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Since its launch on October 26, Windows 8 has been the subject of much debate. Several industry pundits and analysts can’t quite agree whether the operating system is succeeding in the marketplace or failing compared to its predecessor, Windows 7. Meanwhile, Microsoft has done little to allay fears. Until yesterday.

Speaking yesterday at the Credit Suisse 2012 Annual Technology Conference, Microsoft’s chief marketing office Tami Reller announced that the software giant has “sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses so far.” Reller didn’t say whether those licenses were sold into the retail chain or actually sold to customers. She also declined to break out the number of upgrades and full-license purchases.

Still, it was seemingly good news for Microsoft. A little over two months after Microsoft launched Windows 7 in 2009, the company announced that it had sold 60 million licenses. At 40 million in one month, Windows 8 appears to be ahead of its predecessor.

That might come as a surprise to those who have been monitoring Windows 8 sales over the last month. Nearly everywhere one turned, they found news that Windows 8 was in deep trouble and could prove to be a major failure for Microsoft.

The trouble started in early November when Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced that the company sold 4 million Windows 8 copies in three days. Although that sounded strong, critics quickly mentioned that Apple was able to push 3 million OS X Mountain Lion copies in four days to a much smaller number of computers.

Just a couple of weeks later, Paul Thurott, a long-time Microsoft follower who writes over at the Windows SuperSite, said that his internal sources claimed Windows 8 was selling at a pace behind Microsoft’s expectations, leading to some internal hand-wringing in Redmond.

Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White seemed to corroborate that story with a note to investors this month saying “the Windows 8 ramp is much lower than expected a few months ago.”

Things got even worse when many Windows 8 reviews said the learning curve was “steep.” And when Windows boss Steven Sinofsky stepped down from his post, some wondered if the wheels were falling off Microsoft’s OS train.

And yet, the actual raw figures seem to indicate things are actually going pretty well.

So, why is there such a discrepancy in the earlier reports and Microsoft’s own data?

Perhaps Windows 8 reviews really didn’t matter as much as the pundits expected. And despite several fan sites on the Web touting Windows 8’s virtues, there appears to be a growing contingent of people that like to believe that Microsoft, the once-dominant giant, is crumbling.

Microsoft might also be culpable. The company did a poor job of extinguishing talk of Windows 8’s supposed sales problems and its handling of the Sinofsky departure couldn’t have come at a worse time. Why not announce his departure after saying how popular Windows 8 is? Sinofsky could have gone out on top and not when it was believed that he was partly let go because of Windows 8 troubles.

In the end, though, it appears the Windows 8 train is running strong. But if history is to be our guide, don’t expect the positivity to last long – Windows 8 is still a major question mark for many.

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Tagged: Computing, Business, Communications, Web, Apple, Microsoft, Windows 8, Steve Ballmer, Steven Sinofsky

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