According to new data from research firm NPD Group, sales of Windows Vista to businesses were much stronger than expected last month, with customers picking up the new operating system at a rate outpacing the first month of sales for Windows 2000.
While the sales lagged behind those for Windows XP five years ago, according to the report, the numbers are likely encouraging to Redmond as they surpassed most analyst predictions.
In fact, the commercial revenue from Vista in December was 62.5 percent above that racked up by Windows 2000 in March of 2000, its first month after launch. Vista's total sales lagged behind the November 2001 sales of Windows XP by 3.7 percent.
"I think these results could be classified as 'strong', or at least 'stronger than expected,'" said Chris Swenson, an analyst at the NPD Group. "Although Vista dollars were slightly lower than XP dollars in its first full month, I consider Microsoft's December results to be very impressive, given the commercial-only 'soft launch' approach that Microsoft took with the OS."
Swenson said the data also suggests that, compared to Windows XP, more midsize and large organizations are buying Vista than small businesses.
"I would have expected the opposite -- that a higher proportion of the more budget-constrained small business segment would go the software route to acquire Vista, whereas a higher proportion of medium- and larger-sized businesses, since they have larger budgets, would go the hardware route," he said. "That's not what ended up happening, according to our data."
The results track only U.S. licenses sold indirectly to businesses, through resellers such as Soft Mart, Software Spectrum, and CompuCom, according to Swenson.
Vista went on sale to businesses at the end of November and is expected to be available to consumers at the end of January. Vista had originally been scheduled to arrive on store shelves and on new PCs in time for last year's holiday season. But in March 2006, the software giant pushed back the debut of the consumer versions until January. At the time, the company said it couldn't meet the schedule required by some PC manufacturers and others in the industry.
Business customers with either an enterprise license or a software assurance contract got the first look at the final version of Vista to allow them to test the new software before rolling it out to workstations around their networks. According to Forrester's research, one-fourth of larger companies (1,000 or more employees) will deploy Vista within the first year of its release, and another one-fourth expect to do the same within two years of the release.
Windows is, by far, Microsoft's most profitable product. Some industry watchers expect Windows Vista will be Microsoft's last major rollout before the operating system begins migrating to a Web-based format.
When it debuts to consumers later this month, Vista is expected to sell for $200 to $400 for new customers, and $100 to $260 for users who want to upgrade from Windows XP.