Microsoft Follows In Apple’s Footsteps By Deciding To Sell Windows 8 Digitally

Microsoft Follows In Apple’s Footsteps By Deciding To Sell Windows 8 Digitally

When Apple announced that it was going to sell OS X Lion exclusively as a digital download, many were skeptical. By not selling physical copies of the operating system, wouldn’t Apple be crippling Lion’s consumer reach?

As it turns out, Lion has already sold more than 6 millions copies in the Mac App Store, making it 80% more popular than Apple’s previous desktop OS, Snow Leopard. The folks in Redmond have taken notice, and Microsoft has announced that its upcoming operating system, Windows 8, will also be offered as a digital download.

On the company’s official blog, Christa St. Pierre of the Microsoft Setup and Deployment team has detailed plans for “improving the setup experience” for Windows users. To better serve all of Microsoft’s customers, Windows 8 will be available both digitally and in the traditional physical box packages that Apple has largely done away with in its own stores.

In the past, if you wanted to buy an upgrade for Windows, it involved purchasing a boxed product from a retail outlet, taking it home, (sometimes being infuriated while trying to open the box,) and inserting a DVD. However, buying boxed software is quickly becoming the exception rather than the rule, with more and more software being purchased online as broadband penetration increases and large-size media downloads become more common. While we will continue to offer boxed DVDs, we are also making it easier than ever to purchase and install online. This includes starting the setup experience online as well, and having one continuous integrated experience from beginning to end. There is also one big advantage that is a favorite of mine. With our web setup experience, we actually “pre-key” the setup image that is downloaded to a unique user, which means that you don’t have to type in the 25-digit product key when you install!

You can already download Windows 7 in the Microsoft online store, but the process is nowhere near as simple as downloading and installing Lion from the Mac Store. Microsoft says that downloading and installing Windows 7 requires four different web and client experiences and roughly 60 screens to complete.

In case you were wondering, the typical Windows 7 setup looks something like this:

Microsoft Follows In Apple’s Footsteps By Deciding To Sell Windows 8 Digitally

In Windows 8, customers do not have to install a separate download manager, mount the ISO to begin the installation, check the hash of the file for verification post-download, manually clean up unneeded files, or restart a download from the beginning should connectivity be interrupted. Setup takes care of all of these steps automatically, providing a fast, resilient, and easy setup experience. And again, this is true whether you just want to run a quick upgrade on an existing installation, or to create boot media for an advanced setup experience – either with GUI or unattended.

Whether a streamlined download and setup process will actually help sell copies of Windows 8 remains to be seen.

  • Thomas sutton

    Well it can only help get rid of boxed software from the world. 

  • Len Williams

    Gee, Microsoft copies something Apple pioneered. How amazing!

  • RandyG

    oh, so apple pioneered digital downloads now… lol

  • iDaBoss

    um…. Windows 7 was also sold digitally when it came out, just saying

  • Mike Shyu

    It’s not whether it’s digital downloads or not, it’s the price.  OSX @ $30 or Windows at $60-99.  

  • vistarox

    Yet again Microsoft has decided to copy something Apple invented. If Apple didn’t come up with the idea to sell OS X Lion online Microsoft wouldn’t be doing this. Shame on you Microsoft! Learn how to innovate!!!!!

  • RandyG

    yeah, just like they invented actual apples, the power grid, and the internet, which didn’t exist until apple made the Mac

  • fluffballjo

    Sorry, that isn’t copying, it’s a logical step.

  • vistarox

    You should do more research before commenting. Everyone knows that Apple and Al Gore invented the internet. That’s why he’s on their board or directors. And what did you think the “i” in iMac stood for. It stands for internet. Steve Jobs even said it. 

  • RandyG

    there’s no point, most apple users don’t use logic, they just repeat and believe what other mis-informed apple users say.

  • Ch

    Of Operating Systems.

  • Brandon Dillon

    Why are you on this blog?

  • Goldie20

    LOL I did installations of WIN7 by digital download on three different computers in the last two years without having to move anything to physical media to install.

    The last time I used physical media was to do a couple of Snow Leopard installs.

  • RandyG

    I mainly come here for my daily comedic relief. Sometimes i point out blatant lack of facts, general incorrectness and lack of research. You are all entitled to your own opinions, but common, some of the stuff I read here is utter gold!

  • TokyoSpark

    No, they didn’t pioneer it, but they were the first to make a big deal out of eliminating the need for physical media, which is admirable. Even if MS was also offering a digital download they didn’t take the forward-looking step of using this fact as a sales tool, a failure on their part. Now they look like follow-the-leader once again. One thing that Apple does do right, and that MS has failed to do (even after having been ridiculed mercilessly for it by Apple) is to sell only one version of it’s software. Why do there need to be 7-8 versions? This is not a snarky comment, but a genuine question, so please answer accordingly.

  • Dilbert A

    weak fake troll

  • RandyG

    You can’t be serious…. 
    To that I say the internet was “invented” by J.C.R. Licklider of MIT in 1961 with his paper on packet switching and in 1962 when he came up with the “Galactic Network” concept.
    Gore falsely claims he “invented the internet” as a part of his presidential campaign only because he helped to pass the HPCA act in 91 which helped with funding.
    Apple doesn’t even come into the picture, adding an “i” in front of a product name doesn’t mean you invented the internet.

