Consumers aren't rushing to buy XP

Survey indicates sales trailing pace of Windows 98

Despite heavy marketing, luxurious freebies and varied rebates, Windows XP appears to be trailing Windows 98 in terms of early sales. Fewer than 300,000 boxed copies of the new operating system were sold in the first few days of its availability, according to preliminary figures from NPD Intelect, which has polled roughly 80 percent of its retailers and mail-order clients about XP.

ALTHOUGH SOME poll respondents indicated that demand was "healthy," NPD asserts that the final tally of first-week sales will likely be 20 percent to 25 percent lower than what Microsoft saw with Windows 98.

"Unless there are earth-shattering sales (from the other 20 percent of retailers), it looks like XP will be lower than Windows 98," said Steve Koenig, senior analyst at NPD. But, he added, "given the economic situation and the twitchiness of consumer confidence, I would say that the launch was a success."

The figures paint a combined not-so-bad, not-so-hot scenario for the Redmond, Wash.-based software behemoth. On the positive side, the nation's economic situation has not completely snuffed out consumer purchasing. At last week's launch, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates boasted that the company had booked 100,000 preorders, or twice the amount for Windows 95. XP sales also appear to be ahead of Windows Me, the OS that came between Windows 98 and XP. "It's still a pretty healthy showing, and it definitely beat Me," Koenig said. "It's a tough time to be out there hawking an OS."

Windows 95 and Windows 98 each sold 600,000 copies in the first month, according to PC Data, which was acquired by NPD. In the first four days, Windows Me sold 250,000 copies, according to NPD. Typically, OS sales peak in the first week and then fall off dramatically.

However, the XP sales figure does not include copies of the OS included on new PCs. Today more consumers upgrade their OS by buying a new computer than they did in the past. Such purchasing patterns make comparisons more difficult.

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