Microsoft has apparently sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses, according to the company. All About Microsoft’s Mary Jo Foley offered a comparison between the Windows 8 sales rate and that of Windows 7, writing in a Nov. 27 posting that the latter had managed to sell 60 million licenses in two months. While that Windows 8 sales figure might mute some early scuttlebutt that the new operating system is shaping up as an epic failure. Earlier in November, noted usability expert Jakob Nielsen wrote a much-disseminated blog posting in which he railed against Windows 8’s dual interfaces—a Start screen of colorful tiles linked to applications, with the traditional desktop environment tucked behind one of those tiles—as a textbook case of bad design. “From a traditional Gates-driven GUI style that emphasized powerful commands to the point of featuritis, Microsoft has gone soft and now smothers usability with big colorful tiles while hiding needed features,” he wrote in that blog posting. “The new design is obviously optimized for touchscreen use (where big targets are helpful), but Microsoft is also imposing this style on its traditional PC users because all of Windows 8 is permeated by the tablet sensibility.” Other notable Windows experts, including Paul Thurrott, have leveled their own criticisms at the system. Microsoft’s attempts at rumor control weren’t helped when Steven Sinofsky, the highly visible president of the Windows division, stepped down abruptly in the days following Windows 8’s release; while the general blogosphere consensus was that he’d left as a result of internal strife, some suggested he left in the wake of soft early sales. But if one takes Microsoft at its collective word, early Windows 8 sales are strong. That being said, Microsoft hasn’t broken out numbers for sales of its Surface tablet, which the company built in-house as its flagship Windows 8 device. If Surface proves a costly failure, it could throw a large wrench in any Microsoft plan to become more of an Apple-like company that builds its own software and hardware. Meanwhile, TechCrunch has posted data from analytics firm Distimo suggesting that, while Windows 8's Windows Store has three times the app downloads of Apple's Mac OS X app store, the latter still dominates when it comes to actual app revenues.   Image: Microsoft