Steve Ballmer, the über-enthusiastic CEO of Microsoft—who once jumped around on stage and screamed himself hoarse at an employee event—was in Toronto last October to energize a hotel ballroom full of IT managers about the company’s new Windows 7 operating system, a replacement for its much-maligned Vista OS. As had become customary at such appearances, Ballmer took a self-deprecating swipe at Vista—“there was a lot of noise in the system, let’s call it that, after our last launch”—and boasted that audience members need not worry about the company’s latest creation.
Turns out it wasn’t just cheerleading. Thanks to positive reviews and pent-up demand (many of the world’s computers had still been running versions of Windows XP, first introduced in 2001), Microsoft recently said it sold some 90 million copies of Windows 7 since it went on sale last October. In the first month alone, Windows 7 sales were nearly double any of the company’s previous OS launches. And while rival computer-maker Apple has been enjoying record sales for its Mac machines lately, market data suggests that Windows 7 is helping Microsoft once again add to its already dominant 92 per cent market share. The OS that comes bundled with Mac products, meanwhile, has lost share three of the last four months, according to research firm Net Applications, and is down about five per cent from its October 2009 high.
Windows 7 “is selling well and has been generally well received,” says Michael Cherry, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft. “I think it was important for them to get Windows 7 right and I think, for the most part, they have.” He adds, however, that it’s difficult to tell how many Windows 7 customers are people who are buying PCs for the first time and how many are upgrading. Still, with the Vista debacle fading in the rearview mirror, Ballmer once again has something to scream about.