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Is Linux's "Overall Market Share" Statistic Meaningful? 300

Posted by Soulskill
from the either-that-or-it's-not dept.
ruphus13 writes "Linux recently achieved 1% market share of the overall operating system market. But, does that statistic really mean anything useful? This article makes the case that it doesn't. It states, 'Framed in the "overall market share" terminology, the information (or how it was gathered and calculated) isn't necessarily questionable, it's more that it's meaningless. It's nebulous, even when one looks at several months worth of data. [How] Linux is used in various business settings answers an actual question — and the answer can be used to ask further questions, form opinions — and maybe one day even explain to some degree what 1% of the market share really means. ... Operating systems aren't immortal beings, and by rights, there can't be (there shouldn't be) only one. ... No one system can be everything to everyone, and no one system (however powerful, or stable) can do everything perfectly that just one person might require of it in the course of a day. While observing trends and measuring market share are important, the results (good or bad) shouldn't be any platform's measure of self-worth or validation. It's a data point to build on (we're weak in this area, strong in this area, our platform is being used a lot more this quarter, where did all of our users go?) in order to improve and stay relevant.'"
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Is Linux's "Overall Market Share" Statistic Meaningful?

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  • Ridiculous. (Score:5, Funny)

    by iamdrscience (541136) * <michaelmtripp@gmai l . c om> on Saturday May 23, 2009 @12:12AM (#28063215) Homepage

    Operating systems aren't immortal beings, and by rights, there can't be (there shouldn't be) only one.

    What? This directly contradicts the widely-known fact that Linux is The Highlander of operating systems.

  • by timmarhy (659436) on Saturday May 23, 2009 @12:14AM (#28063229)
    it's 1% of how they were measuring it. what you really want to know is how meaningful are the metrics used to produce that 1%.

    slashdot, missing the point as usual....

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by PleaseFearMe (1549865)
      It's like playing WOW and someone comes up to you and tells you the level of your character, the strength of its spells, don't matter. And all this time these were the things you were aiming for. A lot of people, me included, want to see Linux have 100% market share. What the summary seems to be trying to say is to not treat market share as the main goal. It is going one step beyond what timmarhy is saying. The article does not say that it is the number 1% that is faulty. Instead, it is the desire to
      • by AceofSpades19 (1107875) on Saturday May 23, 2009 @02:25AM (#28064163)
        I wouldn't want linux to have a 100% market share, just a big enough market share that it is supported on hardware as much as windows is
        • by Ghworg (177484) on Saturday May 23, 2009 @02:48AM (#28064301)

          Absolutely. I want to be able to walk into a store, buy some random piece of hardware and be absolutely sure that it will work under Linux. I don't care how many people use Linux, I just want to make my own personal choice to use it easier.

          The question is, what market share is required to achieve this? I'm betting it's fairly low, I mean, even at 1% we are starting to see some traction. Boxes with Linux pre-installed are available from major manufacturers (albeit in a limited and hidden manner), more and more hardware makers are starting to produce drivers or release specs so the community can (I'm looking at ATI here).

          If we are getting all this at 1%, then surely full-support can't need a huge amount more, I'd guess at 10% we should be good. How long it will take to get there is another question.

          • by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Saturday May 23, 2009 @08:05AM (#28065649) Homepage

            The question is, what market share is required to achieve this?

            I doubt that it has much to do with market share, it seems more to be an issue with Linux being pretty much incompatible with how hardware manufacturers like to ship their drivers. Most drivers in the Windows world are not just drivers, they come bundled with a whole bunch of software and stuff that is tied to the specific piece of hardware (i.e. standard Windows Logitech mouse driver is 50MB instead of a few KB). A clean separation between the code that makes your hardware work on all that other additional software doesn't really exit, because the supplied software plays a big part in the marketing and feature lists you find on the box.

            I think to get proper Linux support hardware vendors would first need to learn that their job is to produce hardware, not software. Once thats done they might have less problems with releasing specs, but I somewhat doubt that this is going to happen anytime soon because of Linux. The best thing for Linux hardware support in the end are really the open standards. Any USB HID or storage device works on Linux out of the box, not because the hardware vendor cared about Linux, but because he implemented the spec. The more specs we have for common hardware, the better the Linux support will be.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by node 3 (115640)

      Actually, that's not terribly important, so long as the methodology isn't downright absurd. What's more important is market share of what market. Of servers, it's going to be much higher than 1%, but that's not a very interesting market to most people.

