Windows 8 early upgrades beat Mountain Lion OS X early upgrades by 1 million. Is that good or bad news for Microsoft?

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer claims that Microsoft has sold 4 million upgrades to Windows 8 in the first three of its launch -- more than the 3 million upgrades of Mountain Lion sold in the first four days of its launch. That sounds impressive -- but is it really good news for Microsoft?

During Microsoft's BUILD Conference today, Ballmer said, "In just the last three days, we have sold 4 million Windows 8 upgrades. The level of embrace from enthusiasts is very, very high." He later called the results "stunning.

Computerworld's Gregg Keizer notes that those numbers are likely downloads, because it would be too difficult to compute retail sales figures in such a short time frame.

Mac OS X 10.8, called Mountain Lion, sold three million copies in its first four days via downloads. So Windows 8 is selling far better than did Mountain Lion in their early days -- an average of 1.33 million per day for Windows 8, versus 750,000 per day for Mountain Lion.

There's no doubt that Windows 8 will far outsell Mountain Lion. But the early sales comparisons between the two don't necessarily mean big sales and a great deal of enthusiasm for Windows 8. Windows has a far higher market share than does Mac OS X. Net Applications reports that Windows has a 91.7% market share, compared to a 7.2% market share for Mac OS X. That means that a far smaller percentsge of Windows users upgraded to Windows 8 in its first few days than did Mac users who upgraded to Mountain Lion in its first few days.

So Microsoft has good reason to be pleased with the initial sales of Windows 8 -- but the numbers aren't quite as impressive as they first appear.

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