Ballmer's Windows 8 Forecast Not as Bombastic as First Reported

CEO Steve Ballmer didn't actually say that 500 million Windows 8 devices would be sold by the end of next year; he was talking about Windows in general. But there are a number of factors to consider in evaluating the ultimate market impact of Windows 8.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is known for his hyperbole and bombast. He once bounded onstage at an employee event, jumping around and screaming, "I LOVE this company," which helped him earn the nickname "Monkey Boy." This time, the hyperbole seems to have been a case of lack of clarification of his remarks earlier about Windows 8.
Various news outlets reported that Ballmer told an audience at the Seoul Digital Forum in South Korea on May 22 that he predicted that 500 million users would have Windows 8-powered devices in their hands by the end of 2013. Windows 8 is expected to be released sometime this fall. Well, that sounded like an overreach to a number of Microsoft industry watchers.
The second-day story, however, is a more nuanced prediction by Ballmer. The Website GeekWire reported May 23 that, based on a transcript of Ballmer's remarks in Seoul, he was talking about all Windows machine sales, not just of Windows 8. And some of that Windows 8 adoption could be upgrades of Windows 7 machines.
But there remain some signs of tepid sentiment about the pace of Windows 8 adoption. Dell CEO Michael Dell said in his company's first-quarter earnings conference call May 22 that Windows 8 adoption in the enterprise will be limited at first.
"Corporations are still adopting Windows 7, so we don't think there'll be a massive adoption of Windows 8 by corporations early on," said Dell.
To be sure, migrating to a new machine with the latest OS is not as simple for enterprises as it is for consumers, who can just drive to a retail store or click on a Website and pick up a laptop preloaded with Windows 8. When an enterprise has hundreds or thousands of PCs to manage, a migration to a new OS is a major and expensive undertaking.
It has to be determined if existing PCs have the processing and memory capacity to run Windows 8 and how compatible myriad corporate software applications, some of them custom-made, are with the new OS. That's why many enterprises are still on Windows XP, and it would seem unlikely that if they are in the midst of a migration project that they would switch horses in the middle of the stream and migrate directly to Windows 8.
Also worthy of consideration is what Windows 8's future is in a world where tablet computers are becoming more widely deployed than PCs, a result of the popular bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend, in which workers bring their own personal hardware into the office to run on the corporate network. A March story in eWEEK cited IDC research that PC shipment growth was an "anemic" 1.8 percent in 2011, though IDC also said Windows 8 could boost sales as happened when Windows 7 was first launched in 2009.
But the tablet market differs from the PC market in that it is dominated by Apple iOS and Google Android. Windows has 92 percent market share in the desktop computer OS market globally, according to the latest figures from Netmarketshare. But in the mobile and tablet market, Apple iOS wins with 63 percent market share, followed by Android at 19 percent.
Windows 8 is going to be available on desktops and tablets, while the Windows Phone 7 OS will still be available on smartphones. WP7 has continued to struggle against iOS and Android for smartphone share. But its share is expected to improve as Nokia rolls out more WP7 smartphones after abandoning its proprietary Symbian OS.