      Of the business market, that's a bit more interesting. Still, more of a factoid type number than something useful.

      The truly interesting number for most people is the consumer or home user market. That tells you what people are running when given a choice. Even

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)

        I haven't seen surveys or stats that focused on business vs. home use.

        I think the proportion can be important, for instance, it can tell vendors how much time and money they can justify spending to satisfy the wants of a vocal group.

        The fact that Linux can be installed after purchase is kind of a red herring, because the proportion of people that browse the web using a Linux system hasn't been shown to be much larger than 1% of all browsers. I think to claim that the user base is a lot larger than that, yo

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by thsths (31372)

          > or that they don't visit the top several hundred most popular web sites

          Did they ever check that these sites are actually Linux accessible? If not, they would hardly register any Linux connections even if the world was being taken over by Linux...

          I am just saying that because some IT sites come to a very different conclusion - maybe Linux users are more selective about their information sources, and avoid the mainstream. Somehow that would make sense :-)

          I think the point of the study is that the market

          • by Fred_A (10934)

            Did they ever check that these sites are actually Linux accessible?

            Outside of elderly intranets built for IE6 and a dwindling number of banking sites, there seems to be very few major sites that don't work in Linux. I know I haven't met one in ages.
            It must be 1 ½ year at least since I last submitted a broken web site with Firefox.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by wisty (1335733)

        What matters are the network affects. The Linux ecosystem (including the pantheon of open source projects) relies on contributions from the 1% of people who are able to fix bugs and add features.

        Geeks used to try Linux for geek points. Now geeks use Linux because it's better in most ways for what they use it for. That's the battle that Linux has won.

        Yes, I've heard about .net ... it's a factor, but if it really flies mono will catch up.

        • by node 3 (115640)

          Geeks used to try Linux for geek points. Now geeks use Linux because it's better in most ways for what they use it for. That's the battle that Linux has won.

          I would wager quite a large sum of money that significantly less than 50% of "geeks" run Linux.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by chris_mahan (256577)

            I'm a geek. I run Windows XP OEM install on my Aspire One laptop.

            However, I run debian stable for any server stuff.

            And I don't actually do development on the netbook. I remote into the debian machine and there I do work.

            Does that make me a hypocrite? No. I never claimed that Linux should be on all the desktops. I claimed, and continue to, that linux can be a fine desktop for people who know how to set it up well enough. I personally don't want to invest the time to do that.

            • by Fred_A (10934) <fred&fredshome,org> on Saturday May 23, 2009 @06:16AM (#28065181) Homepage

              I claimed, and continue to, that linux can be a fine desktop for people who know how to set it up well enough. I personally don't want to invest the time to do that.

              Most long time users don't want to fiddle with their machines any more. Been there done that... wrote X11 conf files and modelines, compiled kernels that would actually run their hardware (after getting the missing drivers), wrote window manager rc files... now most of the "old timers" I know just want their stuff to work. Hence the popularity of "ready to use" desktop distributions such as Mandrake, ?Ubuntu, SuSE or any of the less vocal ones. Even with experienced people (not to mention the newcomers of course).

              It's really exceptional nowadays that you have to do anything more complicated than add a repository when you need some exotic software. I think I haven't even compiled anything in ages. It just works. And when it doesn't, it's a regular system that's (usually) easy to fix. So I can just do my stuff, process my images, talk to my servers, in a comfortable environment. Works for me at least. To each his own of course.

              • by Bert64 (520050) <bert&slashdot,firenzee,com> on Saturday May 23, 2009 @07:22AM (#28065447) Homepage

                As someone who's been using unix for years i can agree with that... I used to have a lot of time on my hands and enjoyed messing around with the system, tweaking every last thing... Nowadays i have Ubuntu and OSX as my workstation systems... They work out of the box and present very little hassle, but the underlying power and flexibility is there incase i need to do something obscure. I do find OSX's lack of package management extremely limiting tho, apple should port the iphone app store to desktop osx, but make it apt compatible so it's possible and easy to add third party repositories...

