Microsoft claims Windows 8 sales off to "solid start"

Software giant talks up success of latest operating system as Surface Pro release date approaches.

Windows 8

The new Windows 8 system is off to a "solid" start and should get a boost in sales over the next few months as new touch-screen devices hit the market, Microsoft has claimed.

The flagship product of the world's largest software company, launched on 26 October, has not set the technology world on fire. By early January, it had sold more than 60 million units, on par with the release of Windows 7 three years before.

"We're only just getting started, there's a lot yet to come," said Tami Reller, chief financial officer of the Windows unit, in an interview at Microsoft's campus near Seattle.

This is a solid start and we have a lot of reasons to be optimistic.

"Touch laptops and convertibles, we're really just starting to see these and over the next couple of selling seasons we'll have them across all form factors and all price ranges."

Reller highlighted new tablets from Acer and lightweight laptops from HP as machines capable of grabbing a share in a mobile computing market dominated by Apple's iPad and Google's Android.

She thinks new devices will answer demand for Windows 8 that was thwarted over the Christmas period by the scarcity of the most popular machines, partly caused by constrained supply of touch-screen components.

"At holiday there were certain devices that were limited in their volume. We sold out of a lot of the most interesting things," said Reller.

Scratch the Surface

Microsoft has still not revealed the number of Surface tablets it sold since the device's launch alongside Windows 8, but research firm IDC last week put it at 900,000. That is much lower than analysts' initial estimates and a fraction of the 23 million iPads Apple sold last quarter.

The second of two Surface devices launches this weekend in the US, running on an Intel chip and capable of running all legacy Windows programs, which might appeal more to businesses.

"You launch Excel and you can just see things fly," said Reller, who has been using a Surface Pro for the last two weeks.

A Forrester Research survey published on Monday showed that only 2 percent of "information workers" around the world are using Windows tablets for work, but 32 per cent indicated they would like one for their next work tablet, which could translate into 200 million sales of Surface and other Windows tablets.

One selling point of the Surface Pro is a full suite of Office applications, which means Microsoft can market the tablet as a fully functional PC. Microsoft has not released Office for the iPad, although many expect it will eventually.

Microsoft spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting Windows 8 and Surface last quarter, but some in the PC industry have complained privately that Microsoft has not done enough to train sales people or educate consumers on the new range of devices running Windows 8.

"I think we can do better and we'll work with them (retailers) to do better," said Reller. "That's not a criticism of our retailers. But we are definitely going to do more at retail to make that experience better."

Overall, Reller was happy with progress in the 90 days or so since Windows 8 launch.

"This is a solid start. But we are just getting started," she said. "We have a lot of reasons to be optimistic."

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