sales figures.

[W]e're likely to know less about Windows 8 sales in January than we do now. How is that possible? Microsoft stacks the deck. Legally, and in full conformance with every accounting principle, generally accepted or not, Microsoft has polished its methods for obfuscating initial sales of new Windows versions. We saw the techniques used after the releases of Vista and Windows 7 -- and we'll see them again for Windows 8.

Sure enough, there's obfuscation aplenty. Reller says the numbers reflect upgrades and OEM sales, but when does Microsoft count an upgrade as "sold"? How does it book OEM sales?

Upgrades come in many different guises. There are those customers who pay $40 for an online upgrade. Accounting for those upgrades is easy -- presumably Microsoft counts the sale when it receives the money -- but there are many who bought Windows 7 while Microsoft had $14.99 upgrades. At what point are those upgrades counted? Microsoft's on the hook to provide $14.99 upgrades to a lot of people. Is there some sort of accrual? What if somebody bought the upgrade long ago and never used it? Then there's the whole Volume Licensing/Software Assurance can of worms. Does Microsoft include any VL/SA numbers in the "upgrade" bucket? What about companies that renew their SA agreements but never intend to install Win8? Are those seats upgrades?

As for OEM sales, Microsoft books them as it makes the sale, presumably. But how many "sold" OEM copies of Win8 will end up running in the real world? Remember the Windows Phone 7 "OEM sales" debacle, where Microsoft claimed it had sold 10 -- or maybe 100 -- times more copies of Windows Phone 7 than ever reached consumers?

With 1,700 different computers now certified as running Windows 8/Windows RT, there are bound to be a few OEM copies of Windows 8 floating around that'll never make it into consumers' hands. Quite a few.

Hey, Microsoft! Want to score a few points with the developers you so desperately need? Stop showering us with mumbo-jumbo numbers that would only fool a Wall Street analyst. Show us the activations.

This story, "Oh, come on, Microsoft: 60 million copies of Windows 8?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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