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Debunking Linux-Windows Market Share Myths 631

Posted by Hemos
from the trying-to-make-sense-of-the-numbers dept.
bc90021 writes "Nicholas Petreley has a great article over at LinuxWorld explaining why it seems that Windows has such a high market share when 40% of developers are focusing on Linux. From the summary: "There are dozens of reasons why people have underestimated how quickly Linux has been grabbing Windows' market share. Windows starts out with a false boost and maintains its illusory market share even as it gets replaced by Linux. In 2004, don't be surprised when Linux overtakes Windows to become the main focus for developers.""
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Debunking Linux-Windows Market Share Myths

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  • by thinktank2 (595484) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:07AM (#5528256)
    90% of the end users wonder "what is Linux ?". To them - Windows is the computer.
  • by georgep77 (97111) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:08AM (#5528262) Homepage Journal
    This is exactly the same thing that is happening in the video card market. Intel is considered the #2 video card (chip?) supplier because they ships tonnes of motherboards with integrated video. Lots of these systems have a 3rd party video card added onto it and the integrated video disabled, yet Intel still scores market share points with these disabled video chips. Linux is up against the same thing with ALL brand name computers bundled with Windows.

    Cheers,
    _GP_
  • by bjb (3050) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:11AM (#5528282) Homepage Journal
    Don't confuse this with regular desktop applications for home use. Though I didn't see it noted in the article, the indicator is that he mentions "Only 30% used to develop for UNIX platforms". So before someone starts sounding the trumpets that Linux is taking over the home desktop market, note that this is just for the server / back-end market. And in that realm, yes, Linux is getting much more attention, especially with all the cost cutting these days.
  • by dkf (304284) <donal.k.fellows@manchester.ac.uk> on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:14AM (#5528291) Homepage
    But that doesn't count, since many browsers are configured to lie about what they are to work around stupid JavaScript/Website constraints.

    95.7% of statistics are meaningless.
  • Sheesh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Emmettfish (573105) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:16AM (#5528298) Homepage
    Remember, kids. Optimism and positive guesses are always better than verifiable empirical data.

    The number of developers for a particular platform does not have a thing in the world to do with marketshare, unless you are specifically talking about the marketshare of platforms for development-specific tasks. I'm still not quite sure how this is relevant.

    Yes, yes. It's hard to count people using Linux. So, if there's no empirical data, we should probably just move forward and operate under the assumption that Linux is going to dominate Any Day Now.

    I like Linux. I run Linux. But pieces like this remind me of 1998, when everyone in their brother was running 'If we don't know the actual numbers, than the numbers must be huge' stories about Linux adoption.

    Emmett Plant
    CEO, Xiph.org Foundation [xiph.org]

  • by MCMLXXVI (601095) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:17AM (#5528299)
    How is that an effective way to check? As a network admin I have 12 Linux servers and a Windows machine as my workstation. Guess which one racks up all the web stats on Google.

    Keep in mind most Linux machines are servers and most people don't browse the internet with their servers.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:17AM (#5528305) Homepage Journal
    Zeitgeist, we can assume, overwhelmingly refelects desktops, not servers. The article's author doesn't make to too clear, but it sounds like he's (mostly) talking about servers.

    I'm also, I have to say, doubtful that any browser-sniffing gives an accurate picture of what people out there are using, because so many people set Opera et al (on any OS) to report itself as IE for Windows. Personally I think that's a terrible idea -- if I find a site that refuses to work with my preferred setup (Mozilla on OS X) I figure, well, what the hell, I didn't really need to look at that site anyway -- but an awful lot of people do it.
  • by adzoox (615327) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:17AM (#5528306) Journal
    Everyone equates Apple statistics the wrong way. Companies like (the desperate) Gateway even go as far as using the Megahertz myth in their ads for their Profile all in ones.

    Apple has a quarterly SALES pentration/market share of 3% to 4% but has an installed base somewhere around 11%.

    Of course we all know what "Mac People" like to point out about the RISC processor being 40% faster than an x86 and in most cases 75-90% than a Celeron. Who knows about the Centrino. (What a poor name to choose - "trino" anything sounds miniscule)

    It's the same way in the Linux community. Most versions of Linux run faster than Windows on the same hardware. (true in some cases on Mac hardware than OS X/OS 9 as well) There is a significantly higher number of 'nix users than M$ would like us to believe. I don't know the member numbers at Sourceforge & Slashdot. Not all are 'nix users but it is significantly high. That alone is large enough base. M$ wants everyone to belive that only mainstream/mass advertising companies (like themselves) have market share. They like to take advantage of the public psyche.

  • by Deth_Master (598324) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:20AM (#5528318) Homepage Journal
    But if most developers are writing for linux, then more software will start appearing for linux. Companies hiring these linux developers will have software written for linux, and the end user will have to use it.

    It's kinda like using microsoft's tactics against them, the end users won't have another choice.

    I doubt that companies will want to develop a product for each OS, it's too costly. So, they'll pick a platform and stick with it. If most of the developers that apply for the job are specialized in linux, the company may decide that it's a good way to go, since lots of people are writing for it.

    on a more humorous note: My girlfriend cares about at least one developer...
  • by benevold (589793) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:20AM (#5528319) Homepage Journal
    I agree that Linux is taking over Windows shares, however an article like this proves nothing. There is no statistical information, what is the population size? What type of companies were part of this "study". How were the companies included, by picking them, by them asking, or just a random sampling.
    Sure it's great to think Linux will eventual kill windows, I just don't see any proof of that yet.
  • by TopShelf (92521) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:20AM (#5528320) Homepage Journal
    "Roughly 40 percent focus primarily on Linux. These priorities will switch places almost number-for-number next year. Actually, more than 50 percent plan to focus primarily on Linux and less than 40 percent on Windows, so the switch favors Linux. But because the differences are within the margin of error, it is essentially a symmetrical reversal of fortune where Linux will take priority over Windows starting next year. "

    So the margin of error is at least in the 5-10% area? That sounds quite large, for a survey that purports to take in a wide range of developers. Methinks the author is taking an overly optimistic view of the subject matter - but that's not really surprising...

