On March 26, Microsoft officials shared for the first time publicly its Windows Vista sales figures. According to Microsoft, at 20 million copies in month one, Vista was selling at two times the pace of Windows XP -- a bragging point that some analysts and journalists don't believe to be 100 percent accurate -- the Softies didn't offer many more specifics on Vista trends.
Later the same afternoon, however, during a Merrill Lynch-hosted conference call for Wall Street analysts, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Windows Client Marketing Mike Sievert spent an hour answering follow-up questions and sharing additional data points regarding Vista sales trends. Some of the points Sievert made during his remarks:
* On Vista application and device-driver compatibility: Sievert told analysts that there are currently 4,500 drivers and applications -- or more than two times the number that were certified for Vista as of January 30. Sievert said there has been a large influx over the past 60 days. He told analysts that the situation with Vista device and software compatibility is "a case where perception may lag reality."
* On Vista's rollout timing: Sievert told analysts that Vista was doing especially well vis-a-vis Windows XP, given that XP was introduced during the holiday season, but Vista was introduced "in what is typically a tough couple of months," meaning February and March. (Last year, I recall Microsoft officials attempting to put a happy spin on Vista missing the Christmas buying season, claiming the post-holiday period would stil be robust.)
* On upselling customers to more expensive, premium versions of Vista: Sievert said that Microsoft is selling predominantly premium SKUs (Vista Home Premium and Vista Ultimate) into the consumer space. Home Premium provides Microsoft with a "royalty uplift," he said, but nowhere near as big as the uplift Microsoft gets from selling Vista Business to its customers. "Vista Business has five times the uplift of Windows Home Premium," Sievert said.
* On pushing more users toward pricier, business versions of Vista: Sievert said that Vista Business "was designed with small-business customers in mind." Going forward, Microsoft and its PC partners need to convince business customers they need business PCs, as opposed to consumer-focused systems, Sievert said. The messaging: Windows Vista "shines great" on pricier hardware with the right graphics, memory and processing power, Sievert said.
* On Vista Service Pack 1: Like other Microsoft execs, Sievert is pushing the view that businesses shouldn't wait for Service Pack 1 to deploy Windows Vista. Like others, he hedged about when and whether Microsoft will roll out Vista SP1 this year. He actually told analysts on the call, at one point, that there "might be" a Vista SP1 -- despite the fact that we already know there will be one and that it will likely ship this year. Sievert claimed that "we haven't established a timeline" for Vista SP1. (Hmmm.) He also said that SP1 (that thing that might or might not exist) won't be a "different version" of Windows...just a rollup of updates happening along the way."
* On large customers banning Vista: Sievert told Wall Streeters that Vista bans like the recently acknowledged Department of Transportation one are just temporary. He said it's just a case of customers "making sure their licensing rollout is right, their application compatibility is right," etc. He said one person's perception of a ban is another's perception of "interest," and that Microsoft is "working with those governments (and other customers) and is optimistic about the long-term and even medium-term prospects for Windows Vista" deployments in those accounts.
* On piracy and anti-piracy "opportunities" in Vista: ""This is one of the places I'm most excited about the technology and the opportunity we have," Sievert told analysts. "Vista makes piracy harder" and the differences between pirated and "genuine" software more obvious, he said. "With Windows XP, the pirated version of XP was the exact same as the genuine," he said. But with Vista and its Genuine Advantage lockdowns, the difference is striking.
Sievert repeated yet again that Microsoft is still expecting businesses to deploy Vista more quickly than they did Windows XP. "We expect Vista to be the most broadly adopted OS in history," Sievert concluded.