A closer look at those Windows 8 and Windows RT usage numbers

A closer look at those Windows 8 and Windows RT usage numbers

Summary: The latest worldwide usage statistics from NetMarketShare are out. What do they say about Windows 8 and Windows RT? Spoiler alert: Don't believe everything you read.

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TOPICS: Windows 8, Microsoft, PCs
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It's a new month, which means it's time for our own Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols to launch another attack on the operating system he dislikes so much, Windows 8. This time it's "Microsoft’s New Coke moment."

Unfortunately, his entire argument relies on a handful of significant factual errors.

In the words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "You’re entitled to your own opinion. You’re not entitled to your own facts."

So allow me to set the record straight.

First, there’s simple arithmetic.

How bad are Windows 8 sales? In April 2013's Net Applications numbers, Windows 8 barely crept up to 3.82-percent. That still leaves Windows 8 behind Microsoft's last operating system flop, Vista, after seven months in the market.

No, Windows 8 has not been on the market seven months. Windows 8 was released to the public on October 26, 2012. The latest NetMarketShare numbers cover the period ending April 30, 2013. That’s six months and four days.

That kind of detail matters. If someone can’t get a simple fact like that right, should you really trust the rest of their analysis?

Second, my colleague and erstwhile debate opponent continues to compare the launch of Windows 8 with the launch of Windows Vista. He wrote an entire column on the subject in March of this year, creating a graph that purported to compare the two launches using Net Applications data. Unfortunately, the company that actually gathered those statistics has specifically said those comparisons are not valid.

Windows Vista was released to corporate customers in November 2006 and to the public in January 2007. So its first six months on the market would have ended in either May 2007 or July 2007, depending on which starting date you use.

Net Applications changed its data collection methodology in November 2007. The data it collects today is not comparable to the data it collected in 2007.

I asked Vincent Vizzaccaro, Executive Vice President of Marketing for NetApplications, to explain. Here’s what he told me:

Our methodology change occurred starting with data from November 2007. We started doing country-level weighting, which means we compare our traffic to the CIA Internet Traffic by Country table, and weight our data accordingly. For example, if our global data shows that Brazil represents 2% of our traffic, and the CIA table shows Brazil to represent 4% of global Internet traffic, we will count each unique visitor from Brazil twice. This is done to balance out our global data. All regions have differing markets, and if our traffic were concentrated in one or more regions, our global data would be inappropriately affected by those regions. Country level weighting removes any bias by region.

Comparisons of data before and after the change in methodology are invalid because of the massive shift caused by the weighting. It’s apples and oranges now.

We can’t go back before 11/2007 because the weighting required a completely new data collection structure. The two data sets are now incompatible with each other.

For the record, one year after its launch, Windows XP was in use by about 10 percent of the installed base of PCs. I checked the oldest Net Applications figures I have for Windows Vista, which date back to April 2008. Those numbers, which were collected using the same methodology the company uses today, show that Vista was in use by 9.41 percent of the installed base at that time, roughly 15 months after its launch.

And finally, Mr. Vaughan-Nichols takes a shot at Windows RT on his way out:

Windows on tablets fared even worse with touch-screen-based Windows 8 devices and Windows RT devices coming in at 0.02-percent and 0.00-percent each. The last was not a typo. The Surface RT is now in the running for worst Microsoft launch ever.

Oh dear. That does sound awful. In fact, those numbers are so dreadful I asked Net Applications if they’re accurate. The short answer: No. Mr. Vizziccaro explains that Windows RT devices are included with the figures for Windows 8 and are not broken out separately. The entry in the NetMarketShare reports for Windows RT shouldn’t be there.

So, reality check: Windows 8 is following roughly the same adoption pattern as previous Windows versions. The big difference is that its arrival in the marketplace comes as the market for traditional PCs is shrinking. In fact, its most important changes are specifically designed to enable operation on tablets and touchscreen devices, with a special emphasis on mobility.

