Microsoft's news that it sold more copies of Vista in a month than XP did in two months makes it sound as though everything is going great guns at the world's largest software company. Mary Jo Foley wonders aloud whether Steve Ballmer telling the financial community not to get too excited about Vista sales was just a bit of expectation management for investors rather than a clue about how the company feels about its latest offering.
But step back a bit from the headline figure of 20 million copies of Vista sold in one month this quarter, versus 17 million of XP shipped in two months of the autumn of 2002. The vast majority of Microsoft's licence sales come not from people walking into a shop and picking up an overpriced shiny DVD. Some 80 per cent of the company's quarterly sales of Windows products - about $3bn a quarter in recent years - comes from Windows pre-installed on OEM PCs. Consider that, in Q1 last year, some 53 million PCs shipped worldwide according to IDC: 17 million per calendar month. A total of 230 million were sold last year in total. And PC shipments should have grown another 10 per cent or so since this time last year. Factor that into the Q1 sales from 2006, that growth would take you close to 19 million before we start to factor in other sales - assuming of course, that everything shipped in February was sold with some form of Vista.