  • by fw3 (523647) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:23AM (#5528334) Homepage Journal
    Was basically, "if you can control the developers, you control the customers (killing off cp/m, os/2 ...)"

    That carried them to a point where the leverage point was effectively "if you control the desktop you can win the servers (killing off novell, banyan ...). This in turn led to "if you control the desktop and departmental servers, you can muscle into the enterprise" -- fortunately (imo) they've had less luck - despite considerable effort - in killing off Unix/Linux/BSD.

    So far at least. I don't think this games very predictable, (and the LW article is *very* thin on data, but there certainly is a deep groundswell of good things happening in OSS, and virtually all big-iron oriented code now targets Linux along with Unix).

    However it's perfectly reasonable that as developers move (back) to *nix, eventually the market will follow.

    (Remembering Grace Slick of the Starship singing about 'egg-snatchers' -- dunno the Borg's a big target, and elephants are best eaten a bite at a time)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:24AM (#5528337)
    The difference is, non-geeks don't use Linux, whereas non-geeks do use Intel video-cludge. What percentage of users are geeks, 0.5%? Yet geeks spend all their computing time around other geeks. Nowonder Linux users have got such a warped idea about Linux's marketshare. I'm not being a troll, I'm just trying to be realistic.
  • Define "market" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by e8johan (605347) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:24AM (#5528339) Homepage Journal

    Windows is still king when it comes to desktops. Not only due to a huge market share but also FUD (not all unfair) towards Linux from common users.

    If we define the market as computers as in CPUs, I'd say that neither Linux nor Windows wins or comes even close. There must be far more 8051 controllers out there running a hand coded snippet of control code than there are 8086 derivates.

    The GNU/Linux movement shouldn't say that we have beaten Windows, let's relax. Rather we should say we can beat Windows, let's work as much as possible producing quality software.

  • Pinch of NaCl (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IceFreak2000 (564869) <ed AT edcourtenay DOT co DOT uk> on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:25AM (#5528344) Homepage

    I have to take this article with a pinch of salt - I know it's hardly empirical evidence, but almost every developer I know is not installing Linux over Windows, rather they're dual-booting their systems to run both Linux and Windows. Maybe this will change in the long run, but I doubt the swing will have been made by 2004.

    I'd love to believe what he says, but it doesn't quite ring true from my own personal experience.

  • by jkrise (535370) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:26AM (#5528349) Journal
    The messiah of Windows a.k.a His Billness cares enough about developers. Enough to spend four days in India (yes, the third owrld country with less than 0.5% global Windows base) and convince IT firms there to give up Linux. (Infosys and Wipro)

    Bill Gates recently presided over an IIT alumni meeting in CA - and these IITians are elite developers, not users. Even Stevie goes bonkers when he utters the word Developers.

    Truth can stand naked. Lies need statistics.
  • Re:keyword (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gheesh (191858) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:27AM (#5528355) Homepage Journal

    Developing in a windows environment, even with something like cygwin or Visual Studio.NET just plain sucks compared to actually being in linux.

    How is this? Sorry but having coded for many years using Borland's tools in Windows I found it very very difficult to adapt to Linux development: no context-sensitive help, no organized documentation (yes, lots of documentation, but no "central" organized index which means a research job for a fucking function declaration), no intellisense, no autocompletion, and having to resort to home-brewed makefiles is just a pain in the ass.

    Could you please explain which tools are you using for development, so I can use them too and make my life easier? :-)

  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:29AM (#5528363) Homepage Journal
    Indeed -- an impression that Microsoft tries to foster, of course. And built into this Windows Computer(tm) are all of these wonderful Microsoft Innovations(tm) like Word(tm) and The Internet(tm).

    But I've found that in talking to even very computer-illiterate people, it's not that hard to get them over this conceptual block. Explain in simple terms what hardware is, what an OS is, what application software is, and that you have choices in all areas, and they're pretty happy. People like having choices -- and they may be confused into thinking that Dell vs. Gateway vs. HPaq is a "choice," but once they understand the situation a little better, they'll often have the brains to make a more informed decision.

    Also, there is a growing number of people in the middle ground of computer literacy -- the world isn't just 1337 and 1uz3rz any more. These people aren't programmers, but they have some idea what's going on inside the computer, they're comfortable with fairly complex tasks in a wide variety of applications, and although they may not know a whole lot about the alternatives to Windows/Office/IE, they know that those alternatives are out there and they want to learn more.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:31AM (#5528377)
    But if most developers are writing for linux, then more software will start appearing for linux. Companies hiring these linux developers will have software written for linux, and the end user will have to use it.
    The problem is, by numbers, most software written is either for small commercial installations, or is written by developers for developers for fun. I wouldn't be surprised if 99% of software is only used by 1% of users. Even if 80% of software written was for Linux, it doesn't mean squat, because almost all users just want IE, Word, MSN Messenger, and a few games, and nothing whatsoever beyond that.
  • Microsoft tax (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kinnell (607819) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:33AM (#5528388)
    I can imagine a future when although a vast majority of people are using Linux, Windows still shows up in the "statistics" as the most popular OS, just because it is shipped by default with most PCs. As long as the Microsoft spin doctors could keep the myth going, manufacturers would still ship PCs with Windows pre-installed by default, thus reinforcing the "statistics". In effect, Microsoft could still claim the "Microsoft tax" even if nobody was using their product.
  • What about gamers? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by HeavyJeffD (659657) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:35AM (#5528396)
    I think the games and the gaming communit, especially with the overwhelming mass of MMORPG's and the ilk, make up a fairly significant portion of software development budgets globally. For me at least, this has been a major valley in me switching to 'nix 100%. There isn't one single game I play (yes, I'm a gamer ;P) that's available in any flavor of 'nix. A server dedicated server-side products, yes. Clients (ie: actual game), no.
  • mmm, propaganda (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Joe the Lesser (533425) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:36AM (#5528401) Homepage Journal
    So a magazine called 'LinuxWorld' has an article on how Linux is going to overtake the most popular OS on the market! Wow! That's really impressive...*sarcasm*

