How are Windows 8 sales? Still too early to tell

How are Windows 8 sales? Still too early to tell

Summary: New numbers are beginning to emerge from research firms on actual sales and usage of Windows 8. But the data paints a conflicting picture.

TOPICS: Windows, Microsoft

How many people are using Windows 8 one month after its launch? That depends on who you ask and on how closely you look at the numbers.

The most recent stats come from Net Market Share, whose November report was released over the weekend. The cumulative number for the month says 1.09% of all web traffic from the analytics firm's network (160 million visits per month; the exact methodology is here).

But that 1.09% figure is slightly misleading, because it represents aggregate traffic for the month. Net Market Share also tracks web usage on a weekly basis. Here are the Windows usage stats, worldwide, for the period after the Windows 8 launch on October 26:

Windows 8 usage, Net Market Share, Nov 2012

Windows XP and Vista show consistent negative trendlines, with both Windows 7 and Windows 8 on the uptick.

In the second half of the month, which included the U.S. Black Friday selling period, Windows 8 usage spiked 30 percent.

That's a slightly more positive story than the one told by NPD, which released a study of PC sales based on a four-week survey in the U.S. ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley covered the numbers in a story that suggested Windows 8 sales on new PCs are "off to a slow start with consumers in month one":

Desktop sales are down nine percent compared to a year ago; notebook sales are down 24 percent compared to a year ago.

There are two big troubles with the NPD numbers, though.

First, they don't actually represent month one. NPD's release says "Windows 8 initial four week launch sales include the time period of October 21 – November 17, 2012." That survey period starts five days before the launch of Windows 8 and runs for 22 days after the launch event. It also doesn't include Black Friday. The press release might have been released a month after launch, but the numbers represent sales from the first half of November, traditionally the slowest time of the year.

Second, although the NPD press release stated that "Windows 8 tablet sales have been almost non-existent," the research firm failed to count sales of Microsoft's Surface RT, which was the only tablet on the market for much of the post-launch period.

Finally, there's StatCounter, a rival of Net Market Share, which calculated that by November 26, worldwide web usage from devices running Windows 8 was equal to 1.31% of total traffic. Remarkably, that figure is identical to Net Market Share's calculation.

Trying to turn those usage stats into hard numbers is an exercise in fuzzy math, but it's reasonable to assume that at least half of the 40 million licenses Microsoft sold in the month after Windows 8's launch are now in the hands of computer users. And many new PC models are just beginning to hit the market. NPD says only 58% of PCs sold in their sample period were running Windows 8, with the remaining 42% consisting of inventory running Windows 7. That means the numbers at the end of December will be significantly more illuminating.

Microsoft's business model is based on selling 20 million PCs a month. Interestingly, a 2009 report from NPD on the launch of Windows 7 indicates that "January traditionally has a bigger sales footprint than October." Coincidentally, that's when retail shelves should be fully stocked with new Windows 8 PCs, and it's also when Microsoft is launching its Surface Pro.

In other words: Still too early to tell.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Now thats the analsys.

    Thanks Ed.
    Ram U
    • Edit: it is analysis not Analsys

      ZDNet talkback system sucks.
      Ram U
      • Oh let's face it...

        ...obsessing over all these useless stats pretty much makes it an anal sys[tem] of data. :)
    • What analysis?

      It is certainly not reasonable to assume that have of the 40 million licenses sold are in end users hands already... esp. when the very next statement reflects that 42% of NDC computer sales are still Windows 7. Why don't you do the math on total computer sales and find out what a near 50% reflects assuming that the rest are a percentage of the 40 million Windows 8 licenses. That may not be very accurate either but at least it would qualify as analysis rather than assumption.
      • good point

        good point,makes me wonder how many of the 40 million licenses really went to the OEM's and have yet to be installed an a machine.
        • They don't pay until it's installed on a machine

          Royalty OEMs don't pay for a license until they ship a machine into the channel. It sounds like you're assuming they buy millions of copies and just keep them in the back of a warehouse until they're ready to use them. That's not how it works.
          Ed Bott
          • Windows 8 Commeters

            More than any Windows OS release, there are more competitor OS fan boys making negative comments. I believe you are right expect that 20 million copies of Win 8 are in use by actual users. Intact I believe the number of users could be higher.
      • You seem to have forgotten something

        Microsoft sold more than 4 million UPGRADES at $40 each (some at $15 for PCs purchased after June 1) in the first weekend after launch.

