Microsoft Windows 8 Licenses Pass 200 Million Mark

Fifteen months after launch, Windows 8 crosses a big milestone but fails to match the brisk pace of adoption of Windows 7.

Tech Milestone

Microsoft has sold more than 200 million licenses of its Windows 8 operating system since its launch in October 2012, announced Tami Reller, the software company's executive vice president of marketing.

The figure does not include enterprise volume licenses. Nor does it parallel the sales trajectory of Windows 8's popular predecessor, Windows 7.

The Next Web's Emil Protalinski noted that, at the 15-month mark, Windows 8 is shy 100 million copies, compared with Windows 7 at that point. "The two operating systems grew at the same rate for their respective first six months, but then at some point things slowed down for Windows 7's successor," he wrote.

Windows 8 hit the market amid a downturn in PC sales. As consumers and business users flocked to tablets, PC vendors suffered sharp declines in demand for their products.

Last month, market research firm Gartner revealed that PC shipments dropped 6.9 percent to 82.6 million units for the fourth quarter of 2013, the seventh consecutive quarterly drop. IDC noted that for all of 2013, shipments plummeted 10 percent from 2012.

Tablet sales, by comparison, remain strong. Tablet shipments for the fourth quarter of 2013 reached 76.8 million units, a 20 percent year-over-year increase. "2013 was another extremely healthy year for the tablet market," Matt Wilkins, Strategy Analytics' director of tablets and wearables, said in a statement. He noted that the tablet market "is now delivering in excess of 200 million units on an annual global basis."

Although the situation looks bleak, Mikako Kitagawa, Gartner principal analyst, suggested there may be a light at the end of this tunnel. "We think that the U.S. PC market has bottomed out. A variety of new form factors, such as hybrid notebooks, drew holiday shoppers' attention, but the market size was very small at the time," he said in a statement.

In potentially good news for Microsoft's flagship OS, he added that falling prices on "thin and light products started encouraging the PC replacement and potentially some PC growth in 2014." Windows 8, particularly after the 8.1 update, is optimized to run on several form factors, from mini tablets to full-blown workstations and a variety of hybrids, ultrabooks and desktops in between.

The OS has a lot of ground to cover. As of January 2014, Windows 8 (including 8.1) has captured just 10.58 percent of the desktop OS market, according to the online metrics firm Net Applications. Windows 7 enjoys a healthy 47.49 percent of the market while aging XP still clings to a 29.23 percent share.

Within weeks, Microsoft is set to end support for Windows XP. The company has been encouraging users to upgrade to Windows 8 before the April 8, 2014, deadline arrives.

Microsoft is currently warning XP users that they are risking getting left behind in the technology race; as device makers "continue to optimize for more recent versions of Windows, you can expect to encounter greater numbers of apps and devices that do not work with Windows XP."

The solution: Head over to the nearest electronics retailer. Microsoft spokesperson Brandon LeBlanc wrote in a Feb. 7 blog post that the "easiest path to Windows 8.1 is with new devices."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...