Why Windows 8's 100 million license milestone is not the same as Windows 7's

Martin Brinkmann
May 7, 2013
Updated • May 7, 2013
Windows, Windows 8

When it comes to Windows 8, Microsoft has only made two announcements so far in regards to how many licenses the company's most recent operating system has sold. Back in January 2013 it reported that 60 million licenses had been sold to end users and manufacturers who create devices that are powered by the operating system.

Microsoft today revealed that sales have recently surpassed the 100 million license mark which includes standalone licenses and licenses that shipped with new PCs and tablets. The figure puts it in the same ballpark sales-wise as its predecessor Windows 7 which reached the 100 million licenses goal by April 2010 after being released in October 2009.

The overall sales figures are nearly identical but that does not necessarily mean that the ratio of Windows 8 systems that end users make use of is identical as well.Microsoft did not disclose volume-sales figures, that is licenses that it sold to enterprises, and did not disclose if Windows RT licenses were included in the sales figure or not.

Usage statistics suggest that the end user adoption rate of Windows 7 was higher than the adoption rate of Windows 8 is right now.

operating system usage share


  • Windows 7 January 2010 - 8.37%
  • Windows 7 April 2010 - 13.47%
  • Windows 8 January 2013 - 2.53%
  • Windows 8 April 2013 - 4.74%

OS Statistics:

  • Windows 7 January 2010 - 11.3%
  • Windows 7 April 2010 - 16.7%
  • Windows 8 January 2013 - 4.8%
  • Windows 8 April 2013 - 7.3%

The statistics suggest that Windows 7's adoption rate was twice as high as the one of Windows 8, and if true, it can only mean that manufacturers did not sell as many of the copies of Windows 8 they ordered from Microsoft than they did when Windows 7 was released.

One could say that Microsoft does not really have to care to whom they sell the licenses. But that is shortsighted as manufacturers who do not sell as many Windows 8 devices as hoped will certainly reduce future orders based on that. It all comes down to the end user adoption rate and all indicators suggest that it is lower than that of Windows 7.

It would be too easy to blame this solely on Windows 8 and the changes that Microsoft made to the operating system. While they most likely play a role, other factors do too. This includes the limited availability of Windows 8 tablet PCs as well as a declining PC market.

There could be another explanation for the difference in usage share between Windows 7 and Windows 8. In the past three years, more devices came to the market and overall use of computer systems has grown as well as a consequence. It is plausible that the same amount of devices would have been reflected in a larger usage share percentage in 2010 than today. It is however unlikely that all of the difference can be explained by that.

Another factor may play a role here: system downgrades count towards the number of licenses sold, even though Windows 8 is not used on downgraded systems at all.

It needs to be noted that only Microsoft could release 100% accurate figures, and that third party statistics do not necessarily reflect the real market situation.

The interview confirms that Windows Blue will be released in 2013, and that it is a codename for an update for Windows 8. It is interesting to note that Microsoft specifically mentions that Windows 8 gives the company the opportunity to respond to customer feedback. If that is a hint that requested features such as a start menu button or a skip start screen option will be integrated remains to be seen.


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  1. berttie said on May 7, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    Five of those 100 million licenses are mine, bought for $14.99 to provide an upgrade path to a halfway reasonable future OS should Microsoft ever develop one. I have no plans to install them.

    While I hope 8.1 fixes the mess that is 8.0 on the desktop, I’m not hopeful. Microsoft sees its financial future in the apps store and I think it would be reluctant to make bypassing the Metro interface easy. The more it is in your face the greater the possibility that you will buy something.

  2. sekoasa said on May 7, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Dear Otto,

    Oh, and by the way, when you state that “the real value here is in Martin’s unbiased reporting of the facts, and insightful reviews”, you formulate the one “unbiased” comment with which I fully agree.

  3. sekoasa said on May 7, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Dear Otto:
    Who’s whining?

    The short Boyko video focus is on the user being corralled by a Windows 8 design which fails to perform in areas of Control, Conveyance, Continuity, Context. You might want to view it now again…

    And by the way, aren’t “optimized SkyDrive … File History, … Windows Account integration” sweet candy to hackers?