    No offense to Linux, but 'MacWorld' and 'PCWorld' magazines probably could write the same article about their systems. Can't trust a media produced to promote things.
  • by Erwos (553607) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:38AM (#5528411)
    Ironically, if MS gets what they want, and the XBox2 is a roaring success, there's no reason that we won't finally see the long proclaimed death of PC gaming, or at least the marginalization of it. Consoles need a little work, too, but nothing's stopping them from getting a keyboard and mouse needed to finish the control paradigm from where it stands now.

    If no one's putting out games for the PC, why not just buy a console and then wipe Windows off your box? That's a good question, and Microsoft might just show us the answer soon. It's sure as hell more economical than running the infamous PC upgrade treadmill.

    -Erwos
  • Client vs Server (Score:4, Insightful)

    by m00nun1t (588082) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:39AM (#5528413) Homepage
    Aren't we missing something very important here - client vs. server breakdown? The article seems to assume that it's all about clients, but I just can't believe 40% of developers are doing linux client work. Servers, of course, are another thing altogether.

    And of course we all know 1 server box (or 1 cluster) can keep several developers happily employed for years, maintaining & enhancing some line of business app/web application/etc.

    So it seems the relationship between the number of developers and number of installs is a pretty weak one.
  • by SlamMan (221834) <squigit@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:40AM (#5528419)
    Just like to remind evreybody that this is from LinuxWorld [linuxworld.com]. Not exactally a bastion of unbiased reporting when it comes to operating systems.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:43AM (#5528433)
    nicholas petreley is a moron. Let me prove my case.

    He said:

    1. Evans Data Corporation hired me to help out with a research report focused on Linux developers.

    2. Of the developers surveyed, more than 50 percent who now develop primarily for Linux used to develop primarily for Windows. Only 30 percent used to develop for some other Unix or Unix derivative. In case you missed it, the operative phrase is "used to." In other words, this is not a prediction of an emerging trend. It is cold, hard information about what has already transpired, and it withstands the scrutiny of a jeweler's eyepiece.

    Now put one and two together and what do you get?

    A statistics that is just plain wrong. By only focusing on linux developers, you cannot get accurate statistics.

    For example, assume we have.

    Microsoft developers 1000 people

    Linux developers 10 people
    of which

    5 used to develop primary for windows
    3 used to develop for other unixes
    2 otherwise.

    How can you prove anything by only doing a survey on linux developers? To get accurate info, you need to either include all developers or take a random sample of all developers.
  • by Simon Brooke (45012) <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:44AM (#5528438) Homepage Journal
    One reason why so many developers use Linux is that Linux is much more frequently used to deliver custom solutions, whereas Windows is typically used to deliver packaged solutions which need relatively little developer input.

    Rolling out 1,000 desktops requires virtually no developer input. Rolling out a unified health and social care workflow system (which is what I'm working on now) takes a lot of developer man hours - but when it's finished it will sit on one (Linux) server (and be accessed by hundreds of desktops, most of which will almost certainly run Windows).

    This does not matter

    We are not playing a numbers game. We don't need to take over the world. The fact that most users still prefer to use something else on their desktops doesn't make Linux a bad operating system, or a failure, or anything like that. Linux is very successful in a lot of niches. If it ultimately becomes more widely used than Windows, well, that will be interesting; but it won't make Linux any better (or Windows any worse).

  • by Trurl's Machine (651488) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:46AM (#5528445) Journal
    "40 percent of developers"? How should I understand this figure? Do you count as one each person who just happens to develop ANYTHING, even some obscure freeware of no importance? "40 percent of developers" sounds like a shampoo commercial to me ("your hair will be 50 percent more healthy").
  • Windows Inferior? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by silvakow (91320) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:49AM (#5528460)
    The irony here is that Windows gets an unfair market-share boost because it is inferior to Linux and requires more installations to do the same work.

    While I wholly agree with Nicholas on most of the article, this line doesn't seem to help the community. One of the stereotypes of linux users is that we think it is better than everything else in every application. This is simply not the case.

    I recently helped my grandmother purchase a computer. Her budget was large enough to get an iMac, so I suggested it, and she purchased it. I made sure she got the extended warranty from Apple because it includes phone support. She would not dial the number no matter how much I suggested it.

    She liked to get face to face help, and everyone she knows uses Windows. They couldn't help her with her Mac, even though it's the simplest thing to use. In this situation, I bought the iMac from her and replaced it with a Windows PC, and she is now satisfied.

    Every system has its place, and ignoring this fact will reflect badly on the Linux community until we realize it.
  • by sjames (1099) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:54AM (#5528494) Homepage

    The data gathered doesn't answer this question, but I have to wonder.

    MS has a well known habit destroying any successful developer of Windows software, either through theft in the guise of a buyout or making a knock off product then welding it into the OS.

