Windows 7: Putting Early Sales Figures in Perspective

Initial sales numbers for Windows 7 are in and it seems that the operating system is delivering the redemption for Windows Vista that Microsoft was hoping for. Lower revenue and lower PC hardware sales figures related to Windows 7 hint at issues, but those figures have to be put in perspective.

Microsoft has reported that Windows 7 sales are 234 percent higher than Windows Vista for the initial week after its release. That figure however is tempered with the statistic that Windows 7 has not prompted the same surge in PC sales that accompanied the release of Windows Vista.

Initial results suggest Windows 7 isn't driving PC sales, but its too early to measure fairly.
Does that mean that Windows 7 isn't incentive enough for users to purchase new computers? Not really. First of all, when Windows Vista was released the Windows XP operating system had been the flagship desktop operating system for more than 5 years. Users who had jumped on the Windows XP bandwagon early would have been more than ready to make a hardware upgrade when moving to the new operating system.

For users that have held on to Windows XP through the dark years (the timeframe between the release of Windows Vista and the release of Windows 7), that same fact may still hold true. However, many Windows XP users have upgraded the PC hardware since 2001, but have bought new Windows XP systems or re-installed their Windows XP operating system on the new hardware.

While Windows Vista faced a variety of issues both real and perceived, there are still millions of users that have embraced the operating system. Windows Vista makes up nearly 19 percent of the desktop operating system market. Whether those users like Windows Vista or hate Windows Vista, the hardware they are using should be sufficient when upgrading to Windows 7.

Timing also has a huge impact on the PC hardware sales figures. Windows Vista was released in January--after the holiday season. With Windows 7 being released in October, users who just want the operating system software may jump on board, but customers that are interested in purchasing a new system with Windows 7 installed are likely holding out for holiday bargains and Black Friday deals. Talk to me again in January about PC hardware sales related to Windows 7.

Another factor in the sale of new PC hardware is corporate adoption of the new operating system. Many enterprises held on to Windows XP and are now planning to upgrade to Windows 7, but massive hardware and operating system upgrades take careful planning and time to implement. Many large companies also operate on funky fiscal year calendars which can affect the timing of the Windows 7 upgrade.

Certainly other operating systems have had an impact as well. The issues surrounding Windows Vista opened the door to alternative operating systems and caused many users to think twice about sticking with Windows. As much success as Mac OS X or Ubuntu Linux have experienced though, they are still niche operating systems with less than 5 percent of the market combined. The vast majority of users and businesses are not giving any serious consideration to them or considering adopting an alternative operating system.

The fact that Windows 7 is doing so well so soon is a good sign. With the holidays and the new year, things will continue to pick up. When we look back next October and compare first year sales of Windows 7 versus Windows Vista rather than first week sales, the picture will look different and the comparison will be on a more level playing field.

Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com .

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