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Windows 7 Bolsters Holiday Software Sales

The preliminary numbers are in, and the winner in the boxed-software sales category for the 2009 holiday season is far and away operating systems -- Windows 7 to be precise.

That's the early take from research firm NPD Group.

According to early reports for the period between Nov. 22 and Dec. 26, boxed operating systems sales were up 317 percent in terms of units, and up 159 percent in dollars over the same period in 2008, NPD said.

Retail sales of boxed software in general were down slightly more than 1 percent over a year earlier, however. Operating systems were the only real bright spot.

For example, PC games were off 22 percent in terms of units sold, while personal productivity software was down 24 percent.

"Overall operating systems revenue jumped from $10 million in 2008 to $29 million in 2009," NPD said in a statement.

Behind that surge was primarily Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows 7.

"There weren't a lot of boxed Windows Vista sales in 2008, so a lot of that gain has to be Windows 7," Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD, told InternetNews.com.

Although sales of Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) Snow Leopard are "doing well," Baker attributed much of the holiday buying to Windows 7, which shipped on Oct. 22.

Complete numbers for the 2009 holiday sales season are not yet available, but PC sales were also up from 2008, adding validity to NPD's evaluation.

"Notebook sales were up 68 percent and desktop sales were up 28 percent, both on a unit basis," Baker said.

That also jibes with early assessments of corporate plans to adopt Windows 7 as part of a long-awaited PC refresh cycle.

A recent survey by researcher ChangeWave found that 73 percent of corporate PC buyers expect to buy replacement notebooks during the first quarter, while 69 percent will buy new desktop PCs.

Sales of new notebooks and desktops also help to explain why the No. 1 selling non-game software titles based on units sold was Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007. The other four titles in the top five were all antivirus products, Baker pointed out.

"Microsoft was very aggressive with Office Home and Student pricing and, with the huge uptake of new PC sales in terms of units, it was the only non-antivirus security product in the top five," Baker added.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.