Are Windows 8 sales as dismal as they seem?

New figures show that Windows 8 usage a month after launchparallels that of Windows Vista rather than Windows 7 -- one more piece of evidence that Windows 8's launch has been a poor one for Microsoft. But there's more to the figures than meets the eye. Are things really as bad as they seem for Windows 8?

Net Applications reports that during November, 1.2% of all Windows PCs were running Windows 8. That's generally comparable to the launch of Windows Vista, which in its first month of launch was running on 1% of all Windows PC. As for Windows 7, it had 4.3% usage share after its first month.

Things may be even worse for Windows 8 than that shows. Computerworld's Gregg Keizer reports:

While Windows 8 uptake rate edged Vista's first full month -- that OS ended February 2007 with a 1% share of all Windows systems -- the new edition actually jumped less than the problem- and perception-plagued Vista. From January to February 2007, Vista increased its share more than five times, compared to the doubling of Windows 8.

That's on top of a recent report by NPD that since the launch of Windows 8 on October 26, sales of Windows devices have plunged 21% compared to last year. Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD said that Windows 8 didn't provide the boost to the PC market that people had hoped for, saying:

"After just four weeks on the market, it's still early to place blame on Windows 8 for the ongoing weakness in the PC market. We still have the whole holiday selling season ahead of us, but clearly Windows 8 did not prove to be the impetus for a sales turnaround some had hoped for."

In addition, Asustek Computer Inc. Chief Financial Officer David Chang told the Wall Street Journal that demand for its touchscreen PCs was low, and said, "Demand for Windows 8 is not that good right now."

All that certainly seems bleak. But things might not be as bad as they seem. Microsoft, for its part, claims that 40 million Windows 8 licenses have been sold since launch -- although that number is not the number of people who have actually bought Windows 8, but instead Windows 8 PCs that have been shipped to retailers or distribution points.

Ed Bott points out that the NPD numbers don't include a full month, and more importantly, don't include Black Friday numbers,

So it may be that the Windows 8 launch wasn't a bleak one. Still, even with Black Friday added in, it's unlikely that the Windows 8 launch was a winner, considering the Net Applications usage numbers. While it's true that some percentage of Black Friday buyers were buying Windows 8 PCs for presents, it's likely plenty were also buying them for themselves. A 1.2% market share for Windows 8 after its first month compared to a 4.3% for Windows 7 for its first month shows that for now at least, Windows 8 takeup hasn't come close to matching that of Windows 7.

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