Early Windows 8 sales numbers are cheered and jeered by pundits

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Microsoft and analysts have sparred this week over whether or not Windows 8 is winning the hearts and minds of PC users, but truth be told, it may just be too early to tell.

Redmond raised some eyebrows Tuesday when Windows top dog Tami Reller announced that the company had sold 40 million licenses for the new desktop operating system to date.

Microsoft's public elation with the market's greeting of Windows 8 appears to be contrary to internal opinions about sales. There, sales are described as "disappointing," according to Microsoft watcher Paul Thurott.

How the numbers are counted

The problem with that 40 million number is that it's not very transparent, according to Rob Helm, managing vice president for research at Directions On Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash.

"Microsoft hasn't explained how it's counting licenses," he said in an interview. "Without that information, it's a little hard to tell what that 40 million figure really means."

Many of those licenses could have been obtained before Windows 8 was even launched, he said. "A lot of companies bought the rights to Windows 8 before it was available and may now be in the license count even though they haven't deployed Windows 8," he observed.

He noted that a survey his company took of its customers, which are mostly large businesses, indicated adoption of Windows 8 would be slow. It showed that only 13 percent of the firms had plans for a company-wide deployment of new operating system in 2013.

Those survey findings jibe with observations made Wednesday by the CFO of Asus David Chang and Nomura security analyst Richard Sherlund, a widely respected Microsoft watcher.

Chang told the Wall Street Journal that the demand for Windows 8 is not that good right now. Meanwhile, Sherlund shaved his earnings estimates for Microsoft because he said Windows 8 was off to an awkward start.

Similar views were expressed by Brian White, a managing director at Topeka Capital Markets in New York City, after a visit to parts suppliers in the Far East.

"The sentiment around Windows 8 was overwhelmingly negative during our trip as the supply chain is experiencing little life ahead of the October 26 launch," he wrote in a recent research note.

"Although October is expected to be the sweet spot for the notebook ramp for Windows 8, and further follow through is likely in November, we were warned of idle facilities in December," he continued.

"One of our contacts does not expect Windows 8 to be material until the second half of 2013," he added.

Too early?

In the long run, though, all this early speculation about Windows 8 adoption may be producing more heat than light on the subject. "It's just too hard to tell from one month's experience," Directions On Microsoft Windows Analyst Michael Cherry said in an interview. "Everyone's is trying to spot a trend with one data point."

"It's really too soon," he observed. "We're all obsessed with instant analysis."

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