New report shows Windows 8 sales remain sluggish; no significant growth in sight

That latest sales figures for Windows 8 are far from encouraging: It has only a 2.26 percent market share as of the end of January, trailing not just Windows 7, Windows XP, and Windows Vista, but even Mac OS X 10.8. So reports NetApplications. This doesn't bode well for the ultimate success of the operating system.

The latest NetApplications figures for January show Windows 7 with a 44.48 percent market share, Windows XP with 39.51 percent, Windows Vista with 5.24 percent, Mac OS X 10.8 with a 2.44% market share, and Windows 8 with 2.26 percent.

Microsoft can't be pleased. As CNet notes, at a comparable time in Windows 7's release cycle, it had already garnered 7.71 percent market share, more than three times Windows 8's uptake.

Still, at least Windows 8 is experiencing growth of some kind. It had a 1.72 percent in December and a 1.09 percent share in November. Not impressive, but better than nothing.

There are danger signs ahead, though. First is that Microsoft's promotions for trying to get people to upgrade to Windows 8 have just ended. It had been selling upgrades for $39.99. And people who bought Windows 7 after June could upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for only $14.99. Now, though, the prices are way up: $119.99 to upgrade to the standard version of Windows 8, and $199.99 for the Pro version.

Beyond that, Microsoft's partners are not pleased with the way Windows 8 is selling. Acer President Jim Wong has this to say about Windows 8:

"Windows 8 itself is still not successful. The whole market didn't come back to growth after the Windows 8 launch, that's a simple way to judge if it is successful or not."

And there's some evidence from the field that users are confused by the new operating system. Rhoda Alexander, an analyst at iSuppli, notes that there has been a "very high" return rate for Microsoft Surface tablets, because the operating system confuses users. Here's what she says about the high return rates:

"It seems to be linked in a lot of cases to a steep learning curve of the [Windows 8] OS -- which is not necessarily intuitive."

True, she was basing that on the use of Windows RT, not full-blown Windows 8. But the truth is, RT is easier to use than Windows 8, because it doesn't have the confusing dueling interfaces, one built for touch and tablets, and the other built for the traditional desktop.

Based on the sales so far, and the reactions of users and Microsoft's partners, it looks increasingly clear that Windows 8 is not a winner. It's hard to know if the operating system will ever take off.

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