A few people have started to figure out that Windows 8 sales are down. It’s clear that retail sales are down. Annuity licensing agreements (you always buy the latest volume license version and can choose to downgrade, e.g. Windows 7) and the cheap upgrade offers have boosted numbers, but the 20 million/month norm appears to have slid quite a bit.
I’m not going to get into the whys of this; that’s been talked to death.
I am wondering if we will see a reverse course caused by business customers. Windows XP end of support is coming in April of next year. Businesses, who have mostly clung to Windows XP like a zombie Charlton Heston grips his gun, are starting to look at upgrades to Windows 7.
There is a general misunderstanding with enterprise licensing. Not every company has an annuity agreement such as OVS (SMEs) or an Enterprise Agreement (EA – larger enterprises) that includes Software Assurance (SA – one of the benefits is upgrade rights). And even if they do, they will be choosey about what is included: maybe they’ll include a Core CAL or an Enterprise CAL for servers, but they won’t get licensing for the desktop OS. That might be because they’ve been happy with Windows XP and stuck with the OEM license that came with the PC. Some of those PCs have Windows 7 stickers (licenses) and some don’t. My experience is that business PCs hang around for a lot longer than most retail PCs, well after their hardware support expires.
Let’s summarise for a moment:
- Businesses are using Windows XP, and XP end of support is April 2014, making XP a security risk to the business.
- Businesses that do have annuity licensing agreements don’t necessarily have licensing for Windows 7.
That means they need Windows 7 licensing for those machines not covered. They’ll likely get that through volume licensing. As I said earlier, you can’t buy a legacy version of Windows via VL. You always buy the latest version (Windows 8 at the moment) and choose to downgrade (e.g. Windows 7). The estimate is that somewhere around half of business PCs are running Windows XP. If a significant percentage of those PCs upgrade to Windows 7 (really Windows 8, license-wise) then we could see a big spike in license sales in the coming year. Microsoft uses the EA Sports calendar, and their new financial year starts in July, therefore we could see big Windows 8 sales from the enterprise then.
And yes, if “Windows 8.1” includes certain features, it could help both consumer and business adoption of “Windows 8.1” (and therefore “Windows 8” sales) in FY14.