Playing “Parse the Microsoft Vista Numbers”

Microsoft released nominally surprising Vista numbers late today. The company, whose Vista has been widely panned, is saying that one month sales of Vista has been 20-million, which is roughly what the company sold in two months of its predecessor, Windows XP, back in 2002, five years ago.

The same sales, twice as fast. Impressive, right?

Not so quick my friend. Back in 2002 PCs were shipping at the rate of 10.8m a month into a worldwide installed base of 680m. Today, in early 2007, Vista is shipping into a market where PCs are selling at 21.4m a month, and into a worldwide installed base of more than 1-billion PCs. (All figures from IDC.)

So what? So, the PC market is waaay bigger than it was in 2002 — more or less double the size. In other words, a raw units comparison across the two products is meaningless. You need to normalize Vista numbers again market size, rather than just cheerfully reporting Vista units against XP units.

By this adjusted measure how is Microsoft doing? In the absence of better data — like the OEM/retail/upgrade splits, which I’m betting has deteriorated — it looks like Vista sales are tracking on par with XP, and no better than that.


  1. Your first paragraph is confusing. How can sales of Vista be the SAME as XP 5 years ago yet be a doubling? I would say that sales tracking on par with XP is much better than what most of the pundits have been saying unless XP was considered a disaster which it wasn’t.

  2. Yeah, I fixed it. Awkward wording on my part, but gist is MSFT sez Vista sold in one month what XP sold in two months back in early 2002.
    To your second point, whether this is good or bad or indifferent, it’s not as bad as some analysts — including Microsoft — had led people to believe. But until we have more granularity on the numbers — I bet, for example, higher-dollar retail sales are a much lower percentage of Vista unit sales now than they were of XP in 2002– then it’s hard to glean much.

  3. you’ve been the most vocal vista bear Paul. And btw, I’ll take your bet. Xp really only had two versions on launch, a basic home version and a pro version. Media center edition came much later. now msft has coaxed people into buying media center edition as the main version of windows and that’s about 20% higher price than xp basic was. also there was no ultimate edition back then. I think there is every reason to believe that dollars are tracking way better than units, vis a vi XP.

  4. Included among those twenty million is my recent (12/30/06) PC purchase which I moved forward to AVOID Vista. Yes, I got a rebate for a copy of Vista which I may or may not install if it ever arrives.
    But the LAST thing I wanted was a new PC with a new version 1.0 OS…
    This is my last ever PC purchase BTW, I’m switching (back) to MAC within a year.

  5. An interesting question to throw into the mix as well Paul, might be to compare how much was spent on the marketing of XP vs. Vista (taking inflation over the years into account obviously).

  6. Windows has what market share? ~90%?
    There really isn’t much to improve upon from ~90%.
    So, shipping the same Vista/PC ratio as XP/PC ratio is pretty good considering the inroads people thought other OS’s were making.
    Not sure if the “PC” terminology here includes macs?