    While the Free Software community is known for making Free versions of proprietary software (also a potential liability from a proprietary developer's standpoint), it is at least not a total wipeout. They at least know that the OS won't be changed to lock their app out.

    The more MS expands, the clearer it will become to developers that Windows development is a good way to get stomped on.

  • by TKinias (455818) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:54AM (#5528496)

    scripsit dnoyeb:

    Also, windows has the correctness connundrum. People think any mistakes are their own and not the fault of windows, automatically... I think they would be more likely to blame Linux for any shortcomings.

    Hmm. This isn't, I think, restricted to Windows. I had an interesting OS X experience over the weekend. An acquaintance was having trouble with a USB external hard drive. OS X was locking up hard (at least keyboard and mouse, there was no network so I don't know if I could have ssh'd in) when the device was disconnected the ``Mac way'' (i.e., drag to trash or select File | Eject). The user assumed he was doing something wrong. To me it was obvious that this is some kind of bug in OS X's USB support, but a user not confident in his skills assumed the error to be his own.

    The same goes, by the way, for other devices. I don't really have any insecurities about my telephone-using skills, so if I encounter a mobile phone which isn't easily usable I blame a bad UI. Other people seem to think it's their own fault if they can't immediately grok a bad UI.

  • nobody hit on this (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:56AM (#5528506)
    Not how the linux developers don't support the cause:

    1. They usually download it for free rather than buy a distro.
    2. They wiped the hard drive free of windows, meaning they didn't buy from a white box Linux vendor.

    With friends like this who needs enemies.
  • by pork_spies (659663) on Monday March 17, 2003 @09:57AM (#5528512)
    So far the only Linux machine that has accessed my site is my own - the site has been up for months and is quiet - about 20 - 30 visitors a day, but the results are still very disappointing.

    The server world is very different - I am hacking away at perl for apache on Linux right now.
  • by schambon (416146) on Monday March 17, 2003 @10:00AM (#5528530) Homepage
    One word: Java.

    I haven't got any hard data, but I'd be very surprised if Java didn't represent a large chunk of those 40% of developers. Basically it means that whenever developers get the choice of platform (not for deployment, but for the actual development) 40% will choose a Linux environment.

    And there are huge swathes of commercial Java apps. Most if not all have been made to work on Linux.

    At least, that's what I use Linux for; and most of the other people I know who use Linux on their workstations do it because they program in Java.

    -S
  • by Kynde (324134) <kynde&iki,fi> on Monday March 17, 2003 @10:06AM (#5528567)
    90% of the end users wonder "what is Linux ?". To them - Windows is the computer.

    Actually, who cares about end users?

    I'm dead serious here. As a linux user I couldn't care less what the windows using 90 per cent does. Tell you the truth I'm more than happy that they're using windows and hopefully would stay there. Especially if the developement focus is moving towards linux.

    I don't see any need for linux to overtake M$. Things are good as they are. I'm afraid they'll only get worse with more computer-illiterates changing sides.

    The worst phenomenon by far to-date is the assimilation of windows ui. We'd be far better off sticking to new inventions and new paradigms and not just idiotically copy the mistakes made in windows ui developement. I understand that that is important if we want that 90% to shift over, but what's the point in that if the cost is making major distro desktops like windoze.
  • by SN74S181 (581549) on Monday March 17, 2003 @10:07AM (#5528571)
    I am glad you made the distinction between assemble and build.

    There are too instances of people who spam the homebuilt computer newsgroup with problems about 'building' their computer who've only used a phillips screwdriver to get into the trouble they're posting about.
  • by MegaHamsterX (635632) on Monday March 17, 2003 @10:09AM (#5528590)
    I do consulting, my goal is to line my pockets with the most amount of money possible.

    I give the customers two options.
    1. A windows system with a box delegated for each task and the required MS licenses.
    2. A single custom Linux box.

    I then explain Linux has no fees associated with it, but it's more expensive to setup. If they go the MS route they will need to pay a few thousand in license costs, it will cost less to initially setup, but more over it's lifetime to maintain, and to reach the same performance levels I will need multiple Windows Machines (don't even talk to me about running exchange with anything else).

    My client wins by spending less, and I win by making more.

    These are server instances though, I have only ever done a single Linux desktop at a company, and that was for a limited use workstation in a remote part of the country, it can not break unexpectedly.

    This is only me, I know the legions of cloned MCSEs outnumber me, so for every Client I flip to Linux they retain many more on the MS side.

    Run Linux and profit :-)
  • Take Marketing 101 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 17, 2003 @10:13AM (#5528613)
    Any company which wants to stay in business knows that it's the Customers who drive the business. Why do you think Motorola is such a crappy company? It's run by engineers! All they do is create, create, create, but never bother to ask "does anyone want this crap?" I have Linux at home, but that doesn't mean I'm blind ... customers drive the market, not developers. Convence John Q. that Linux is superior, and then everyone will use it.
  • Everybody here is like "I'll take that article with a grain of salt", or "Statistics don't mean anything".

    It seems a lot of people missed the point. That article focused less of stats and more on ways they can be interpreted.

    The author is trying to present some alternative ways of interpreting the usual old Win vs. Linux stats that we hear so much. He isn't trying to carve anything in stone. So many of you engineering folks see things in black or white, but this article says there is a grey area. You can look at the grey aread two different ways and it can seem black or white depending on how you look at it. He's not trying to tell us that it's all black or that it's all white.

