More on NPD's Office numbers

Microsoft's effort to turn trial users of the productivity suite into customers appears to be working, while even some Mac users are becoming Windows buyers.

There's some more juicy info in the NPD's recent look at Office and Vista sales.

One of the most intriguing bits is where customers are getting their copies of Office. It turns out a whole lot of them are buying Office directly from Microsoft.

"Microsoft is now the second largest retailer of its own productivity suite," said NPD analyst Chris Swenson. It's not that people are going to Microsoft.com and clicking buy. Rather, they are opting to buy a product code from Microsoft after using trial versions of the software.

The program has been enormously successful for Microsoft," Swenson said, noting that the company has gone from essentially no share of direct sales to just under 9 percent dollar share in 2006, though trial conversions appear to be slowing, Swenson said.

The figures on where customers get their products come not from NPD's direct retail sales figures, but from a separate panel of consumers. Although trial software is sometimes derided as crapware, consumers are finding value in at least some of the stuff. NPD did a survey in January that found that a quarter of software buyers used a trial version of an application before buying it.

Also of note is that despite the growing market share for the Mac, Microsoft is not necessarily losing out on sales. In addition to the high rates of Office for Mac sales--the Mac product accounted for 20 percent of retail sales in NPD's sales data for the first six months of 2007--even a fair share of Windows copies appear to be going to Mac users.

"Microsoft isn't losing as much of the OS sale as you would think from people switching to the Mac," Swenson said.

Parallels has sold about 650,000 copies of its desktop virtualization product, which lets Mac users run both Windows and the Mac OS side-by-side. It requires a separate copy of Windows, though its unclear how many people are buying Vista, how many are buying XP and how many are, well, finding other means of getting the operating system.

Finally, Apple's iWork continues to hold the No. 2 spot at retail stores among productivity suites. Corel, which publishes WordPerfect, is No. 2 overall when adding in its direct sales, but only just edges out Apple, Swenson said.

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