Windows 8 hits 100 million sales, tweaks for mini-tablets in works

Microsoft Windows 8A Microsoft Surface tablet PC is displayed on a stand during its launch event with Microsoft Windows 8 in New York. (Reuters)

Microsoft Corp has sold 100 million Windows 8 licenses in the six months since launch, roughly in line with the previous version, but wants to combat sputtering interest in its flagship software with a substantial update to make it easier to use, and compatible with smaller tablets.

Windows 8 is the first Microsoft operating system primarily designed for touch commands, but it has failed to capture consumers' imaginations or make a dent in a tablet market dominated by Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics.

"Is it perfect? No. Are there things we need to change? Absolutely. We are being very real about what needs to change and changing it as thoughtfully and quickly as we can", said Tami Reller, co-head of Microsoft's Windows unit at the company's Redmond, Washington headquarters last week, where she announced the latest Windows sales figure, a number made public on Monday.

Microsoft will be rolling out an update to Windows 8, provisionally code-named 'Windows Blue', by the end of this year, Reller said. Details of the update will be released in the next few weeks.

Although Microsoft has sold 100 million Windows 8 licenses since launch on October 26, matching Windows 7 sales three years previously, it looks unlikely that the new system will see progressively rising demand, as Windows 7 did, hitting 240 million sales in its first year.

Microsoft's last Windows 8 sales update was in early January, when it broke 60 million, suggesting only around 40 million license sales in the last four months, well below Windows 7's average sales rate.

Windows 7 was helped by the fact that it replaced the generally unpopular Windows Vista, whereas Windows 8 has confused many potential customers with its new-look 'tile'-based start screen and the omission of the traditional 'start' button.

"The learning curve is real, and we need to address it," said Reller. "We're not sitting back and saying, they will get used to it."

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