Six months after the launch of Windows 8, we're just beginning to see the first signs of that shift. According to Strategy Analytics, Windows-based devices accounted for 7.4 percent of the tablet market, or about 3 million devices, in the first quarter of this year. IDC estimates that Microsoft and its partners accounted for 1.8 million devices, or 3.7 percent of the tablet market, in the first quarter. I expect that percentage will increase over the next year. So does IDC, which says if Microsoft can address consumer messaging and cost issues, "we could see Microsoft make even further headway in 2013 and beyond."

When Microsoft launched Windows 8 last year, it also committed to a more rapid update cadence. In the past decade, Windows has been updated every three years or so. The new plan is to release updates on an annual basis. If Windows 8.1 (code-named Blue) arrives this summer as expected, it will be right on schedule.

As for the comparison between Windows 8 and a sugary soft drink, we’re back in opinion territory now. Let’s just say we’ll have to agree to disagree on that one. I do wish that the Coca-Cola Company would release its secret formula so we could see, once and for all, what's really in those classic curved bottles.

Maybe we could even get an open-source alternative to Coke. I'm sure it would take the world by storm.

Topics: Windows 8, Microsoft, PCs

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      • Your facts don't support your claim...

        You do realize, the fact corrections you listed in this article don't support your claim that Windows 8 is on the same track as every other Windows release.

        Windows 8 is at 3.82% after 6 months 4 days. Project that forward and you end up with about 9-10 percent at 15 months, which is exactly what Vista did. So, Vista was a flop, but somehow you believe Windows 8 isn't? How did you arrive at that conclusion? Your "corrections" simply verified (more accurately) that Windows 8 is the same level of flop that Vista was. The fact that you found out tablets were included in the adoption numbers actually makes it worse, since Vista had no such boost.

        The reality is, you may have found errors in his numbers, but your numbers still prove his premise.

        P.S. I love the doublespeak from the NetApplications guy saying that they "weighted" their own numbers, when his example showed that they simply used the CIA numbers. To paraphrase, "our number was half of their number, so we counted our number twice." Hmmm. Two times two equals four. So, the CIA number was four and they changed their number to four. That's what they consider "weighting?" Perhaps he just offered the worst possible mathematical example of their weighting.
        BillDem
        • Um...

          Windows 8 is on track to achieve approximately the same adoption curve as XP and Vista.

          Which is what I said. So I am not sure what your point is.

          Anyway, SJVN's chart, showing Windows 8 far behind Windows Vista, is based on a comparison that is specifically disavowed by the company that collected the data.
          Ed Bott
          • is total marketshare taken into account?

            @ed

            I see lots of comparisons however no one seems to take into account the share of pc market at each point in time. I.E. when vista had the 9% after 15 months that would have been 15% of maybe 1 billion pcs where as win 8 would be 9% of 1.4-1.5 billion pcs thus the same amount of pcs at 1 billion would be at lease 5% more which would put win 8 at 13 - 14%..
            rruffman1
            • I agree

              There doesn't seem to be a base used in making comparisons. When the news talks about money, they adjust past amounts to today's dollars to account for inflation.

              Since it appears the tracking method changed in 2007, then maybe 2008 should be taken as the base year. Then the figures could be adjusted to account for product inflation.
              Webminotaur
        • Or Win 8 is doing better than Vista

          @BillDem. For the sake of argument, I'll give you that Win 8 is selling at about the same pace as Vista. However, if I understand your math and the point Ed is trying to make, Win 8 is doing better than Vista because it managed to do as well over the same period of time in the market while we're also seeing steep decline in PC shipments.

          PC's in decline. Mobile devices and tablets growing. Seems like MS is heading in the right direction to me. Sit and do the status quo seems like a sure recipe for failure. Their plan is brave and I applaud them for not taking the safe route to failure. We'll certainly see if it is viable as the year unfolds.
          jwpear
          • Win 8 to Vista

            What about Vista spring launch compared to Windows 8 fall (high volume) sales season launch? That negates the PC's decline which is also tied to Windows 8 decline (hard to argue that the OEM that offer Windows 7 with win 8 upgrade available had much higher sales that Windows 8 only). Microsoft push to tablet would have been better as an option. They are doing a great job of pushing people to tablet, just not windows tablet.
            alex_darkness
            • What about...