        Those upgrade buyers continued over the entire month and it is reasonable to assume they represent millions more copies.

        That's a much higher than normal percentage of upgrades, meaning that a plain analysis of OEM sales is not enough.
        Ed Bott
        • Trying out Windows 8

          A lot of these upgrade purchasers are likely to be early adopters who bought the upgrades to try them out, and then decided not to make Windows 8 purchases on preloaded hardware as a result. This would explain both the 40 million licenses sold, and the very slow sales of Windows 8 on new hardware.
      • Windows 8 Users

        It is safe to assume that 20 million Win 8 systems are indeed in the hands of users.
  • More great news for Windows 8

    You know how every time there is any mention of buying a device, a certain very vocal part of our ZDNet talkback community invariably brings up app counts?
    "Windows Store has more apps, more downloads than Mac App Store"

    This is why no one should ever use OS X. It isn't as good because the OS X app store sucks compared to the Windows app store.

    Or do app counts no longer "count"?
    • Only when favorable...

      ...otherwise, they're not important. Or the numbers are lying. Because yes, numbers lie. All the time, compulsively.
      • Your talking about toddbottom3 right?

  • Declining absolute numbers

    With more and more people using iOS and Android tablets and phones, these relative percentages among desktop computers may not mean much. For example, it was found that most of the online Black Friday purchases were done from iPad and iPhone. search for "iPad and iPhone dominate Black Friday online shopping".

    May be its time for the Net Market Share to provide combined numbers across all Internet capable devices.
    • Declining absolute numbers?

      Uh, no. Growth year over years has declined this year. Actual installed base of PCs still rising. Hate to burst your bubble.
      Ed Bott
      • Hmm...

        See "Since Windows 8 debuted on October 26, Notebook sales have seen a year-on-year decline of 24% and desktop PC sales have dropped by 9% compared to the same period in 2011."

        The fact is, the actual installed base of non-desktop devices increases rapidly, and Windows presence there is close to absolute zero. This may translate to the decline of Windows share across of all devices that people actually use.
        • Yes, that is year over year growth

          Declines in period leading up to release of a new Windows version are normal. Also, those figures (which I quote in this post) are US only.

          Unless a huge number of PCs are suddenly being retired, that doesn't mean the installed base shrinks. It simply grows more slowly.
          Ed Bott
          • Sorry to burst your buble Ed

            ...but most new Windows licenses sold represent a retired Windows PC. Or do you believe that most of the Windows 95, 98, ME, XP, Vista and 7 PCs are still going to be used by the people who have just bought their shiny new Windows 8 PC? Of course some people will hang onto their old PC if ts say as new as Windows 7 but they will primarily use the new PC The older PC may still be in use by someone having been sold or passed down but the person it passed to will likely be reiring on older PC thus through the trickle down effect the total Windows install base does have nearly as many PCs retiring as the sales figure accounts for new sales.

            The erosion of the PC dominated market share and other devices coming into favor suggests that the rate of retirement of Windows PCs is likely greater than you assume. In the past families had to have multiple PCs, now parents just buy their kids a mobile device. Before mobile devices came into the market place a large number of PC users were mostly content consumers not content creators at the time the only device available for that was the PC. Now a mobile device is sufficient for content consuming and is more capable as a content creation device than a PC for the type of content the average online citizen creates, ie social media and sharing of photos and videos.

            I don't believe we will soon see the "post PC era" that ZDnet editors are so fond of arguing over but a decline in PC usage is inevitable and as the market in this country was near saturation there is nowhere for it to go but down as market share is eroded.
          • what!

            What you said makes no sense. A windows 8 upgrade does not reduce the number of total Windows PCs.
          • saturation

            this is the reason all pc sales are down and the reason windows 8 fits perfectly .because it will run on most that are already in use.