Microsoft announced the week of April 26 that Windows 7 is now its fastest-selling operating system of all time. According to the company, it has reached over 100 million licenses worldwide, easily outpacing its predecessor, Windows Vista.
It’s a major victory for Microsoft. Just a few years ago, some were wondering if the company’s dominance in the OS market was slipping after Vista failed to appeal to the enterprise and even to consumers who heard nightmare stories about running the operating system. But after retooling its strategy, it seems Microsoft is back on track.
Determining what the future might hold for Microsoft can be difficult. After all, the company is facing increased pressure from several competitors and the chances of it adequately confronting those challenges and remaining on top are unknown. But that doesn’t mean Microsoft should expect the worst, either. The software giant could potentially build on the success of Windows 7 and see its latest operating system become one of the most successful software releases of all time. Based on its current success, it’s definitely possible.
Let’s take a look at why Windows 7 could be a huge seller.
1. Things are starting out well
After less than a year of availability, Microsoft has already hit the 100-million-licenses mark. That’s impressive. And although there’s no guarantee that that success will continue, it’s worth noting that Windows 7 is the most successful operating system launch Microsoft has had to this point. It has easily eclipsed Vista and even Windows XP, the last great Windows success, has been beaten. The enterprise and government organizations still need to jump on the Windows 7 bandwagon to make the operating system a huge seller, but at this point, things are certainly looking up for Microsoft.
2. Mac OS X isn’t much of a threat
Apple likes to use advertisements to make the point that Windows 7 can’t compete with Mac OS X, but it’s increasingly becoming clear that that might not be true. Windows 7 is a fine operating system with several new features, including Windows XP Mode, which help the software giant differentiate its software from Apple’s. And although Mac OS X has gained some market share over the past couple years, it’s not enough for Microsoft to be concerned. Those who want Windows won’t care about Mac OS X. Microsoft can rest easy knowing that.
3. The enterprise is coming around
A major question mark right now for Microsoft is whether or not the enterprise will move to Windows 7. So far, the software giant hasn’t been all that successful at dragging companies away from their XP machines. But it looks like it might be getting closer to achieving that goal. For the most part, companies are still using XP-based computers that, at this point, are extremely old. And although they still work, they won’t last much longer before companies are forced to switch. When they do, they will almost certainly switch to Windows 7. Plus, with the release of Service Pack 1 expected in 2010, Microsoft will be able to offer a much greater value proposition than it can right now.
4. The government could follow suit
Although it doesn’t get the kind of attention the consumer and enterprise markets do, the government sector is a key battleground for Microsoft. Without government sales support, it will be extremely difficult for Windows 7 to match the kind of success XP enjoyed. Perhaps that’s why the company plans to hold its Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington this year. At that conference, it can make announcements about Windows in the center of government activity. If federal, state and local governments like what they hear, they might be more inclined to adopt Windows 7.
Vistas Ghost Boosts Windows 7 Sales
5. Vendors are supporting it
When Microsoft released Vista, it expected that the OS to enjoy the kind of success XP did. Part of why it didn’t can be attributed to OEMs. Companies such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard opted to allow customers to “downgrade” an OS installation and buy computers that came bundled with XP, rather than Vista. By doing so, these vendors effectively diminished Microsoft’s ability to get Vista into homes. This time around, vendors are fully backing Windows 7. They realize that it isn’t Vista and consumers are actually eager for it. That should only help Windows 7 sales.
6. The consumer market believes in it
Consumers are buying Windows 7 at a rapid rate. Unlike Vista, which they knew was a mistake from the outset, consumers seem to have realized that Windows 7 is nothing of the sort. The operating system is a fine choice for those who don’t want to stick with an older operating system or opt for Mac OS X. For the first time in quite a while, Microsoft has delivered an operating system that consumers are actively seeking out. And by doing so, it’s helping to bolster its bottom line.
7. A little help from Vista
As troublesome as Vista was, its issues and poor sales are actually helping Microsoft. Because so few people opted for Vista and many decided to stick with XP, they’re quickly realizing now that it’s time to deploy a new operating system as their computers start slowing. Because of that, it seems that Vista has become a saving grace for Microsoft. Rather than allowing Vista’s failures to continue to haunt it even after Windows 7 is available, the company has used them to make a more convincing argument to customers that they really need Windows 7. Not bad.
8. It isn’t Vista
At the same time, Microsoft is only able to use Vista as a selling point because Windows 7 isn’t anything like its predecessor. Unlike Vista, Windows 7 is adequately secure without a service pack. It also boasts several features, including new encryption tools, that should appeal to the enterprise. Windows 7 is simply what Vista should have been. It’s robust, reliable and quite speedy compared with its predecessor. Armed with that knowledge, it wouldn’t be surprising if Windows 7-based computers continued to sell at a rapid rate.
9. Chrome OS isn’t a threat-yet
Microsoft doesn’t need to worry all that much about competing operating systems. It’s fully aware that Mac OS X is a viable alternative, but few consumers in the mainstream (and even fewer companies) are willing to switch to an alternative operating system. The only major difficulty Microsoft might face in the coming years is Chrome OS. Google’s Web-based operating system has the name recognition and feature set to potentially challenge Windows. That said, Chrome OS will only be available on netbooks when it first launches later in 2010. Until it makes its way to desktops and notebooks, look for Windows 7 to continue to sell well. After that, it’s anyone’s guess which operating system will reign supreme.
10. Microsoft is making the right moves
Part of the reason why Microsoft should enjoy even greater success with Windows 7 rests in the fact that so far it has made the right moves. Rather than focus its time on making consumers see that Windows 7 isn’t Vista, the company instead decided to focus on Windows 7’s virtues. It has also marketed Windows 7 far more effectively than Vista. There’s no telling if Microsoft will continue to make the right moves in the future, but it has laid a solid foundation on which it can build future success.
If Microsoft keeps it up, Windows 7 could very well turn out to be a major success for the company.