              What about: Get over it. No matter how you try to spin it, the OS is doing just fine.
              mrefuman
          • Re: Sit and do the status quo seems like a sure recipe for failure

            Absolutely agree! Microsoft should modernise their software to be appropriate for what those who use it want.

            But, what does this have to do with whether Windows 8 is a commercial failure for Microsoft or not? Since Microsoft does not publish their expectations and results, we can't know.

            Nor should we care, if you ask me. If Microsoft can't handle it, someone else will. Nature does not tolerate empty spaces.
            danbi
        • Here are the facts BillDem

          You have and always be an idiot!!!
          Moosehouse
        • BillDem

          It's not how fast it accelerates. It's about how far it goes.
          fldbryan@...
        • Vista was NOT a sales flop

          to BillDem and all the other morons who keep comparing win8 to vista sales and usage numbers,
          these idiot just don't seem to understand that vista sold WELL!
          the fact that vista was bloated and a resource hog is another matter.
          Sales of vista never died down until Windows 7 came out.
          Even a couple of years after windows 7, Vista usage continued to be significant.
          Vista is a flop in the hyperbole sense that it was a performance pig.
          It was secure, feature rich and stable ( if you used Vista drivers).
          It was a performance flop, but in any other metric, it wasn't a flop.
          The haters just don't have a logical point.
          warboat
          • How was it not a flop?

            First, I'd like to state that this is not in anyway intended to be sarcastic. I have not reviewed the numbers or other historical data.

            I personally never owned Vista. My experiences with it came from (and still do) working on other people's computers. That being said Windows relies on the technical in-expertise; people buy it because that's all they know. As an extension of this, people buy windows because that is what is the most supported. I am an avid user of both Linux and FreeBSD, but even I am chained to Windows when I need to use various applications because I just can't get them for these OSs. So basically, the same reason I have less worry about viruses, is the same reason I still have to use Windows.

            Windows 7 came out, and although it still had some of the annoyances of Windows Vista, overall it was much more acceptable. That being said... When Windows Vista came out, reception was so bad, if I recall, they offered free "downgrades" to anyone, for free; even your average consumer purchasing from Best Buy. Now with Windows 8, the opposite is true. Not only can you not downgrade for free, but you can't even FIND windows 7 at you local big chain store. You can order it from their website, but you will not leave that store with windows 7 on your computer. Microsoft has decided once again to decide what is best for you, much like apple has become famous for.

            So, if Vista is not a "Flop" why was it decided that everyone can "downgrade" for free? If Vista was not a flop, please list me the other releases of Windows that the company has allowed free downgrades. They are not doing it with Windows 8, and I do not recall this happening before. But, as I said initially, I am not being sarcastic, or trying to attack your opinion as I have not been privy to the history of all Windows releases, but would like to be informed of the last product release that was enough of a failure to warrant giving away a free copy of an alternate version of their operating system.
            MarkAdamss
        • Plus there's "the other" numbers

          No one takes into account the old saw about manufacturers contractually being forced to sell new systems with Windows loaded on it. I'm one of those people who takes home a new system, and after ascertaining the computer runs okay, erase the hard drive and throw Linux on it. I also have a number of friends who do the same.

          While I'm sure we only account for a percent or two, that's still a lot of wrongly counted Windows copies in use.
          straybeat_z
  • Good Question

    I don't think we can answer it. While we could estimate a cost of development, apply a present-value calculation and determine break-even, I imagine that the company's success elsewhere means for all practical purposes, Win8 breaks even very quickly.

    The Win8 argument is further abstracted by the observation that Win8 is just today's Windows operating system. One's familiarity with and acquisition of productivity and entertainment software is a much more significant indicator of which os will be the next one bought than would be the Start Button That Wasn't There.

