Steve Ballmer: Four million upgrades of Windows 8 sold in four days

Also, 'tens of millions' of copies of Windows 8 have shipped to hardware manufacturers. Perhaps a reality check is in order?

The blogs are all lit up with news that Steve Ballmer himself, speaking at the Build conference this week, claimed Microsoft has sold "more than 4 million upgrade copies" of Windows 8. Ballmer also claimed that "tens of millions" of copies of Windows 8 have shipped to hardware-manufacturing partners around the world. "Enthusiasm is very high" for Windows 8, he extrapolated.

Let's indulge in a little grain of salt here.

On the same day at Build, Ballmer claimed there are 670 million Windows 7 PCs in the wild, all of which can be upgraded to Windows 8. If you assume that almost all of the people who upgraded to Windows 8 over the four-day weekend were starting with Windows 7 as a base, somewhere around one half of 1 percent of all Windows 7 owners decided to upgrade.

I'll bet a substantial portion of those owners didn't go whole hog and throw the Windows 7 baby out with the Win8 bathwater. There were plenty of dual-boot installations in the total, too.

That's not exactly a mountain lion roar.

As for the claim that "tens of millions" of copies of Win8 are on machines racing across retailers' shelves, I'm reminded of the way the numbers for Windows Phone 7 leaked. First Microsoft announced it had sold 1.5 million copies of Windows 7 in the first six weeks of availability. One month later, the official tally stood at 2 million copies sold. It wasn't until several months after that we discovered the 2 million copies weren't "sold" in the sense that real, breathing people bought them. They were put on phones that got shipped to retailers and carriers. My guess is that 90 percent of those phones rotted on store shelves -- maybe more.

Permit me to offer a reality check. Drop by your favorite computer shoppe today and ask how many new Windows 8 machines it's sold since Friday. I bet the answer won't surprise you one little bit.

Microsoft Stores seem to be well-attended, and Surface RT machines are backordered online, which may or may not mean much. But you have to wonder how many machines are actually being sold in the Stores and how many are coming back as soon as the buyers realize these Windows tablets won't run Windows programs. You also have to wonder how many Surface RT tablets can be sold in 30-plus stores, worldwide.

J. Peter Bruzzese has a fascinating story of his trek to the Microsoft Store in Orlando over the weekend. (No, he didn't buy a Surface RT.)

Ballmer wants developers (developers, developers) to believe that "Windows 8 is the best opportunity for software development today. Hundreds of millions of people are aching to use your apps, just dying to use your application." From 4 million upgrades to hundreds of millions of achy, dying users -- quite a leap of faith, eh?

I think Windows 8 is going to carve out a niche -- it really does have some good features. But I don't expect the computing world to be turned on its ear, as it was with Windows 7.

Perhaps a little less hyperbole and a little more in the way of solid numbers from Redmond would help instill confidence. But then again, this is Microsoft we're talking about.

Woody Leonhard's comprehensive 1,080-page no-bull "Windows 8 All-In-One for Dummies" just hit store shelves.

This story, "Steve Ballmer: Four million upgrades of Windows 8 sold in four days," was originally published at 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 on Twitter.

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