Microsoft says it has sold 100 million Windows 8 licenses since the launch of the new operating system last fall, as the company looks ahead to a new wave of devices and a major “Windows Blue” software update that aims to ease the transition to Windows 8.
The Windows 8 sales milestone, announced by the company tonight, is not far off the record-setting pace established by Windows 7. However, it was more common in the past for new operating systems to significantly outpace their predecessors as the computer market expanded.
“I feel very good about that number, but not good enough,” said Tami Reller, the Microsoft vice president in charge of marketing and finance for the Windows business, in an interview with GeekWire. The number would be higher, she acknowledged, if the company and its partners had been able to get a stronger array of touch-screen notebooks and tablets on the market sooner.
Microsoft is seeking to regroup after an underwhelming launch for Windows 8. PC shipments continue to decline despite the release of the new operating system, while sales of the iPad and other tablets keep climbing.
Reller sought to dispel any notion that Microsoft would reduce its commitment to Windows RT, the version of the operating system for power-efficient ARM processors. A recent report by IDC said Microsoft and its partners were creating confusion with the alternative version of the OS, which doesn’t run traditional Windows applications.
“We are very committed to the ARM platform,” she said. “We certainly know that’s a question in the marketplace. We want to leave no doubt about our commitment to ARM.”
The assortment of Windows 8 tablets and touch-screen notebooks is “still too low, but it’s visibly ramping,” Reller said. The company expects a stronger lineup in time for the back-to-school PC buying season, and anticipates hitting “a visible tipping point” by the holidays.
A report by IDC last month said that PC shipments declined in the first quarter by 14 percent, the biggest drop on record. However, Reller noted that analysts count the number of units put into the sales pipeline (known as “sell-in”) not those purchased by end users (known as “sell-through”). That “sell-through” has been more consistent, reflecting actual demand, she said.
Awareness of Windows 8 remains high, Reller said. Customer satisfaction on touch-based Windows 8 machines is strong, according to Microsoft’s research, and satisfaction on non-touch machines is “stronger than you would believe by just reading the press,” she said.
On the topic of Windows 8 apps, Microsoft now has six times as many apps in the Windows Store as it did at launch, Reller said. The company isn’t giving numbers, but the site WinAppUpdate, maintained by analyst Wes Miller, reported at the time of the launch that the Windows Store had about 9,000 apps. The site Metro Store Scanner now cites around 67,000 Windows 8 apps.
Microsoft says more than 250 million Windows 8 apps have been downloaded from the store since launch.
Windows Blue, a major update to Windows 8, is expected to come on a wider variety of Windows 8 touch-based devices, including tablets with smaller screens. Microsoft recently loosened its restrictions on PC makers to help develop tablets that can compete more effectively with devices such as the 7-inch Kindle Fire and 7.9-inch iPad mini.
“We think there’s real demand in the small tablet category,” Reller said.
Windows Blue also will address customer “feedback,” a.k.a. complaints. Reller declined to disclose specific plans for the update. However, according to earlier reports, the company has been working to bring back a version of the Start button to the traditional Windows desktop, and allow users to boot directly to the desktop, bypassing the Start screen that was introduced with Windows 8. Those are two of the changes that can make Windows 8 a significant adjustment for new users.
Reller said, “There’s a number of pieces of customer feedback that will help all customers on Windows 8, and there are a number of features that will help more traditional users — enthusiasts, business customers, non-touch users.”
The 100 million license number for Windows 8 includes new Windows PCs and upgrades on existing Windows machines. It does not include licenses sold through volume licensing deals with Microsoft’s large business customers.