    He makes a great point that there are key ideas in those stats that are often overlooked and are seldom addressed by the Linux community, and never addressed by the Win community(Win preinstalled, Lin more efficient requiring less installs, unsold copies of Win at Best Buy, etc). This is a very insightful article, and while it may be mostly speculation and interpretation, the one fact that we do know is that the Linux developer/user base is growing and will continue to grow(so let's not get hung up on how fast, etc).
  • by reallocate (142797) on Monday March 17, 2003 @10:19AM (#5528648)
    Servers are invisible. Linux could run on every server in the world and remain essentially unknown to desktop users.

    No matter how good Linux is from a technical pespective, it won't threaten Microsoft on the desktop until Linux developers offer consumers a non-ideological incentive to go to all the hassle and risk of abandoning Windows. I think it will take something along these lines:

    1) Create Linux applications that do compelling and unique things that Microsoft apps don't (being "as good as" Office won't cut it for most people, any more than Texturized Soy Protein outsells real beef);

    2) Slap a $39.95 price sticker on those apps, write good documentation, stuff 'em in cute shrinkwrapped boxes and get them onto store shelves;

    3) Create a "wedge" of non-geek, non-techie "real" people using Linux and exploit their existence to the hilt. Convince ordinary people that Linux is for them. (See Apple's "Switch" campaign.)

    4. Build Linux installation software that allows a new user to stick a CD in the slot, click "Go", walk away, and come back 15 minutes later to find Windows gone, Linux up and running, and all his Windows-created data and files preserved and migrated to the right Linux apps.

    Good luck, and have fun.
  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Monday March 17, 2003 @10:25AM (#5528665)
    >>But if most developers are writing for linux, then more software will start appearing for linux. Companies hiring these linux developers will have software written for linux, and the end user will have to use it.

    Why? What does the number of developers have to do with anything? Suppose 1% of software developers work on MS-Office, what is to stop 95% of end users from using MS-Office? I just don't see the connection.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 17, 2003 @10:30AM (#5528691)
    So, if thats the only thing end users want, whats stopping them from switching to Linux?

    Mozilla, OpenOffice, Amsn, GnomeICU and a "few" games.
  • by Tim C (15259) on Monday March 17, 2003 @10:40AM (#5528742)
    To them - Windows is the computer.

    No. To them, their applications are the computer. I've heard people respond "Windows 97" when asked what version they're using, because that's the version of Office that they use all (day, everyday).

    To most people, the OS is utterly irrelevant. It's just the thing that they know has to load before they can load the programs that they actually want and need to use.
  • by Lao-Tzu (12740) on Monday March 17, 2003 @10:42AM (#5528753) Homepage

    I was reading this article and thinking to myself two seperate thoughts: "Well, that's odd...", and "Uh huh... who cares?".

    I work for a non-IT consulting company. Me and the team of ~20 developers here write software for engineers to use in petroleum engineering consulting. All of the software, 100% of it, it developed for Windows. I look around and see 0% Linux developers, and 100% Windows developers. But, alright, obviously my survey is baised. However, I only know one single developer here who has ever used Linux, or any operating system other than Windows. The two of us both have our shiny Powerbooks sitting next to our desktop computers while we work, for e-mail and web browsing and the occasional graphics work. I think the statistic that only 50% of developers use Windows is rather odd... since 95% of users are using Windows. Are there huge fields of programmers who develop cross-platform software and trust that it will work in Windows without testing it? Or develop server-side software only, which never sees a user?

    Secondly, who cares. I look at a project like Mozilla, and I can see that a lot of the developers are on non-Windows OSes. But I think the majority of even Mozilla users are Windows users. I advocate Mozilla to my friends and family, installing it on computers and replacing IE/OutlookE, and everyone is happy. They're using Mozilla and Windows, and I think this is highly common. FTL [slashdot.org] even replaced the 'INTERNET' icon on his grandmother's computer with Mozilla, and I believe the only comment she ever had was about the cute dragon. Developers may be using non-MS platforms, but they're still developing for users who are in Windows. Right? Or is half the world using Linux on their desktop, and I'm in some la-la land?

  • by luwain (66565) on Monday March 17, 2003 @10:59AM (#5528833)
    The number of developers does not equate to market share. There are a number of things to remember:
    1) Linux has a lot of catching up to do in terms of applications, especially in gaming and "home" applications. There's not as much new Windows development, because there are mature applications in every genre.
    2) Most desktop users -- at home and in small business -- do not install their OS. They buy their machines with the OS that it comes with.
    3) Linux does dominate the Web Server "domain".
    (What with Apache and all). But if we are talking about Gaming, Home Use, Small Business, and Big Business use IN THE United States -- the "Market Share" numbers probably UNDERESTIMATE Windows dominance.

    You don't need any complicated studies to realize
    Windows' dominant position. Ask any 100 people who ARE NOT developers or computer profesionals or engineering students what Operating System they use at work, and what operating system they use at home. You'll be lucky to find 10% who know what Linux is. Even during the "boom" years I knew people who bought RedHat stock who thought Linux was some kind of new electronic device and others who thought they were investing in bio-tech.

    I think that in order to realistically challenge the "evil empire"(aka Microsoft) we have to first face reality. And the reality is that Microsoft can get away with all their crap because they do own the marketplace and have a huge installed base. Microsoft's arrogance, however, may lead to their demise. Now is the time for us Linux aficionados to make a big push, but we mustn't underestimate the enormous effort that has to be put forth. And we mustn't try to rationalize away the short-comings of Linux or try to exagerate the weaknesses of Microsoft.
  • by brad-x (566807) <brad@brad-x.com> on Monday March 17, 2003 @11:10AM (#5528894) Homepage

    I'm also not seeing anything quantitative other than a claim that he's spoken with market researchers. I'd like to see some names of the people surveyed or at least information about what the surveyed developers were/are doing in general.

