Windows 8 Sales Reach 100 Million Licenses, Should Microsoft Reverse Course?

Paul Lilly

Steve Ballmer and company have some big decisions to make.

It was bit odd that Microsoft chose not to disclose in its most recent financial report exactly how many Windows 8 licenses it sold, though we now know the number is north of 100 million. Tami Reller, Microsoft's Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Financial Officer, revealed the figure in a Q&A session that was posted on Microsoft's Windows blog, adding that the figure takes into account Windows 8 licenses that ship on new tablet and traditional PCs, as well as upgrades to the touch-friendly OS.

"This is up from the 60 million license number we provided in January. We’ve also seen the number of certified devices for Windows 8 and Window RT grow to 2,400 devices, and we’re seeing more and more touch devices in the mix," Reller said . "As we talked about in our last Q&A, Windows 8 is a big, ambitious change. While we realize that change takes time, we feel good about the progress since launch, including what we’ve been able to accomplish with the ecosystem and customer reaction to the new PCs and tablets that are available now or will soon come to market."

Reller also touched on Windows Blue , the codename for an update that will be available later this year. She said that Blue represents an opportunity for Microsoft to respond to customer feedback, though stopped short of saying the coveted Start button would make a triumphant return.

Regardless of what Microsoft decides to do with the Start button, you have to wonder if the company would be better served by admitting failure and going in a different direction before it's perhaps too late. Reller, who apparently has been getting around the interview circuit, spoke with the Financial Times and admitted that Windows 8's "learning curve is definitely real." More than that, at least one analyst likened the current state of Windows to that of Coca-Cola's New Coke nearly three decades ago.

"This is like New Coke, going on for seven months -- only Coke listened better," Richard Doherty, an analyst at Envisioneering, told FT .

It only took Coke three months to drop its new formula after consumers reacted negatively, and one could argue that Microsoft should do the same with Windows. Just as Coke tried to reinvent the flavor of its soda, Microsoft drastically changed the flavor of Windows to suit the trend towards tablets and mobile, but iOS and Android slates still rule the day.

What's your opinion on all this? Should Microsoft admit failure and reverse course, or ride it out knowing that consumers sometimes reactive negatively to change in the beginning?

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