    I assume that you like apps which require an Ms Account control of your device …

    Oh well…

    1. otto gunter said on May 8, 2013 at 10:57 pm

      Dear sekoasa

      I stopped watching Mr Boyko when he said he couldn’t figure out how to bring up Control Panel. I should take him seriously? Two clicks on the desktop or, if you’re in the Metro UI, a keystroke and a click. Do some research before you post your opinion to YouTube. Or someone may send out the url and publicly embarrass you.

      1. sekoasa said on May 9, 2013 at 4:20 pm

        Dear Otto,

        I take it that you do not appreciate Mr. Boyko’s sense of humour.

        As well, I surmise that a vast majority of PC users who first were stuck with the ugly, loud, intrusive and controlling Metro aberration were far from charmed by the burial of essential tools like “Panel Control” in the “Charms” ( a stupid name for a very ill conceived and contrived shortcut).

        But please, don’t let me spoil your love affair with the Windows 8 ball…

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on May 8, 2013 at 1:20 am

      To be fair here, you do not really need a Microsoft Account to use the operating system, but you will miss out some of the functionality if you use a local account.

  4. otto gunter said on May 7, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    Oh, all you Win8 bashers, where’s the love? This site (while it is THE BEST source for Windows news) seems to be a hive for haters. I happen to love Windows 8 and have encountered minimal issues (even through previews, tho I am an IT professional). I use it across my pc, my remote pc, my RT and a Lumia 620 with flawless integration. Sure there was a learning curve, but there was one with my car’s navi system and it too was well worth it. Quit whining about the Start Button, and stay on the desktop if you want, you can do it.

    I need optimized SkyDrive, I need File History, I need Windows Account integration, I want to be touch-enabled as an option. (Yes, I could do it with iThings, but I don’t want to be jailed in that walled garden, iTunes turned me off forever.) All that in the first 6 months! And starting with 8.1, it’s just going to get better and better. Even the whiners will be able to go backwards if they must.

    “Not doing that great”? Excuse me, do you read anything else? Win 8 already has 3.82 percent market share while OS X 10.8 is flat with 2.82 percent. I know which I would call the more successful of the two, given the time frame. And oh yeah, Linux has 1.21 percent, so don’t even start.


    Go ahead and shoot at me all you want in the comments,the real value here is in Martin’s unbiased reporting of the facts, and insightful reviews, not your myopic opinions.

    1. fokka said on May 8, 2013 at 11:23 am

      comparing 8 to linux, like a boss…

    2. anon said on May 7, 2013 at 10:03 pm

      “It doesn’t align with me, it’s biased.”

      It’s great that you like your Windows 8, but you need to learn what “bias” mean first.

      1. otto gunter said on May 7, 2013 at 11:21 pm

        “It doesn’t align with me, it’s biased.” Who said that? And I certainly know what bias mean (sic). Do you know what “opinion” means?

  5. sekoasa said on May 7, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    For a deadly accurate yet humorous take on the failings of Windows 8, watch this video [“Windows 8: the Animated Evaluation” by Brian Boyko.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=WTYet-qf1jo

    I picked up this item from John Rizzo’s article at http://www.macwindows.com/Why-Windows-8-is-a-bigger-flop-than-Vista.html

    I instgalled Windows 8 in three computers in January, scrapped all three licenses and gleefully reinstalled my Windows 7 Pros everywhere.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 7, 2013 at 4:43 pm

      I watched that video when it was released and while there is certainly some truth to it, I felt that it was too biased in nature. Can’t really remember the points that I had to criticize back then though.

      My gaming Pc is running on Windows 8 and while I do not use the PC too much, I do not really have a issue with it either. I do not really use the start screen at all though and find the apps lacking in quality.