    I smell an unsubstantiated claim!

  • by corvi42 (235814) on Monday March 17, 2003 @11:12AM (#5528905) Homepage Journal
    Supply and Demand, it's as simple as that.

    Developers are the suppliers of product, desktop users are the consumers of same. The suppliers have to be anticipating upcoming trends in consumer tastes and responding to that. If they guess wrong then they can suffer inordinately, even go out of business. So it's a reliable indicator of what trends the market will be feeling down the road if the producers ( as a body, not as individuals ) are gearing up for a particular shift in their production.

    If there is a definite noticeable shift on the part of developers to a different target platform, then that indicates one of a few things, as I see it:

    1) There will be an upcoming shift in tastes on the part of consumers to that different platform. Developers see this upcoming shift and jump ( en masse ) to anticipate it. Or that because the developers shift, the consumers follow to gain the advantages of new products. Most likely a combination of the above.

    2) Developers can continue to produce for the current tastes of consumers while lowering their own costs of production. It could be that there is no impending shift of demand to the linux platform, but the ability to build cross-platform apps using linux technology gives developers an edge while lowering their own costs.

    3) The entire body of developers, as a class of informed professionals, are all self-delusional. They have bought into the Linux hype and are making the worst decision of their careers, and hence are heading over a cliff like so many lemmings. It seems to me that this argument will be very hard to defend.

    The dynamic of supply and demand simply won't allow large scale trends NOT to be based upon advantages and improvements in the market. That's why we should care about these statistics about developers.
  • Re:Ignorance Maybe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iamweezman (648494) on Monday March 17, 2003 @11:31AM (#5529036)
    the user will still pay out the ass to get windows over linux

    A large number of users buy a computer with windows xp installed. I've been looking recently and can't find a cheaper "mainstream" retailer that sells linux boxes cheaper than windows. In fact I just bought a laptop. Dell had the cheapest one that I liked, and it came with xp. Finding anything comparable with just linux on it I found I would be paying out the ass to get linux over windows.

    Sometimes windows is cheaper, and definitely easier to find on new computers...plain and simple

  • by justin_speers (631757) <.jaspeers. .at. .comcast.net.> on Monday March 17, 2003 @11:34AM (#5529048)
    The worst phenomenon by far to-date is the assimilation of windows ui. We'd be far better off sticking to new inventions and new paradigms and not just idiotically copy the mistakes made in windows ui developement. I understand that that is important if we want that 90% to shift over, but what's the point in that if the cost is making major distro desktops like windoze.

    Uhm, you're missing a fundamental idea here...

    It would be nice if more end-users switched over to a Linux distro. It'd be wonderful. Finally hardware companies would supply decent linux drivers for their products. Microsoft would be forced to innovate more with increased competition. Work on Linux would accelerate as more people switched over. More apps... etc, etc.

    The great thing about it, the fundamental idea you're missing, is that Linux IS OPEN SOURCE. There will always be Linux distros that are nothing like Windoze. So if you don't like a certain distro aimed towards those end-users you don't care about, switch to one that is "hardcore" enough for ya. That's the beauty of open source, there's always choices.

    You'll never be cornered into a situation where you're forced to use a windows-like Linux distro.

    And that should put a smile on your face...
  • by mrkurt (613936) on Monday March 17, 2003 @11:50AM (#5529135) Journal

    I think what Petreley says about developers programming for the server might be close to being correct-- Linux is taking market share from Microsoft, and I think it could extend to Windows server installations as well as Unix. I don't think that Linux is really having an impact on the desktop yet. The other thing he doesn't mention is whether this developer survey is just the USA or whether it's international-- it seems quite probable that Linux has more mind/market share in Europe in particular, than it does in the USA.

    My question is, why would someone go to Circuit City or Best Buy to purchase a machine that has Windows pre-installed, then take it home and install Linux? Yes, yes, you can create a dual boot system (not easily), but it would seem to be easier to buy a "naked" PC from an online builder and save yourself the Microsoft "tax", then install Linux. I realize that MS is trying to clamp down on OEMs, but naked machines are still available out there. I bought one just to assure that I could reinstall Windows 2000 (which I got elsewhere) if I had to.

    Petreley has a reputation as cheerleading for Java, too. I am surprised he didn't tell us how many of those Linux developers are using Java. I think there's a trend toward Linux, but it is developing less dramatically than Petreley would have us believe.

  • by ajs (35943) <<moc.sja> <ta> <sja>> on Monday March 17, 2003 @11:54AM (#5529164) Homepage Journal
    The worst phenomenon by far to-date is the assimilation of windows ui. We'd be far better off sticking to new inventions and new paradigms and not just idiotically copy the mistakes made in windows ui developement.

    Not sure I can follow you here. First off, 90% of the Windows UI is really the Apple UI which is really the PARC UI. What's more, a lot of the UNIX/Linux UI work that is going on today *is* innovating, just not by throwing out 30 years of history. There are elements that have been absorbed from Windows, some from MacOS, some from Motif/CDE, some from NeXT, even some from mostly non-graphical "environments" like EMACS, which in turn both influenced and drew from the LISP Machines. There are also a lot of elements that are being done for the first time in UNIX/Linux desktops, but the innovations are mostly small these days. The underlying WiMP thing is well understood, and most of the bad choices have sorted themselves out over time.

    That said, there are places where more work could be done on exploring different ways of doing things. Why don't you go check out where you could contribute? Start small with bug-fixes to an existing project, or start your own project....
  • by IWannaBeAnAC (653701) on Monday March 17, 2003 @12:01PM (#5529210)
    Fallacy.

