The market research firm estimates total Windows PC unit sales jumped 49 percent year-over-year for the week that Windows 7 launched and 95 percent from the week prior to launch.
However, those figures are actually down somewhat, percentage-wise, when compared to the Vista launch in early 2007. PC sales growth during the week of the Vista launch jumped 68 percent over the prior year’s sales and 170 percent over the week preceding the launch.
Additionally, Windows PC sales for the launch week of Windows 7 were down 6 percent compared to PC sales during the Vista launch week.
The reasons are many and complicated, according to Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD.
Vista had a slight advantage at the time of its retail launch on January 30, 2007, as January traditionally has a bigger sales footprint than October, Baker said.
Also, Windows 7 has to compete with both Vista and Windows XP, which are each still on the market and which together made up 20 percent of PC sales during the Windows 7 launch. During Vista’s launch, older operating systems contributed to just 6 percent of sales.
“One of the problems is that it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison,” Baker told InternetNews.com. “I didn’t want to make it, but I knew people would ask. Comparing sales in January to October is never a fair comparison. October is probably the worst month, except maybe May, for PC sales all year.”
Windows 7’s October launch also had another factor working against it: There’s no reason to get people to come in to buy. Back-to-school sales are done while holiday purchasers have no incentive to run out and buy stuff early, he said.
On the other hand, January sales benefit from gift card money and people are still in a little bit of a spending mood from the holiday, while businesses start buying for the year.
“It’s just a far better demand month in general,” Baker said.
Considering that all those factors contributed to what’s traditionally a slow sales month, Windows 7 may have done far better than it had any right to.
“It clearly outperformed sales volumes we had seen for the rest of the year, at least for the third quarter,” Baker said. “So that’s a pretty positive statement.”
Full of surprises
One thing that surprised him was that vendors kept selling older product even as launch day arrived. While retailers like Best Buy cleared away all inventory in the days leading up to the Oct. 22 launch, many didn’t.
“The sell-down wasn’t quite as dramatic as we expected it to be,” Baker said. “There were more people buying ahead of the Win 7 launch and more product available in that 10-day period before Win 7 launched than with previous OS launches.
Another surprise: High volumes of boxed-product sales. Windows 7, when sold alone, saw sales that were 234 percent higher than Vista’s own boxed-product sales in the first days of its launch. NPD projects sales for Windows 7 to have been 82 percent higher on a revenue basis.
Baker figures that’s due to a healthy population of PCs on the market that can run Windows 7, making it less necessary to purchase combined system-and-OS packages. One of the major features of Windows 7 is its smaller footprint compared to Vista. So if your PC can run Vista, it will definitely run Windows 7.
Perhaps surprisingly, one thing that didn’t hamper Windows 7 sales was the down economy, Baker said.
“The economy was no more a factor than we’ve seen all year long,” he said. “I would argue in PCs, the economy doesn’t have a lot of factor in PC sales to consumers this year. Consumers have been consistently buying all year.”