Vista Sales – You Do the Math

During his final keynote at the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Sunday night, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates highlighted what he proudly pointed to as the commercial success of Windows Vista.

“I’m pleased to say that we’ve got over 100 million people using Vista now, and that’s a very significant milestone,” Gates told the audience.

What he didn’t say was why there aren’t more units of Vista in use. After all, Vista was for sale to consumers for 11 of the past year’s 12 months.

Additionally, in early December, researcher IDC forecast that nearly 270 million PCs would be sold worldwide during calendar 2007. While some of those PCs were sold either without an operating system pre-installed or with a version of Linux onboard, the vast majority shipped with Windows – either Vista or Windows XP.

Since only 100 million units of Vista are out and in use, that strongly implies that more new PCs shipped with Microsoft’s aging XP than Vista over the past year, which is somewhat of a shock for such a “bet the farm” product as Vista.

Of course, Microsoft’s numbers likely lag the actual market, given that the crucially important Christmas selling season is barely past and may not be reflected in Gates’ figures. Officials also have repeatedly pointed out that it’s difficult to know how many units of Vista are in use in large corporations since the licenses they buy allow them to deploy either Vista or XP.

So significantly more copies of Vista may now be in use than when Microsoft’s speech writers had to finalize Gates’ speech.

That said, however, the simple math makes it seem virtually impossible that Vista could have outsold XP on new PCs in 2007.

Many analysts agree that sales of Vista have been slower than expected in its first year on the market, but point out that 100 million copies is not small change. Additionally, the arrival of Vista’s Service Pack 1 (SP1) later this quarter promises to finally get many IT shops off the fence and onto the Vista deployment bandwagon.

While Microsoft officials have repeatedly said Vista sales are on target, Microsoft has already had to extend the amount of time that PC vendors will be allowed to continue shipping XP on new machines by five months — until June 30, 2008, the end of Microsoft’s fiscal year.

What’s the hold up? Some of the reluctance to move to Vista on the part of consumers may have to do with the expense of buying new PCs with the high-end graphics capabilities and extra memory needed to run Vista’s flashy Aero Glass user interface. It is perhaps the most noticeable of all the new features that arrived with Vista.

“Vista has received a lukewarm response [partly because] Microsoft hasn’t made a good case for upgrading,” Richard Shim, research manager at analysis firm IDC, told For one thing, many PC gamers found that XP rendered a faster playing experience than Vista, which some reviewers have criticized as sluggish.

Another point: A year after it shipped, very few applications actually take advantage of Vista’s unique new capabilities, partly because some key features of Vista, such as the Windows Presentation Foundation, have been back-ported to XP.

“[Even] Office 2007 only takes marginal advantage of Vista,” Michael Cherry, lead analyst for operating systems at researcher Directions on Microsoft, told

Asked whether all of the shortcomings may derail Microsoft’s plans to make Vista dominant, however, both analysts scoffed.

“The impact of Vista is still alive,” Shim said. “It’s not as influential as it was, but I wouldn’t call it a failure,” he added.

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