March 28, 2007

ChangeLog: Vista sales, myth and reality

Author: Joe Barr

Microsoft gave a briefing to the press this week to boost the sagging image of Vista sales. As expected, many in the trade press dutifully passed the information on to their readers as if it were honest and factual: Peter Galli, at ZiffDavis, for example, and Michael Hickins at Internetnews.com. But not everyone rubber stamped the MS press release as news, and a few openly questioned the claims.According to Microsoft, Vista is selling at more than twice the pace of of Windows XP: 20 million licenses the first month for Vista versus 17 million the first two months for XP. But it's the things that Microsoft is not saying about those launches that reveal its duplicity, and any number of writers have pounced upon that.

Joe Wilcox at eWeek is one of those who didn't take the MS claims at face value. He wrote "What kind of Kool-Aid are they drinking up there in Redmond? Who spiked the Windows Vista-logo soda cans?"

Wilcox points out that Microsoft has conflated four months of sales into a 30 day period by including all the PCs shipped the three months prior to Vista's launch which included a "free" upgrade to Vista. He also notes that "Microsoft counts licenses sold to OEMs in the 20 million number, but the number of actual Vista PCs sold is likely much lower."

That conflation makes for a huge difference between Microsoft's claimed sales and reality, as Wilcox quotes an analyst who estimated "only 3 million PCs have been sold in the United States" since the start of the year.

Other writers quote analysts like Michael Silver, vice president of research at Gartner, who say that the personal computer market has nearly doubled since XP launched, and that Vista sales "probably should be more."

Not to mention that the built-up demand for a new release of Windows has been simmering for five years prior to Vista's release, as opposed to only two years for XP.

Playfuls.com summed up their take on the MS announcement by saying "Microsoft’s press release seems to be more of a reminder that Windows Vista exists... and that Xbox 360 is not the company's only product."

My take? A Microsoft press release is what it is, and only a fool would take one at face value. The real news is not that Microsoft is trying to alter an unpleasant reality, but that fewer and fewer journalists -- and readers -- are drinking the Kool-Aid.

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