    Plus Microsoft books the sale well before the computer comes online.

    On the other hand, I think they omitted a discussion of licenses sold through the end of the 1st calendar quarter. That would suggest that the number had not impressively increased from the 60 million number we heard late last year.

    Somewhere in a Redmond local cloud, there's a spreadsheet showing projections for uptake over time. Any one who is familiar with that spreadsheet can definitively say whether reality is worse, expected, or better. Those people are paid by Microsoft, enjoy that life choice, and will not be saying publicly. The rest of us are guessing.

    By the way, Mr. Vaughn-Williams dislikes the interface, which is fine, but the main gist of recent arguments, including the New Coke one, is that Microsoft might do better with an interface augmentation or change. I take the point of view that whether SJVN-debacle or EB-roses-a-blooming is correct, Microsoft might consider, like Coca-Cola, making a classic choice available rather than delegating customer-satisfaction to third parties. That is to say, if it hasn't already done so and Blue has a response.

    Where I'm talking out of a nether region is that I haven't tried Win8 and, when it comes to our Macs, I'm a guy that goes with Apple's changes. Would any one like a Mouse scroll to go along with your claw-close-and-type-to-launch?
    DannyO_0x98
  • But does it matter, is my question

    So it's not a smash hit, out of the gate OS to end all OS's. As Ed also noted it's doing about the same curve as previous "failures" that those same people now swear they'll never change because it's really that good (Windows XP).

    So it's neither one or the other. Does that need a classification? How about "as intended", "On par with previous versions", "not great, but not bad either"

    Here's a reference point - Is AppleTV a failure, or success, as it took off very slowly, and has basiclly leveled off, never selling to the levels of previous Apple products from that time period. Would you choose "raging success", or "absolute failure", or "as intended"?

    That's my point - The haters want it to be one of two absolutes, as anything else would give them nothing to "feel good about"
    William Farrel
    • Apples & Oranges?

      That's kinda funny. Comparing Apple's completely new 'hobby' product line's criteria for success with a new version of Windows' criteria for success.
      grayforge
      • Apple's Hobby == Apple's failures

        Are TV's that revolutionary? iCloud, what's new and exciting about that? How about Apple Maps? Are maps a hobby too? Forget AntennaGate?

        Certainly, 49% off AAPL's market cap loss in 8 months (coinciding with the release of Win8) must be also a $300 billion lost hobby?

        "You are holding it wrong!" - Steve Jobs

        Yes it's kinda funny...
        The Danger is Apple
      • AppleTV became a "hobby" when it didn't sell well

        So maybe MS should just call Windows 8 "a hobby" and then it can't be called a failure.

        Nice idea, grayforge!
        William Farrel
        • A hobby

          I have different interpretation on this.

          Tim Cook calls it "a hobby" so that he is not asked about any more details. It certainly does what it is intended for and sells well.

          It's too late for Windows 8 to be called hobby. Microsoft already made a point this is the future of Windows. Or, are they admitting all of Windows is a hobby? (something I suspect for almost 30 years)

          At the end, who cares?
          danbi
      • it all depends

        If you consider the Apple TV the same way you consider other iOS products, it's "apparently" complete failure.

        However, the Apple TV has always been several things at once. It is an iTunes delivery platform, and as such it is doing fine. It is also an accessory for iOS devices and Mac's that acts as a kind of "wireless cable to the HDTV set" and in that role it also is doing fine.

        When it comes to Windows 8, my opinion is that it is both a success and a failure. It is a success, because it well... works. Vista was bad, because there were situations that it simply didn't work with the hardware of the times.
        It is however a failure, because of Microsoft's pathetic claims "this is the future of Windows". But users don't seem to generally agree. Microsoft have again over-promised and under-delivered.
        I believe this inspired the Coke Moment analogy, but I think it is very incorrect to apply it to Microsoft, as Coca Cola and Microsoft have always had different attitude.

        Of course, this is my opinion and I don't expect anyone to agree with it.
        danbi