    A linux user using 'doze for the first time experiences exactly the same thing, if anything even worse, if you compare the amount of cruft and general weirdness of linux vs 'doze.

    True, learning a new system is a big barrier, but I don't think there is anything intrinsically harder about learning linux.

    Its like saying "DVD players arn't for the masses" just because the controls are different from a VCR. If its useful enough, then people will just learn to use it.

  • by IWannaBeAnAC (653701) on Monday March 17, 2003 @12:10PM (#5529266)
    Assuming that developers are equally productive on both platforms. Then in the long term, an imbalance in developers inevitably leads to an imbalance in software (either more software, or higher quality, or a combination of both).

    Of course that is only the long term trend. But in the past M$ has considered it an absolute priority to capture the 'developer mindshare' and get them writing code for the Windoze platform, and only for the Windoze platform. A trend away from that will have Bill in a spin.

  • by sheldon (2322) on Monday March 17, 2003 @12:12PM (#5529295)
    Nicholas Petreley worked with Evans Data Corporation on a survey which asked Linux developers about there preferences, and he learned that 50% of them were no longer developing Windows software.

    Somehow from these figures, Petreley concluded that Windows has signifigantly less developer mindshare than Linux.

    In other news...

    99.9%(with a margin of error of 5%) of respondents at a KKK rally were against affirmative action programs, from this we can clearly conclude that tea in China is selling at 50 cent per pound.
  • by Dirtside (91468) on Monday March 17, 2003 @12:21PM (#5529381) Journal
    I think it does matter. Not that Linux has to "win" for some abstract pride-based reason; but rather, Microsoft's immense power within the industry allows them to abuse society and retard the progress of computing. Microsoft needs to lose some of that power, and if that happens because Linux takes much of its market share, then so be it.

    In other words, it doesn't matter who wins (Linux, BSD, whoever), as long as it's not a single corporation (or even a few; oligopolies are not much better than monopolies).
  • by sheldon (2322) on Monday March 17, 2003 @12:31PM (#5529464)
    "Consider this: most linux users have a static IP but a large fraction of MS users will have a dynamic IP. So if they are counting unique IPs it will have a heavy windows bias. "

    First, that's an unreasonable assumption. Second, I rather suspect that google.com is calculating statistics on all hits, not just unique visitors. There's no reason to do otherwise, at least not from a statistical sampling point of view.

    "Proxies. Again, more linux users could be behind a proxy (a few hundred linux users at my univ go through a single proxy) than windows users "

    Many Windows machines are behind proxies. We have over 5,000 machines at my company behind proxy.

    Don't confuse your experiences at University with the real world... they aren't remotely close.

    "Third, some factors similar to those described in the article could be at work (linux more efficient ==> less linux servers for same job). Maybe linux users are more efficient googlers? I think this is unlikely, but still a possibiility. "

    Well from what I've seen Linux users are less likely to be interested in facts, so maybe they don't care enough to go looking up answers to questions.

    (Oh yeah, that was sarcasm)

    "Fourth, it doesn't agree with my webserver stats (i.e, counting the hits I get from google searches). "

    Yes, clearly your anecdotal evidence is more accurate than massive statistical sampling.

    (BTW, that was also sarcasm)

    "but on the whole it makes me think that some combination of the factors above may be at work in decreasing the perceived share of linux."

    I've always said... Don't let facts get in the way of a good argument.

    If you want to believe Linux is really popular, and mass adoption is just around the corner, be my guest.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 17, 2003 @12:46PM (#5529567)
    completely disregarding the notion of "user preference,"

    User preference is highly overrated. Users will often prefer an inferior and inefficient way of working just because that's the way they were shown first.
  • by blahlemon (638963) on Monday March 17, 2003 @12:52PM (#5529614)
    A linux user using 'doze for the first time experiences exactly the same thing, if anything even worse, if you compare the amount of cruft and general weirdness of linux vs 'doze.

    I actually disagree with you, I think a Linux user going to a Windows environment has a much easier time. In part because many things in Windows are specifically dumbed down to make them single click applications.

    A perfect example is MacroMedia Shockwave. In Windows when I wanted it I just clicked on MacroMedia's site and it installed itself. For Linux, however, I had to jump thru hops, navigate hidden directories and manually do it.

    I do think you are correct in one aspect however, if a Linux user was on a Windows box and wanted to twik it or perform administrative tasks they would have a steeper learning curve, especially with XP. Over all though, for user stupidness/friendlyness I would say Windows has the upper hand.

    For now. And it's not Linux's fault either, BTW. It's the third party companies that don't build in that "I just want to click once and have it work" functionality.

  • by blahlemon (638963) on Monday March 17, 2003 @01:04PM (#5529695)
    How often have you gotten that annoying "Would you like to submit this to Microsoft" box?
  • Re:keyword (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 17, 2003 @01:21PM (#5529810)
    "Man" pages?
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    The dickheads that write those things don't fucking realize that not everyone wants to read documentation that requires a phd in engineering to understand.
  • by jgardn (539054) <jgardn@alumni.washington.edu> on Monday March 17, 2003 @01:38PM (#5529923) Homepage Journal
    Yes, we do need to *win*, and win big.

    In case you have forgotten, this isn't Linux vs. Windows. This isn't even Unix vs. Windows. This is Free Software vs. Proprietary Software. Bill Gates started it. We're going to finish it. Linus might not acknowledge that this is a holy war. He is really saying that Free Software just makes sense. This has been the point of the Free Software community. This talk of "taking over the world" is said half in gest, half in seriousness.

    We know that Free Software is the right way to go for everybody. Software should be free, just like speech is free. We are going to make all software Free Software, not by force, but by persuasion and example. We are going to win by winning the right way, and that way is by getting everyone to use Free Software because they want to.