  6. Paul B. said on May 7, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Here you go:

    Microsoft prepares rethink on Windows 8 flagship software –

    1. Paul B. said on May 7, 2013 at 2:15 pm

      Link was stripped. It was from the financial times. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/330c8b8e-b66b-11e2-93ba-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2SdENRX5D

      1. Paul B. said on May 7, 2013 at 2:38 pm


        I actually use Vista on several systems, and by SP2 there was nothing wrong with it. It was very close to Win7. OTOH, Win8 is conceptually flawed, but it looks like MS is taking its medicine.

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on May 7, 2013 at 4:45 pm

        It is very likely that Microsoft will resolve some of the issues in Windows 8.1. I’m not yet convinced that all issues will be resolved though but we will certainly find out soon. They could turn around the operating system completely if done right.

      3. ilev said on May 7, 2013 at 2:29 pm

        Windows 8 will die faster than Vista once Windows 9 is out next year.

  7. Paul B. said on May 7, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Those OS stats seem to show a marked slowing down of Win8’s gain once its huge initial discount offer expired. I don’t think it coincidence that the architect of Win8’s radical departure from the Start Menu / Desktop left the company.

  8. fokka said on May 7, 2013 at 6:43 am

    maybe i’m being cynical (ok, surely i am), but to me it’s satisfying to see win8 not doing that great on the market.
    to clear things up, i don’t think it’s a bad os, on the contrary, i like a couple of the improvements it brings to the table and the boot- and system performance are nothing to cough at, either. that said, i find the whole approach, the concept, the marketing, to be completely ignorant and oblivious.

    i can understand the need/desire for a unified ui between everything from a phone to a desktop, but forcing this metro-infused frankenstein-os per default on normal, as in non-touch, laptop-users and also the whole desktop community is just somethink i can and will never aprove of.

    i know there are ways around it and also the critic is mute as soon as we speak of touch-enabled devices (although metro is my least favorite ui on those, too), it’s just the arrogance with which ms acts that is completely against everything i value. which would be options, i.e. the option to completely disable everything metro on a non-touch-device and restore the start menu in one fell swoop.

    i could rant forever about this topic :p

  9. Henk van Setten said on May 7, 2013 at 6:27 am

    I can only speak for myself. I bought a Win8 Pro license with installation CDs for my main PC (x64 desktop) in the introduction period when it was cheap. Just to make sure I could easily upgrade now or in the future.
    But I soon found out that actually installing Win8 would bring me much more disadvantages than advantages. Not just the ugly and from an ergonomical viewpoint abominable “Metro” UI, but also serious incompatible-software issues. For example, in Win7 I’ve customized my right-click menus with an excellent freeware program, FileMenuTools. It allows for (to me, important) things like easily renaming multiple files, or copying the full path of a file to clipboard, etc. But it turns out FileMenuTools is incompatible with the new Win8 file explorer (oh, and I really don’t like the ribbon UI that to me always looks like a haphazard mess, taking way to much screen space).
    So? Well, my Win8 CDs are gathering dust on a shelf. I hope I can use them, in a couple of years, as a springboard for upgrading to Win9…

    1. fokka said on May 7, 2013 at 6:53 am

      i also “upgraded” from win7, when it was only 15 bucks, i never would’ve spent more on this test-balloon of an os anyway.

      like i say in my other post, i don’t think it’s a bad os, i would even continue using it, if it wasn’t for the random bluescreens and lack of proper ahci-support on my (in this case, piece-of-sh..-) mac (mbp13 2010).

      and although it always is disappointing encountering incompatibilities with software you rely on, this only tells me do a thorrough check regarding this, before starting to upgrade. (yeah, should;ve done this myself, before buying a 500gb ssd without having ahci on my machine *g*)

      also thanks for the “tip” regarding filemenutools! always on the lookout for this sort of little tweaks.

  10. ilev said on May 7, 2013 at 5:34 am

    Microsoft’s sales rate of Windows 8 licenses is down from 20 million per month in the first 3 months to 10 million per months in the next 3 months.
    Many of the licenses bought were downgraded to Windows XP and Windows 7.
    I asked my pc retailer for the price of upgrading from Windows 7 Home Premium to Windows 7 Pro. His answer, it will be much cheaper to buy a Windows 8 Pro license and downgrade to Windows 7 Pro.

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