Ballmer Gives Shareholders – and Dell – Cause for Optimism

The early indicators that Windows 7 is doing well seem to be piling up. CEO Steve Ballmer gave that perception a boost at the company’s annual shareholders meeting on Thursday, announcing that Microsoft “has already sold twice as many units of Windows 7 than any other operating system ever launched in a comparable time.”

Ballmer’s claim follows NPD Group’s report that sales of Windows 7 boxed software vastly surpassed those of its predecessor, Vista, for the first three days following release. Also, NetApplications reported that Windows 7 marketshare rose to 3.67 percent within two weeks of its launch, from the 1.99 percent it had when Microsoft rolled the product out on Oct. 22.

Ballmer clearly wanted to send the message that Windows 7 has the momentum to become a huge success, said Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft.

“It’s a nice open number, the kind you use at shareholders meetings,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Dell’s Destiny

Do the early numbers indicate that Windows 7 may be strong enough to cheer the shareholders of other companies — namely, the battered computer OEMs that are counting on it to jumpstart PC sales?

CEO Michael Dell seems to think so. Dell posted a 54 percent drop in profit for Q3; its net income was US$337 million, or 17 cents per share, down from $727 million, or 37 cents per share, in the same period last year. Wall Street analysts had expected a profit of 28 cents per share.

Despite the skid, Dell maintained an upbeat tone about the company’s prospects — based at least in part on the expectation that Windows 7 will goose sales.

The company is seeing overall improvement in IT demand, and Windows 7 is being very well received by SMBs and consumers, he said, noting that “we’ll see the benefits of that more fully in our fiscal Q4.”

Dell did not return a call from the E-Commerce Times by press time.

Dell does have good reason for optimism, despite its disappointing financial results, Laura DiDio, principal of ITIC, told the E-Commerce Times.

“They do have good products; they are a big OEM reseller of Windows 7,” she said.

In other words, Dell will be a prime beneficiary of the pent-up business demand for upgraded systems.

Fully 60 percent of the Windows installed base intend to deploy Windows 7 within the first year, an ITIC survey found.

Whether the corporate sector will deploy Windows 7 en masse is still uncertain, suggested Directions on Microsoft’s Cherry . “I think they are open to it — unlike Vista — but I think with the economy continuing the way it has, we will see more phased rollouts than wholesale adoption.”

Dell is well positioned to ride the trend, however it materializes, he said.

Windows 7 Line-up

Dell has been working closely with Microsoft to ready a range of products for Windows 7 across several different buying categories — from high-end enterprise products such as the Dell Precision T7500 workstation, to low-cost consumer offerings such as the new 10-inch Inspiron Mini 10 netbook.

More than 80 Dell computer models running Windows 7 are available, according to the company.

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