40 million copies of Windows 8 sold? Don't believe it

Microsoft would like the world to think Windows 8 is selling like gangbusters -- on a par with Windows 7 out of the chute. Take a chill pill and look at the numbers

Pay no attention to those impressive sales figures coming out of Redmond. If Microsoft did indeed sell 40 million copies of Windows 8 in its first month, then the people who bought it aren't accessing the Internet nearly as much as early adopters of Windows 7. Just do the math.

On Nov. 27, Tami Reller, current CFO of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live Division, told the guests at the Credit Suisse Annual Technology Conference, "I am pleased to announce today that we have sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses so far. So, the journey is just beginning, but so far 40 million Windows 8 licenses to date."

Shortly after, Brandon LeBlanc on the official Blogging Windows site said, "As we pass the one-month anniversary of the general availability of Windows 8, we are pleased to announce that to date Microsoft has sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses." Not to be outscooped, Steve Ballmer, speaking at the annual Microsoft Shareholder's Meeting the next day, also repeated the 40 million number.

Fair enough -- as I said last week, Microsoft has many innovative ways to fudge Windows 8 sales figures.

Here's what gets me. According to those numbers, Windows 8 adoption is actually outpacing Windows 7 by a wide margin, although Reller was careful to say that "[I]t's always tempting to want to compare to Windows 7, even I compare to Windows 7 when I talked about upgrades being even faster momentum than Windows 7 with Windows 8. The 40 million is roughly in line with Windows 7." At the time Windows 7 was released, Microsoft claimed that it sold 60 million copies of Win7 in the first two months.

Here's where the numbers don't add up. On Nov. 10, 2009 -- 19 days after Windows 7 went on sale -- Ina Fried reported that "adoption of Windows 7 continues to grow, with the weeks-old operating system accounting for 4 percent of PCs accessing the Web over the past weekend, according to Net Applications."

Now look at the analogous numbers for Windows 8. For the first few days of this week -- 30 days after Windows 8 reached general availability -- Net Applications reports that Windows 8 has hit a 1.18 percent market share.

Maybe it's true that Microsoft is selling more copies of Windows 8 than it did Windows 7. But if so, I guess the people who bought Windows 8 aren't as interested in using the Web as their Windows 7 cohorts -- by a factor of four.

It's all smoke and mirrors. We won't really know much about Windows 8 sales until the hardware figures come in for the holiday season and Microsoft is forced to work through all the deferred income from Windows 7 sales, in February of next year.

This story, "40 million copies of Windows 8 sold? Don't believe it," 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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