The Microsoft number we all want to know: Windows 8 sales to date

Microsoft didn't release an updated count of Windows 8 licenses sold as part of its third quarter earnings. But here's what the company did say about Windows.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

On April 18, Microsoft didn't share the one number many company watchers had been awaiting: An updated count of number of Windows 8 licenses sold.


There was no guarantee the Softies would provide an updated count today, the day it released its Q3 FY2013 earnings. But many of us had been expecting it.

Microsoft officials said they sold more than 40 million copies of Windows 8 the first month it was commercially available.

On January 8, Microsoft officials said the company had sold 60 million licenses of Windows 8 to date. This total included sales of licenses to OEMs, as well as Windows 8 upgrades. It did not include copies of Windows 8 sold via volume-licensing agreements. It may or may not also include Windows RT license numbers. (Microsoft officials declined to comment on that when I asked.)

At the time, Microsoft execs said the 60 million figure was roughly in line with the number of Windows 7 licenses sold during the same period of time after its launch in October 2009.

Windows 8 and Windows RT went on sale on October 26, 2012. Today marks almost six months since Windows 8 launched. 

Microsoft sold more than 100 million licenses of Windows 7 in its first six months, company officials said back in June 2010. At that time, they called Windows 7 "the fastest selling operating system in history."

Windows 7 is still the most popular version of Windows in use, with the decade-plus-old Windows XP coming in at number two. According to the latest usage share data from NetMarketshare, Windows 8 currently has 3.17 percent of the desktop operating system share, compared to Vista with 5 percent; XP with 39 percent; and Windows 7 with 45 percent.

What Microsoft did say about Windows 8

The Windows division posted revenues of $5.7 billion for the quarter. After adjusting for the $1.1 billion of revenue related to the Windows Upgrade Offer, the Windows division's revenue was flat. Windows client net income for the third fiscal quarter of 2013 was $3.46 billion, up from $2.98 billion for the same quarter a year ago.


In its 10-Q statement, Microsoft noted that excluding the impact of the Windows Deferral (the Upgrade Offer plus pre-sales, prior to general availability), about 65 percent of the Windows Division comes from copies of Windows purchased by OEMs, which they preinstall on PCs and tablets. The rest of the revenues are from commercial and retail sales of Windows, Surface, PC hardware products and online advertising.

"Revenue from Surface and increased commercial sales of Windows was offset by the impact on revenue of a decline in the x86 PC market," said Microsoft in its 10-Q. "OEM revenue grew 17%, reflecting the revenue related to the Windows Upgrade Offer, offset in part by the impact on revenue of a decline in the x86 PC market."

(Non-OEM revenue -- sales of Surface and Windows sold commercially/at retail -- for the Windows division was up 40 percent, according to Microsoft.)

Microsoft officials attributed Microsoft's quarterly revenues of $20.49 billion and earnings of .72 per share primarily as the result of the strong performance of its other businesses and divisions.

The press-release quote from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer: “The bold bets we made on cloud services are paying off as people increasingly choose Microsoft services including Office 365, Windows Azure, Xbox LIVE, and Skype.... While there is still work to do, we are optimistic that the bets we’ve made on Windows devices position us well for the long-term."

On the earnings call, Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Peter Klein reconfirmed Microsoft was working with OEM partners on "small devices powered by Windows." (There's been talk of a possible mini-Surface, which may be a 7-inch or 8-inch device, as well, which Klein didn't mention.) He said these would be out "in the coming months." He also noted new Windows PCs would be available in time for back-to-school and that Intel "Bay Trail" Atom-based devices would be out by year-end.

I'm curious when and if Microsoft provides a new update on number of Window 8 licenses sold. Maybe that will happen at Computex or TechEd North America -- both happening the first week of June this year? In any case, today's silence on this front is ... interesting.

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