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The Problem With Estimating Linux Desktop Market Share 409

Posted by timothy
from the something-about-lying-and-statistics dept.
jammag writes "It's long been one of those exceptionally hard-to-quantify numbers: exactly what percentage of the desktop PC market is held by Linux? Doubters suggest it hovers around a negligible one percent, while partisans suggest it's in excess of 10 percent. Bruce Byfield explores the various sources of estimates, dismissers' and fan boys' alike, and guesstimates it might realistically be 5-6%. Still, he admits, 'the objectivity of numbers is often just a myth.'"
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The Problem With Estimating Linux Desktop Market Share

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  • by hattig (47930) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @09:51AM (#27829937) Journal

    It's just tipped above 1% for consumer systems that are used for internet usage. http://techreport.com/discussions.x/16860 [techreport.com]

    Munging together servers and clients is a pointless benchmark. Linux could have 30% of the server ecosystem, but that would make a 0.001% indent on client share.

    Regardless, 1.02% is a far cry from 5 or 6 percent, never mind 10%. Who would even say that a Linux machine makes up 1 in 10 machines on the web, haven't they seen all the Windows machines, all the business machines, etc?

  • Re:Guesstimates? (Score:5, Informative)

    by HermMunster (972336) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @10:11AM (#27830245)

    There are many Linux games. The Unreal tournament series for one, the quake series, Enemy Territory, etc. There are some solid full featured free games but I would have to say that frozen bubble isn't a game for obvious reasons as it is just an incomplete toy demo of some 3d graphics.

    One has to ask why there are no games? Would you as a developer not want to target potentially 30-50 million world-wide users?

    There are a couple of reasons for this.

    1) Commercial developers don't understand the license--GPL and others.

    2) Microsoft created a series of "lock in" technologies. Sort of like what we went through with the OOXML/DOC thing. For nearly a decade the government and large entities public and private required that you submit your electronic files in .doc (or some other office format). This meant that say, when the court system wanted you to submit pleadings you had to submit them in .doc and that meant that you the attorney and everyone in your office had to use a proprietary tool.

    See the lock in? Well, Directx is the same way. Developers create based on Directx even though there's a near feature complete comparative technology in OpenGL. If developers developed for OpenGL then they'd have a basis for cross-platform gaming development. Some do, such as the guys that do the Unreal Tournament series. They know the value of it. Some day we may see that users are using Linux for their day in and day out tasks and switching to windows for gaming. You'll dual boot into windows like you would start up your console just so you can play the game, then you'll go back to Linux to do everything else.

    This puts us in a position of the chicken or the egg. Wait for a market to grow to justify mutliple APIs for gaming development from the standpoint of the gaming industry leaders or develop and hope you can build a gaming following.

    Yes, many of my friends have said that they play games and that's the number one reason. They won't commit to Linux unless they can game on it and it looks as good as it does under Directx.

    I personally loose site of the quality of the graphics and tend to focus on game play after the initial WOW when I first begin a game. It doesn't mean I loose track completely but my focus is on playing and not so much on the beauty of the surroundings.

    I have played some with wine and gaming and though it can work often times it has 2 failings. The first is that the games just don't look the same as they do under windows and aren't good performers. The second is that they can be problematic to get up and running. This isn't to say that all are this way. A popular game called Guild Wars is totally windows, but runs flawlessly under Wine.

    I've taken and connected one of my Linux computers to a 47" TV going from DVI to HDMI. The resolution is 1920x1080 and looks utterly awesome as a desktop. I installed wine and then Guild Wars. After a few settings adjustments it looks just as good under Linux as under Windows and it is an incredibly beautiful on that 47" TV.

    This is a tough battle to win. Only through gaining market share with Linux can we get gaming going. That's tough when dealing with a criminally convicted predatory monopolist such as Microsoft.

  • Re:Guesstimates? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mad Merlin (837387) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @10:13AM (#27830283) Homepage

    The main problem with linux desktop usage is that all the games are made for Windows...

    Not all games, Game! [wittyrpg.com] for example.

  • by Tribaal_ch (1192815) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @10:14AM (#27830299)
    I did set up a mirror for all of our company's workstations (32), so canonical would see us as one user...
  • Re:Guesstimates? (Score:2, Informative)

    by skiman1979 (725635) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @10:14AM (#27830303)

    The main problem with linux desktop usage is that all the games are made for Windows

    What about this list of the Top 25 Linux Games for 2008 [whdb.com]? There's a nice variety of games on that list from different genres.

