Microsoft says it has sold more than 400 million Windows 7 licenses, but Windows XP is still nearly twice as commonly used worldwide. Yet Microsoft has already shown two technical previews of Windows 8, and announced today that a further preview of Windows 8 is coming in September. Therefore, Microsoft has a balancing act to convince businesses and consumers to upgrade to Windows 7 despite the promise of a new operating system around the corner.
"Two-thirds of business PCs are still on Windows XP. Moving these users to Windows 7 is important and urgent work for us to get after together," Tami Reller, corporate VP and CFO for Windows, said at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The conference is Microsoft's opportunity to talk to partners about how they can make money together.
Windows 8 could be released next year, so to prevent businesses from holding on to their cash Microsoft is arguing that users should upgrade now and use the same PC to run Windows 8 later.
"Whether upgrading an existing PC or buying a new one, Windows will adapt to make the most of that hardware," Reller said. Windows 8 is for "the hundreds of millions of modern PCs that exist today and for the devices of tomorrow."
As we learned earlier this year, Windows 8 will be optimized for both touch-screen tablets and PCs. Microsoft announced at January's Consumer Electronics Show that it will support the ARM architecture, a lower-powered chip for mobile devices, and last month Microsoft showed off the new tablet interface.
"Windows 8 is a true re-imagining of Windows, from the chip to the interface," Reller said. Despite the re-imagining, Microsoft will keep system requirements flat or reduce them. To run Windows 7, PCs need at least a 1GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB available disk space and DirectX 9 graphics.
Windows 7 tablets exist today, but regardless of Microsoft's advice, consumers are better served waiting for Windows 8 tablets to hit the market because they are likely to be more advanced and it's not yet clear whether Microsoft can create something better than Apple's iPad. The "buy today, upgrade later" advice should be applied to PCs only.