Despite some early discouraging signs, Microsoft says Windows 8 is selling more like the popular Windows 7 OS and not its ill-fated predecessor, Vista.
Microsoft's big gamble is paying off, according to Windows executive Tami Reller.
Reller, who is chief marketing officer and chief financial officer for Windows, revealed that the company sold 60 million Windows 8 licenses to date. Reller revealed the statistic during the J.P. Morgan Tech Forum at the CES trade show in Las Vegas this week.
That figure represents upgrades and sales to OEMs, not a tally of Windows 8 licenses that have made their way into consumers' hands. Nonetheless, the company is quick to point out that, so far, Windows 8 is selling as briskly as its well-regarded predecessor.
"This is a similar sales trajectory that we saw with Windows 7," wrote Microsoft spokesman Brandon LeBlanc in an official company blog post
. And Microsoft has reason to draw parallels to the popular operating system.
Windows 7 helped Microsoft regain its footing after Vista's lackluster reception. Soon after it went on sale, boxed copies of Windows 7 outperformed Vista's first few days
at retail by a big margin.
Microsoft also owes Windows 7 credit for strong revenue growth during 2010 and record-breaking sales
. More importantly, the OS is widely credited for prodding enterprise IT departments into finally ditching the venerable, if aging, Windows XP operating system.
Windows 8, which launched Oct. 26
, is a radical departure from past versions. Although hallmarks of the Windows experience persist—expansive software support and the familiar desktop view, for instance—they are tucked behind a new, touch-enabled touch Start screen.
Further complicating matters is Windows RT, a version of Windows 8 for ARM-powered devices
that sheds Windows' x86 software legacy, rendering the vast majority of Windows software incompatible with RT-spec devices. Add Windows 7's continuing popularity, and the industry began to wonder openly if Windows 8 were another Vista in the making.
Early market surveys appeared to lend those concerns some credence.
NPD reported in late November that Windows 8 failed to excite the PC-buying public
. According to NPD Group's Weekly Tracking Service, a month after the operating system's launch, Windows device sales, excluding Surface, fell 21 percent from the same period the year before.
Also in November, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer revealed that the company had sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses
during its first month of availability. While appearing to outpace Windows 7's launch performance at first blush, a murky definition of "licenses" left analysts to question Windows 8 sales momentum.
Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the Enderle Group, gave Microsoft the benefit of the doubt. "Typically, the OEMs don't take ownership of the licenses. So when they say licenses, that tends to mean to end users," he said at the time.
Viewed through that lens, Microsoft's recent disclosure suggests that most of those 60 million Windows 8 licenses have made their way to users. According to LeBlanc, the software giant has also made great strides on another front: Windows 8 apps.
"This week we also highlighted strong growth in developers building for Windows 8. Since the opening of the Windows Store, the number of apps has quadrupled and we passed the 100 million app download mark—just two months after general availability," he blogged.