Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system has been outselling its predecessors, specifically Windows Vista, by a ratio of 2-to-1, CEO Steve Ballmer told an audience at the Microsoft Annual Shareholder Meeting on Nov. 19.
"Since launch, we're already sold twice as many units of Windows 7 [as] any other operating system we've ever launched in a comparable time," Ballmer said. Those "twice as many units" included both boxed and preinstalled software; however, he declined to give exact sales numbers. However, for the second time in November, he described Windows 7 sales as "fantastic."
Ballmer suggested that Windows 7, which debuted on Oct. 22 to generally strong reviews, would give Microsoft a "real opportunity" to raise its profile among a younger demographic such as college students, where the Apple device ecosystem maintains substantial mind share.
Recent reports have indicated that Windows 7's share of the PC market has indeed been steadily increasing; statistics company Net Applications estimated that the operating system had gained over 4 percent of the market by Nov. 9. By that metric, Windows 7's rate of adoption has been outpacing that of Vista, which took months to reach the same percentage.
According to Net Applications, the various Windows operating systems currently hold about 92.52 percent of the operating system market, compared with 5.27 percent for Mac and 0.96 percent for Linux.
A report from NPD Group, issued on Nov. 5, said U.S. sales of Windows 7 boxed software were 234 percent higher than sales of Vista during the operating systems' respective first days of release.
But the low-cost presales associated with Windows 7, along with steep discounts to certain market segments, may have affected Microsoft's gross revenue from the operating system, which NPD Group estimated as 82 percent higher than for Vista.
Ballmer has used Microsoft conferences throughout 2009 as a platform to both promote Windows 7 and take potshots at Apple. At the company's annual Financial Analyst Meeting on July 30, Ballmer took the stage to suggest that, "Apple's share, globally, costs us nothing."
During that event, Ballmer also argued for the effectiveness of Microsoft's ad campaigns, which focused on the relative inexpensiveness of Windows PCs compared with Macs. Displaying a chart labeled "Windows Ads Are Working," the CEO claimed that more 18-to-24-year-olds had decided that Microsoft products offered the best value over Apple.
"You can't be high-priced," Ballmer said. "That doesn't get us to the high volume that we aspire to."
Three months later, however, Ballmer was publicly tempering his overall message, suggesting during a news conference in Munich on Oct. 7 that any tech refresh due to the release of Windows 7 would "probably not be huge."
According to NPD Group, Ballmer may have reason to be optimistic on that particular front. NPD Group's data about Windows 7 sales also suggested that PC sales were up 95 percent over the week prior to the operating system's release. While this rise was weaker than the 170-percent jump in PC sales that accompanied the Vista launch, it could be interpreted as a hopeful sign for the holiday selling season.