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Windows 8 off to a slow start, first sales reports suggest

Reuters file

We know that Windows 8 is critical for Microsoft. The Redmond-based software giant needs its latest operating system to do well. Unfortunately, a research firm's report shows that Windows 8 is off to a slow start — and it may be contributing to the ongoing weakness of the Windows tablet and PC market.

According to the NPD Group, a market research firm, "Windows device sales have fallen 21 percent versus the same period last year" since the launch of Windows 8 on Oct. 26. Notebook sales dropped 24 percent, while desktop sales saw a dip of "just" 9 percent.

"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," NPD Group's vice president of industry analysis Stephen Baker cautions. "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."

Despite Baker's gentle hedging, his company's calculations aren't the first indication that Windows 8 is off to a weak start. A report from Microsoft-focused blogger Paul Thurrot explains that one of his trusted sources within Microsoft has revealed that the company has failed to meet its internal projections for Windows 8 sales. 

NPD Group's latest numbers support that claim by showing that, since its launch, "Windows 8 has  captured just over half (58 percent) of Windows computing device unit sales, compared to the 83 percent Windows 7 accounted for four weeks after that launch."

And as if that isn't enough bad news, Windows 8 tablet sales have been "almost non-existent," according to NPD Group. The new unit sales represent "less than 1 percent of all Windows 8 device sales to date."

Given these details, it's no surprise that Digitimes — a publication with a hit-and-miss track record on reports based on anonymous sources — found someone with knowledge of supply chain details who says that  "Microsoft originally expected to ship four million Surface RT devices by the end of 2012, but has recently reduced the orders by half to only two million units."

While all these reports and suggestions are flying around, Microsoft's focusing on the best statistic it can offer: That 40 million Windows 8 licenses have been sold in the month since the operating system launched. Based on this number, Tami Reller, finance and marketing head of the Windows business, explained at an investor conference held by Credit Suisse, Windows 8 is actually outpacing the sales of Windows 7.

But here's the kicker, as Reuter's Bill Rigby explains: the "bulk of those sales are to PC manufacturers, who in turn sell many machines to companies, very few of which are using Windows 8 yet." Selling 40 million Windows 8 licenses doesn't mean that Microsoft's got 40 million Windows 8 users. And it doesn't make the operating system the success it needs to be just yet.

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