It doesn’t seem possible, with so many observers panning the latest iteration of Microsoft’s ubiquitous operating system. Still, Microsoft compared the sales figures for the first month after the release of Windows 8 and Windows 7, and the new operating system is outselling the old one during the same period. Numbers don’t lie. Or do they?PC World got the news from Tami Reller, Microsoft’s chief marketing and chief financial officer for Windows, when she spoke at a technology conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. Since its launch, the software giant has sold 40 million licenses for Windows 8. “The 40 million is roughly in line with Window 7,” Reller noted. Even better news: more users are upgrading to Windows 8 during its first month of release than upgraded to Windows 7 during ITS first month of release.Believe it or not, Windows 8 might even be in a position to outsell Windows 7. Information Week quoted Microsoft as stating that it had sold 60 million Windows 7 licenses during that operating system’s first three months on the market. So were the haters all wrong about the new OS? Is it really catching on among users after all?Paul McDougall, writing for Information Week, pointed out a relevant fact: “Microsoft didn’t specify what percentage of the 40 million licenses sold were from upgrades, direct sales to end users or sales to PC makers who preinstall the OS on hardware, some of which may still be sitting on store shelves or in warehouses.” In other words, those 40 million licenses do not represent 40 million current users of the OS.To be fair, this could have been true for the first month after Windows 7’s release as well. Manufacturers of Windows 8-based computing devices, however, seem to have turned out far more of the devices, and in a much greater variety of configurations, than they did for Windows 7. So it’s hard to judge what the end user uptake is without actual sales figures for those devices.Brian Barrett, writing for Gizmodo, believes that the 40 million licenses sales figure raises more questions than it answers. After all, “the vast majority of Windows 8 licenses Microsoft sells…[go] to Lenovo, HP, Dell, and all of its other hardware partners, who then go on to sell (or not sell) those devices to real human people. So how many copies of Windows 8…are collecting dust on a Best Buy back shelf?”Speaking of back shelves, there is also Microsoft’s 65 North American shopping locations to consider – and Barrett is quite interested in how many of those 40 million Windows 8 licenses can be found there. Also, since some of those licenses are upgrades, it’s valid to ask if sales will continue at the current clip once the price of upgrades goes up. Right now, upgrading to Windows 8 Professional costs only $40 – less than half of what it cost to upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7 Pro. That figure will hold through January, but there’s no telling what will happen after that as far the upgrade price – or the pace of sales.So it’s entirely possible that Windows 8 isn’t really outselling Windows 7 to the people who really matter – the users. And if it is, it’s potentially questionable as to whether it will maintain that momentum. Not all of the most relevant numbers are in yet. It will be interesting to see what kind of boost Windows 8 sales get from the holiday shopping season…and if we see a substantial number of these gifts get returned, or exchanged for iPads, come January.