Windows 7 is “back by popular demand”, according to HP, the world's second-largest maker of PCs, which has begun offering the previous generation of Microsoft's operating system to U.S. customers via email flyers.

Against a backdrop where consumers, who buy about half of all PCs, have been equivocal about Windows 8's tiled interface since its launch in October 2012, HP has begun trying to boost sales by offering people what they are more familiar with: the desktop interface of Windows 7.

In the email flyers, it offers a handful of both desktop and laptop PCs which run the older OS, which was first released in October 2009 and which Microsoft's claimed was its most successful version of Windows – with only Windows XP, released in autumn 2001, competing with it.

Like other PC vendors, HP can offer Windows 7 for new PCs, but would almost certainly have to pay the same licensing price to Microsoft as it does for Windows 8.

About half of Windows licences are sold to businesses, which can buy the right to “downgrade” them to an earlier version such as Windows 7. Roughly half of Microsoft's Windows revenue comes from such sales. It doesn't break out what proportion of its licences are downgraded in its financial results – where it will report its latest quarterly figures on Thursday.

With PC sales slumping by 10 percent in 2013, and Intel suggesting in its recent quarterly results that the slowdown could last into the third quarter of 2014, HP is looking to push sales of PCs.


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IDC said that HP suffered most in the US with the contraction of PC sales: “HP had a difficult quarter, contracting -12.3 percent year on year as the market slowed following an HP surge in the third quarter,” said Loren Loverde, IDC's vice-president of Worldwide PC Trackers earlier this month.

That seems to have triggered a decision to focus on Windows 7.

PC manufacturers have seen their profit margins squeezed as sales of PCs have fallen. For HP, which has been pushed out of the top spot in making PCs by Lenovo, boosting sales has become important.

Windows 8, and the updated version 8.1, still lag well behind both Windows 7 and Windows XP – with the latter due to reach its official “end of life” in April.

According to StatCounter, which measures the operating system used by machines connecting to a wide range of sites worldwide, in December Windows 7 had a 54.8 percent share of browsing worldwide, while XP had a 19.8 percent share and Windows 8 had an 8.1 percent share, only slightly ahead of Apple's Mac OSX with a 7.8 percent share. Apple claimed in June 2013 to have 72m users worldwide, which would suggest about 80m Windows 8 systems in use worldwide if the browsing stats are proportional.

This article originally appeared onguardian.co.uk