Microsoft's (MSFT) new Windows 7 operating system has launched with a sales boom. In its first weekend, sales were 234 percent higher than what predecessor Windows Vista racked up, according to retail sales measurement company NPD Group. That's a very strong sign for Microsoft, considering that the holiday sales cycle hasn't kicked in yet and there were no major external catalysts, such as back-to-school sales, to stimulate purchases.

Far more important than consumer sales, however, is whether large and midsize companies decide to buy Windows 7 for their fleets of laptops and desktops. Chances of that happening are very high, although the bulk of those purchases probably won't occur for another 12 months at least. Corporate IT managers always prefer to test-drive software for extended periods and normally wait for Microsoft to release fixes to new software, which usually takes around six months.
That said, many large corporations are still running Windows XP, a positively ancient operating system and clearly showing its age when compared to more nimble and responsive competitors like Apple's (AAPL) well-received Snow Leopard OS. Functions now accepted as key parts of computing, such as the ability to run a Google-like desktop search of your PC's entire contents, are poorly executed on Windows XP.

That's why many millions have downloaded Google's (GOOG) desktop search toolbar, a potential Trojan Horse incursion on Microsoft's turf that Google has carefully crafted. It provides the search engine company with massive amounts of behavioral data on how people use their computers. Other problems with XP are fluky WiFi connectivity and the always-dreaded long-term tendency to end up with corrupted internal software that can reduce performance.

If Windows 7 proves to be as good as many reviewers have claimed, then corporate IT departments may find themselves under considerable pressure to upgrade more quickly than normal. The extremely strong first weekend could be an early indicator of that sort of demand.

Whatever the case, Microsoft finally appears to have a decent earnings catalyst. And the folks in its much-maligned Client Business Unit, the group responsible for the Windows family of products, are probably getting rounds bought for them in Redmond by fellow Microsoft propeller-heads for the first time in years.

Alex Salkever is Senior Writer at AOL Daily Finance covering technology and greentech. Follow him on twitter @alexsalkever, read his articles, or email him at alex@dailyfinance.com.


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