    When Linux becomes the dominant OS, when everyone and their grandmother says "What kind of crazy person would 'sell' software?", when IBM, SUN, Red Hat, and thousands of other companies, put trillions of dollars a year into development of Free Software, then it will be over. Then we can take to the streets and sign and dance and have a giant world-wide party.

    This has been and will always be about reclaiming the glory days of computing, when software was a science and not a business, when revolutionary ideas were actually revolutionary, and when no one thought it made any sense to "sell" software.

    Everone in the world is admitting Linux is a huge success. When windows became successful, people said, "See! It really does make sense to 'sell' software!" Well, when Linux is successful, and more successful that Windows, they will say, "Sorry, we were mistaken. Free Software has always been and will always be the better way to go."

    Note: Remember, no one sells software. They sell permission to use that software. Think of that CD you just bought from MS as a ticket to a one-time showing at the movie theatre. In the end, you really don't have any rights at all with it.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday March 17, 2003 @01:55PM (#5530110) Journal
    Of the developers surveyed, more than 50 percent who now develop primarily for Linux used to develop primarily for Windows. Only 30 percent used to develop for some other Unix or Unix derivative.

    But since Linux is a posix-compliant UNIX variant, many apps developed for it can be ported straight to Unix flavors by simply recompiling. Windows is a whole different ballgame (unless you develop with the Wine libraries for portability).

    Drivers need a bit of porting, but are still 'way closer to Unix than Windows, and apps that use Lunix-specific features will need some tuning (or just not go if the whole POINT is to interact with the Linux feature).

    But when a developer switches from Unix to Windows his work is likely still available in the Unix world. (Perhaps moreso, if he's GPLing it now.) Those that switch from Windows to Linux are pretty much GONE on the Windows side of the world.
  • by CrazyDuke (529195) on Monday March 17, 2003 @02:08PM (#5530222)
    It may be a crappy company because it is run by engineers. But, I have yet to hear of Moterola being defrauded of millions by gready CXOs throwing it into yet another round of layoffs and chapter 11. Sometimes a company being lead by those who don't care about squeasing the last red cent out of the market is a good thing.
  • by IdleTime (561841) on Monday March 17, 2003 @02:09PM (#5530231) Journal
    Well, he may have written what you would call "another gnome sucks" article, but for a lot of people that article made a lot of sense. He actually penned the feelings a lot of users have about Gnome. Please, this is not a flame war about Gnome/KDE, but about how Linux spreads and how difficult it is to get exact figure on how many people actually use Linux. And here I agree with him. The nature of Linux makes it hard to count. The nature og how MS spreads also makes it hard to get a realistic count.

    I would say it was a good article with a lot fo valid points. MS is loosing market and fast too.
  • by eno2001 (527078) on Monday March 17, 2003 @03:20PM (#5530809) Homepage Journal
    Actually, I have a laptop that I instlled Windows XP on about a half a year ago to give it a try (I am a 100% Linux user at home, only use Windows at work). The laptop has been up for as long as 90 days at a time and has only had to go down because I wanted to shut it down. It could probably run longer than the 90 days I've seen so far. I have had several applications crash, but no OS crash to date. However, I will also say that Linux has been just as stable for me. My record uptime so far is 299 days. I lost the uptime because of a power failure and didn't have a UPS on the system. Current uptime on that system is 51 days. It runs as my PDC, WINS server, internal and external DNS servers (running to instances of named), SAMBA File and Print server and mail server all on a Celeron 400 with 64 Megs of RAM. Same thing with this box as the XP Pro box, no OS crashes, only application crashes every so often. At this point, I'd say that a custom installed XP and a custom installed Linux done by someone who KNOWS what they are doing are equally stable. The major benefits with the Linux box are price and licensing. Since I build my own Linux from scratch I don't have to pay for the OS distribution or licensing. I didn't have to pay for XP Pro for my laptop either since it's not my laptop, but my employers. So, if you've had crappy experiences with either OS, chances are you haven't researched the problem enough to resolve it. There is no substantial benefit of going with Windows for me, so I stick with Linux. It does everything I need it to. Inlucding video capture, video editing, and games. With RedHat 8.0 the stakes just got higher too.
  • by Deth_Master (598324) on Monday March 17, 2003 @03:30PM (#5530915) Homepage Journal
    Or you could just use redhat and double click the .rpm you just downloaded off the internet. But you'll still have to deal with your own B.O. and Ho-Hos.
  • Re:Ignorance Maybe (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dalcius (587481) <chrism3413+slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Monday March 17, 2003 @06:15PM (#5532325)
    "The problem with Linux is that, it's not as pretty as windows. And mose users just want something that's really pretty when they turn it on. And quite honestly if your computer already comes with XP on it, there is no point to downgrade to a Linux distro."

    If you believe Windows is "prettier" than Linux, you should get yourself a copy of RH 8.0 and take about 5 minutes to play with themes. Take a sec to go download some more, and notice how your entire interface can look like Mac, Windows, OS/2, chrome, wood, sparkly colors, etc. All of the folks that I know who use Linux (fellow developers, friends, even my folks at home) think it looks much better than Windows. Linux can't be called ugly.

    And regarding your "downgrade" to Linux comment, if you're referring to program compatibility, I can't argue. If you're talking about features, speed, etc., you need to use linux [again].

    I'm a developer by trade and a sysadmin in my spare time. I read all sorts of documents and files, I do graphics and organize all of my data, check weather, etc. The only thing I need Windows for is games. And if you think this is only possible because I'm a developer, I'll refer to you my parents, college friends, non-programmer co-workers, etc. for references.

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