PC users are scouring auction sites and licence brokers to obtain copies of Windows 7 for their upgrades to Windows XP, rather than buying Windows 8.
Sales of Windows 7 on eBay have more than doubled during the last seven months as people scramble to beat Microsoft’s 8 April cut-off for Windows XP support.
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Anybody running Windows XP after that date will face malware and virus writers targeting the OS alone unless they pay Microsoft for custom support.
Altogether 11,042 units of Windows 7 were sold in January 2014 versus 5,661 in June 2013, according to data extracted from eBay by eCommerce analyst Terapeak at the request of The Register.
The value of Windows 7 sales during the same time peaked at $774,773 (£465,215) in January compared to $409,871 (£246,108) seven months ago.
The seven-month surge began in June 2013, as Microsoft gave its first public demonstration of Windows 8.1, an update to Windows 8 that re-introduced the Start Button in an attempt to win back doubters.
Savvy PC operators are not only rummaging around eBay in their efforts to obtain Windows 7 and be shot of Windows XP. They are also using second-hand licence brokers like Value Licensing too.
Value Licensing has told The Reg the number of enquiries it has received for Windows 7 more than doubled quarter-over-quarter in the last year.
Jonathan Horley, Value Licensing's managing director, claimed his company saw an 11 per cent increase in enquiries for Windows 7 in the second quarter of 2013, a 38 per cent in the third and 66 per cent increase in the fourth quarter.
Horley reckoned on a 10 to 20 per cent increase so far this year.
The biggest rise has been from companies with between 10 and 15 PCs, whom Horley said are only now getting ready to jump clear of Windows XP.
Horley’s customers span multinationals and small and medium sized businesses. Value Licensing sells second-hand Microsoft licences obtained from bankrupt and liquidated companies for an up to 80 per cent discount.
He reckoned PC users want Windows 7 rather than Windows 8 because the former is seen as stable and familiar.
“The [Windows 8.1] interface is alien to them. They are more keen to get Windows 7,” said Horley, who said he is struggling to keep up with demand.
There is another reason: price: You can downgrade to Windows 7 only from Windows 8.1 Pro edition, not to the cheaper Windows 8.1.
Windows 8.1 is priced £86 versus £171 for Windows 8.1 Pro. You can downgrade to Windows 7 Pro and Windows Vista Business.
There are other issues, too: a Window-8-capable PC requires beefier hardware – to handle touch – than a machine for Windows 7. And with the latest OS, staff need retraining, adding to the costs.
Downgrading can also put you in a shaky position with the PC maker: OEMs vary in their willingness to support and maintain PCs that have been downgraded.
Support for an downgraded PC can vary by OEM.
One reason for the surge growth in Windows 7 sales on eBay over the last seven months – after Microsoft's Windows 8.1 unveiling in June last year – might have been because people who'd been sitting on the fence didn’t like what they saw from Microsoft.
Terapeak pointed to an increase in Google searches and trend results that used key word combinations of “Windows 8.1 bugs" and “windows 8.1 issues” that coincided with press reports about difficulties upgrading from Windows 8 to 8.1.
“Negative experiences with and negative press about Windows 8.1 may have led many on-the-fence users already not sold on Windows 8 to finally decide to pursue a Windows 7 downgrade,” the analyst speculated.®