Windows 8 preview generates poor usage

Gregg Keizer
25 December, 2011
View more articles fromthe author

Although millions have downloaded Microsoft’s Windows 8 developer preview, relatively few are actually using it, web measurements show.

During November, Windows 8 powered 0.03 percent of the computers – or three out of every 10,000 – that connected to the internet, according to data from California-based Net Applications.

That’s a small increase from the 0.02 percent Windows 8 garnered in October, the first full month after Microsoft released a developer preview of the still-under-construction OS to the public.

But Windows 8′s current numbers pale in comparison to Windows 7′s very early returns three years ago.

Microsoft released the first beta of Windows 7 on January 9, 2009 – it never offered a developer preview to the general public – and after a server-side overload, restarted downloads the next day. Three weeks later, Windows 7 accounted for 0.13 percent of all operating systems, or more than four times what Windows 8 has accrued in two-and-a-half months.

The download numbers for the two are roughly comparable.

Last week, Microsoft said that over three million copies of Windows 8 had been downloaded between September 13 and December 7, 2011.

While Microsoft never disclosed how many copies of Windows 7 beta were downloaded, the company initially put a cap of 2.5 million on the release, then changed its mind: It first dumped the cap, then extended availability by two weeks.

Both moves suggested that fewer than 2.5 million copies had been downloaded during January 2009. At the time, Microsoft declined to say whether Windows 7′s beta had fallen short or surpassed the 2.5 million-mark.

Data from Chitika, which recently mined its online ad-serving network to measure Windows 8 uptake, suggested that its use has slipped since the preview’s launch.

According to Chitika, Windows 8′s share of all Windows traffic ranged between 0.015 percent and 0.025 percent during the week of December 4-12, lower than the 0.035 percent peak it measured the week after the preview’s debut.

[Note: While Chitika's Windows 8 numbers represent a share of Windows traffic only, for all intents and purposes they're analogous to the share of all online desktop operating systems, since Windows currently accounts for more than 92 percent of all such OSes.]

Chitika used those numbers to argue in a report last week that interest in Windows 8′s developer preview was flagging.

“Such a low level of activity witnessed in Windows 8 in the months leading up to its beta release is troubling,” said the Chitika report, noting that desktop users have complained that its ‘touch-first’ user interface does not work well with a keyboard and mouse.

The comparisons using download and web usage data bear out Windows 8′s poor performance relative to Windows 7, even when 2011′s larger pool of online computers is taken into account. (The personal computer installed base grows at a rate of about 12% per year.)

But it’s also a fact that a preview does not a beta make. The first is rough-edged and likely used only for short stretches, then put aside; the latter is feature-complete and run by more people as their primary OS. Comparisons between the two will always skew toward the beta.

Chitika hinted as much. “It is too soon to tell whether the developments in Windows 8 will either limit its success, or further its grip on the OS market,” the company said. “Only time will tell.”

Microsoft intends to ship a public beta of Windows 8 in late February 2012, but has not yet set a specific date.


6 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Clamdigger63 says:

    What a stupid half assed article. People like me downloaded the developer preview to see what windows 8 would look like.
    Now we are waiting Fran actually beta to come out to really use it.
    The developer copy was just bare bones.
    Love the anti-Microsoft slant on things. Typically apple fanboy crud.

  2. Tom says:

    I don’t mean to seem crass, but what was the point of writing this? Not only are you referencing numbers from a source that isn’t Microsoft (only they know how many people are truly using the preview), but you’re writing about a piece of alpha software.

    Yes, alpha software. By its very nature, alpha software is usually not feature complete and will not likely be stable enough to use as a daily driver.

    I’m writing this from a machine powered by the developer preview and I’ve been using it since launch. I won’t lie. It needs a lot of work and it’s not feature complete. The desktop experience is a mess and the Metro UI, while nice, needs more than a few tweaks to make its use on a non-touchscreen desktop feasible.

    The entire user experience is changing and users are going to be resistant to the change. In fact, many are already claiming that they won’t be making the upgrade, and I can understand that.

    Back to my point. You’re writing about declining usage based on unofficial numbers on ALPHA software. This would have been more relevant on a feature complete beta.

  3. Peter says:

    You’re kidding right?

    A developer preview that even the manufacturer actively tells people NOT to use for daily use.

    I wonder if the first developer release of Lion was seen by Macworld to suffer from “poor usage”?

    Get real.

  4. Brennan says:

    You also have to keep in mind that Windows 8 is mainly geared towards All-in-One Touch PC’s and tablets/slates running Windows. That would only make your target audience a fraction of the current PC’s out there running Windows.

    I am also one of the many users who downloaded the Developer Preview just to take a look at the upcoming operating system. That is why it is called a “preview”. Once beta is available, then more users will give it a chance and trust using it more.

    I think this is a starting point for Microsoft to make a better name for themselves in the mobile device category. Plus with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 sharing the same code, syncing of apps between desktop and Windows mobile devices will be a smoother transition.

    You have to keep in mind that Windows is designed for business. Their tablets/slates were designed to give businesses better mobile access to their applications. Apple gears their products towards consumers as an entertainment device.

    Just think of how many kids you see walking around with iPods, iPhones, and even iPads. How many of these devices can actually be used for business (aside from graphic and movie/music studios)? Businesses need Windows to interact and sync smoothly with other businesses running the same software. That is what Microsoft is trying to get across with Windows 8, to shorten the gap from desktop to mobile for a smooth transition from the office to on-the-go.

    I am not an “anti-Apple” guy either. Yes, I do have 4 Macs currently in the house and 2 iPhones. But they are useless when trying to connect to the office or running the software that we use at work. One Mac is strictly running Windows 7 all the time. Apple makes their money selling to consumers, and that’s fine, as it seems to be working for them. Microsoft is now playing catchup getting into the mobile world. Yes they had Tablet PC’s back then, but the technology or market didn’t exist back then.

    Now that Apple has created the market, Microsoft can come in and adapt it for business use with Windows 8, if people just give them a chance to.

  5. MM says:

    Are you really comparing a “Developer Preview” to a “Public Beta”, how stupid can you be……….

  6. ac says:

    Great article, do you have similar one with the Consumer Preview stats? I think this is very interesting as personally I downloaded both the dev preview and consumer preview but didn’t even bother trying out the latter after I read that it’s even less desktop friendly. If I had OLED High DPI tablet around I might be keen to try it though but to my best knowledge none are manufactured yet.

Leave a Comment

Please keep your comments friendly on the topic.

Contact us