There’s no real way to compare how the various desktop Linux distros are doing against Windows 8, Microsoft’s newly crowned flagship product, since Linux isn’t offered preinstalled in any meaningful way by the major OEMs. What we do know is that the new Windows would seem to be failing to excite buyers; folks haven’t been rushing to the big box stores to purchase new desktops or laptops running the new operating system.
This seems odd, since Microsoft was claiming unbelievably fantastic figures for their new touch based OS before the arrival of the holiday shopping season, as Sarfaraz A. Khan explained a few weeks ago on Seeking Alpha:
“…Microsoft has boasted that it has sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses from the date of its release till 27th November (Nobody, except Microsoft, knows exactly as to what a ‘license sale’ constitutes). As far as the previous versions are concerned, the company sold 20 million (Vista) and 10 million (XP) licenses in the corresponding periods. The 40 million sold includes upgrades from previous versions as well as those sold as pre-installed on new laptops.”
40 million licenses in the first four weeks after release does seem to be a bit high, unless there was a big move to upgrade some old XP machines by Redmond’s enterprise clients. Other than that possibility, the numbers don’t make sense if we study the figures coming from Microsoft’s biggest partners.
For example, Fujitsu’s CEO has said the company missed its shipping target for 2012 because of slow demand for Windows 8 and Emmanuel Fromont, president of Acer America, called Windows 8 early sales “a slow start.” Back in November, Asus’ CFO David Chang said that demand for the operating system “is not that good right now.”
While the new Windows, with its user interface designed for mobile use, is partly to blame, the market’s shift to tablets and other mobile devices is also a large challenge for Redmond–certainly larger for them than for Linux and Apple. While Apple started the move to tablets with the release of the iPad, and Linux has always been nimble, used to power everything from desktops to embedded devices, Windows has always been primarily an operating system for desktops and laptops–which are now losing their dominance.
According to a report published last Monday in The Inquirer, analysts at Gartner reported a five percent decline in PC shipments in the last quarter of 2012, a decline the firm attributes to the rise of the tablet:
“‘Tablets have dramatically changed the device landscape for PCs, not so much by “cannibalizing” PC sales, but by causing PC users to shift consumption to tablets rather than replacing older PCs,’ said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner.
“‘Whereas as once we imagined a world in which individual users would have both a PC and a tablet as personal devices, we increasingly suspect that most individuals will shift consumption activity to a personal tablet, and perform creative and administrative tasks on a shared PC.'”
The tablet and smartphone markets are areas where there are good figures to compare how Linux is doing when compared to Windows, and so far the penguin is winning–and winning big.
Sales of Microsoft’s Surface tablet on ARM, running Windows RT, have been dismal, prompting The Register to call the device “a blunder” in an article published on Friday:
“The problem is that Microsoft chose to launch Surface based on an ARM processor running Windows RT, a misguided stab at a tablet-centric user experience that hoped to capture something of what made Apple’s iPad so successful. Instead, Redmond delivered an oddly hobbled OS that’s neither fish nor fowl, one that falls somewhere between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 – but with the advantages of neither.
“For all Microsoft’s hype around Surface RT, customers aren’t buying it – literally.”
According to Brent Thill with the financial services company UBS, Redmond sold only one million of the devices since the product’s launch in October. Another Surface tablet, running the full version of Windows 8 on Intel chips, is scheduled to be released soon and is expected to be somewhat better received.
During the period when Microsoft was struggling to move a million units, Apple pushed 20 million iPads out the door. Linux based Android devices, which includes Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook, are also racking up some impressive figures. How impressive? Consider this, Google’s flagship offering, the Nexus 7, has been outselling the iPad in Japan–and it’s just one of many tablets running Android.
So far, Android tablet market share still lags behind Apple. However, that is changing as inexpensive tablets, priced as low as $100, are coming to market. Meanwhile, it’s a wait and see game, to determine how well Microsoft will fare with the Intel powered Surface Pro when it’s released in the next week or so.