  • RandyG

    Linux has been providing netinstalls for years, so they would be the first, not apple. As stated before Windows 7 was available as a digital download before Lion was. 
    Apple steal from others and it’s ok, but when people follow Apple, it’s a big deal, it’s a pretty biased view. 
    Besides my windows work computer I use OSX exclusivley, so i’m bot brainlessly trawling the forums.
    How MS operates is their choice – their market dominance is proof they  have been doing it better than Apple. Apple is catching up, but isn’t there yet.
    Times change, the IT environment changes, and so do the ways companies do business and compete with others.
    BTW – Lion IS sold via usb media, so the need for physical media is not eliminated, and there was a lot of cry babies when the “digital download only” was announced, and a fair share of problems with it too.

  • techgeek01

    Funny, I have been downloading Ubuntu like this for ages…. 

  • Dave Vachon

    Who cares if Microsoft copied Apple – a good idea is a good idea and good for consumers. I like the idea of being able to upgrade to Windows 8 without the bullpoop. I’m a Windows 7 PC guy, iPad and iPod Classic.
    We used Apple iMacs at work. Good desktop, no doubt, but I like my Windows 7 PC. I’m not saying Windows is better than Apple, I just don’t like the closed architecture of a Mac, and every desktop I’ve owned has run Windows (admittedly, a positive or negative experience … but Windows 7 and XP have been solid).

  • Dave Vachon

    Who cares if Microsoft copied Apple – a good idea is a good idea and good for consumers. I like the idea of being able to upgrade to Windows 8 without the bullpoop. I’m a Windows 7 PC guy, iPad and iPod Classic.
    We used Apple iMacs at work. Good desktop, no doubt, but I like my Windows 7 PC. I’m not saying Windows is better than Apple, I just don’t like the closed architecture of a Mac, and every desktop I’ve owned has run Windows (admittedly, a positive or negative experience … but Windows 7 and XP have been solid).

  • vistarox

    The difference is that Apple does it with elegance

  • vistarox

    Don’t call me a troll just because you have a different opinion then me. 

  • Fredtherat

    You dropped your original argument faster than I could say “you’re wearing apple blinkers”.
    Apple must be just as bad as MS. Shame on you Apple! Learn how to innovate!!!!!

  • Fredtherat

    i mean blinders, not blinkers

  • oakdesk23

    I’m shocked this isn’t a Brownlee post.

    I bought Windows Vista as a digital download from Microsoft almost 5 years ago. Who’s copying who?

  • Robert Morein

    Actually, a “digital” installation of Windoze means you run the installer and whack your pud while you wait.

  • vistarox

    I’m not being serious at all. I’m just tying to be a typical Cult of Mac reader 

  • Njideka Okafor

    You might have a point there.

  • Njideka Okafor

    Why do folks keep maintaining the bias with windows. The make great software too. Thu apple is cool. Windows helps for learners.  

  • Njideka Okafor

    ROFLMAO!

  • Njideka Okafor

    Nice point of view.

  • techgeek01

    My apologies.  I totally forgot the Apple created everything including the universe. 

  • Mike Rathjen

    Randy,

    Your sarcasm detector isn’t working.

  • LeninD

    Laughing out loud!!

  • LeninD

    I am guessing that’s because they want to cash in the face of not making much profit out of the hardware sales unlike Apple or so many other sources through which Apple expects profit from their PC business.

  • LeninD

    People who (rightly, atleast ‘morally’) complain that Apple is getting undue credit for being the first to offer digital downloads need to realise that life isn’t about fairness but about strength. Apple is strong in the sense that they know how to market their positives. If Microsoft or the Linux community suffers, they need to buckle up and do things differently.

    This is from a happy Windows 7 user!

  • RandyG

    you did such a good job, i thought you might be brownlee in disguise!

  • vistarox

    Apple did create the universe. When Steve Jobs died NASA said that a dent in the universe was formed because of his death. 

    Read it for yourself:
    http://scoopertino.com/nasa-de

  • vistarox

    The fact that people are debating who “pioneered” this first saddens me 

  • TokyoSpark

    Yes, Linux and Win7 were available digitally, but what I said was Apple made a better marketing opportunity with it, that’s all. They didn’t steal the idea, it’s a logical step forward, but the did take the bold step of making almost everyone do it. Yes, there were problems, which were expected and taken care of. I’ve installed quite a few MS versions, and none of them have been smooth. Now with MS saying they’ve pared down the Win8 install to only 11 steps, what are they saying about their past versions? Apple was extolling the virtue of plug-in-and-go back at the bondi-blue iMac. All MS is saying in their weak proclamation is that they’re finally getting around to it, look! Who’s stealing now?

    MS market dominance is not solely down to “doing it better than Apple”, they had a great deal of luck and timing to help them along. And their very closed-wall policy of our-way-or-the-highway certainly helped. You could always read/write a Windows format disk on a Mac, but you STILL can’t do it on a PC. You use OSX exclusively? Why? It’s just a copy of Windows, which is far better in your opinion, so why do you torture yourself?

    Trolling comes to mind

  • RangyG

    That’s some petty arguments there, i’m not even going to reply. I don’t want to be arguing, but you hit the nail on the head when you said “They didn’t steal the idea, it’s a logical step forward” it nullifies a lot of headlines on this blog

  • TokyoSpark

    Petty arguments? Just the facts.

  • RangyG

    That can be argued. 
    Mostly non-related to the topic, 
    and some about me personally. 
    Facts can be backed up with references and proof, what you have there are opinions, which you are welcome to have.
    I’m willing to leave this discussion here.

About the author

Alex HeathAlex Heath has been a staff writer at Cult of Mac for three years. He is also a co-host of the CultCast. He has been quoted by the likes of the BBC, KRON 4 News, and books like "ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation." If you want to pitch a story, share a tip, or just get in touch, additional contact information is available on his personal site. Twitter always works too.

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