    I haven't played them all, but I have a few installed on my Gentoo system at home.

    I'm sure there are other decent/good Linux games out there as well. You can also bring some Windows games to Linux via WINE. There are some popular games on their Top 10 Platinum List [winehq.org] and the Top 10 Gold List (scroll down past Platinum) on the WINE appdb site including World of Warcraft, Eve Online, Guild Wars, Counter Strike: Source, Silkroad Online, Half-Life 2, and others.

    So it's not like gaming on Linux is non-existant. It's much more than just simple games like kbounce or kasteroids, kminesweeper or the other 10+ mini-games (like Solitare on Windows) that come with the OS.

  • Re:Guesstimates? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Skreems (598317) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @10:26AM (#27830497) Homepage

    It's not that people don't want to develop for linux. It's that the GPL is viral. If you use a GPL library for part of your game engine, you have to GPL the whole enchilada. Game content can be closed-source, but with the engine you have to go one way or the other: all open, or all closed.

    Come on now... this was solved decades ago with the LGPL license. Any changes you make to LGPL libraries are included in the viral behavior, but any proprietary binary that links against the LGPL libraries can be whatever license you want. It takes a little effort to understand the solution, maybe, but the solution is there.

  • by danhuby (759002) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @10:36AM (#27830647) Homepage

    I run a couple of sites that probably cover both extremes in terms of Linux desktop market share. The stats are as follows:

    Site 1: A local community site based in the UK; so the profile here is 'UK home user' (I find similar figures for other UK home focused sites I manage).

    Windows 92%
    Mac 6%
    Linux 1.5%

    Site 2: A site for an open source business application; the profile is therefore 'global IT worker / developer'. The picture is very different.

    Windows 60%
    Mac 30%
    Linux 9%

    The actual figure is between 1.5% and 9% then, depending on the ratio between home/office workers. As I imagine there are more home desktops than work desktops, my leaning would be towards the lower end of the scale.

    3% to 5% seems like a reasonable estimate.

    Dan

  • Re:Guesstimates? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ginger Unicorn (952287) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @10:40AM (#27830703)
    you dont need to understand free licences - there's nothing to stop you releasing proprietary software that runs on linux.
  • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @11:17AM (#27831275)

    Or you could use these stats [w3schools.com], which show 4% from browsing OSes.

    You'd think this showed more desktop usage, as most people don't use a server OS (that's used for servers) to browse the web - hence the Windows 2003 server showing at 1.7%

  • Re:Guesstimates? (Score:3, Informative)

    by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot@pitabre ... g ['s.o' in gap]> on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @12:37PM (#27832759) Homepage
    New message is "Go ATI, it's working pretty well". Anything X1xxx and below is fully accelerated with free drivers, the HD2xxx and above are on pace for having free acceleration within a year. If you value open-source that is. Nvidia cards till perform very well with the closed source drivers, and are the de facto standard for OpenGL on Linux.
  • Re:Guesstimates? (Score:2, Informative)

    by BrokenHalo (565198) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @03:13PM (#27835633)
    Have you ever gone to any Linux forum and seen a beginners question answered anything less snarky than "RTFM"?

    Yes. Many times. In fact, I have only seen the "RTFM" response on BSD forums.

    Maybe it depends on the forum you pick, or maybe it depends on how you ask. I and many others have been through the learning curve, and have found that although a google search is ample to meet trivial requirement, few experienced users are that cranky about answering "newbie" questions.
  • Re:Guesstimates? (Score:3, Informative)

    by techno-vampire (666512) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @03:44PM (#27836279) Homepage
    Have you ever gone to any Linux forum and seen a beginners question answered anything less snarky than "RTFM"??

    I use Fedora, and am a regular reader and poster on FedoraForum.org. [fedoraforum.org] In the several years I've been following it, I've never seen a question answered with RTFM. I have, however, seen newcomers told that their question has been asked and answered a number of times, and that a simple search of the forum would have found the answer, sometimes with a link to an example. I've also seen links posted to the appropriate faq, with the implied offer to explain anything that still isn't clear. I've also had occasion to surf both the Ubuntu and Puppy Linux forums and never seen anything like that in either of those.

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