          • I would wager quite a large sum of money that significantly less than 50% of "geeks" run Linux.

            This probably depends on your definition of "Geek". If they are not running Linux, they really aren't geeks, just dumb-wanabe's. (Somewhat like the loose definition of nerd used on /.)

            It would be more illuminating to discuss why so the Linux server percentage is so high. (Thus exposing the poor quality and/or high price of its competition)

      • by Draek (916851)

        Why would the home user market be more important than the business one? I'm sorry, but that makes absolutely no sense.

        To me, it's like trying to predict the results of the World Cup by comparing the amount of fans rather than the skill of the players. A complete waste of time, unless your only interest is to be with the most 'popular' stuff.

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          Uuuhhh....because home users blow some serious cash? i know plenty of businesses that still have a lot of P3 and early P4 Win2K boxes doing day to day office work. hell i knew a business that just a couple of years back finally gave up trying to keep that POS WinNT4 server going. For every business that spends the bucks and upgrades on a schedule there are probably a dozen or more who are tight fisted as hell when it comes to spending anything on IT gear.

          Now compare that to the home market. I have home cust

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Fred_A (10934)

            Uuuhhh....because home users blow some serious cash? i know plenty of businesses that still have a lot of P3 and early P4 Win2K boxes doing day to day office work.

            FWIW I recently upgraded a business' desktop machine to Ubuntu 9.04. It runs off a K6 and has something like 256 megs of RAM. Works fine.

            hell i knew a business that just a couple of years back finally gave up trying to keep that POS WinNT4 server going.

            I know a few that are still running as data/printing servers.

            For every business that spends the bucks and upgrades on a schedule there are probably a dozen or more who are tight fisted as hell when it comes to spending anything on IT gear.

            In my experience, it's more like "we fix what's broken, what works we keep". Makes sense to me.

            I agree with the rest of your post though. Generic home users are used to the Windows way. If you buy amazingly crappy hardware, it will always come with a driver CD (the kind of drivers that you don't really want on a

      • I switched to OS X 13 months ago, and I honestly don't see a point in switching to Linux as my primary system (I'm a software developer, mostly working in Java).

        The only reason one would do that would be philosophical, rather than practical. I use Linux of course, but I don't miss anything available on Linux using OS X. But if I were to switch to Linux I would miss quite a few things (mostly having to do with images and video and Nikon and Canon software support for Linux in particular. Of course there is t

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Narpak (961733)

        The truly interesting number for most people is the consumer or home user market.

        Actually for me the interesting number is the number of schools and educational institutions that have, or are, implementing Skolelinux [debian.org] or Debian-Edu. Because in a way that means students at a, sometimes, early age starts out using Linux through their education.

        Skolelinux, or other Liunux based educational operating systems, might not be widely adapted in a major way; but there are a growing number of schools in, and a few outside, Europe using it at the moment. I'd say that anyone gaining familiarity wit

  • Quick response: No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Drinking Bleach (975757) on Saturday May 23, 2009 @12:17AM (#28063245)

    To the developers, at least, marketshare is absolutely irrelevant to their efforts. With some exceptions, the GNU/Linux systems is largely built to benefit the developers themselves, and if other people find it useful, good for them.

    • by arminw (717974) on Saturday May 23, 2009 @12:28AM (#28063329)

      ...To the developers, at least, marketshare is absolutely irrelevant to their efforts....

      That maybe true to those dedicated souls who give time and effort for free to develop the software, but not for the companies who make the hardware. They have to provide support for their products. Building up an entire support team for such a small share of units sold is disproportionately expensive and will not be done by anyone who wants to make a profit. For all products, with computers no exception, most people look to the manufacturer to address an eventual problem. Ordinary users are not sophisticated enough to determine whether the problem is with the software or with the hardware. They will instinctively call the manufacturer of the computer box and expect help. Giving this help will cost a manufacturer a sizable bundle of money.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Draek (916851)

        Good thing then that those dedicated souls who give time and effort for free to develop the software aren't requiring manufacturers to build anything themselves, and in fact have been very clear from day one that all they want are open specifications for the hardware. And that only requires a change of mindset, no need to hire new people to cope with extra work.

        • by hitmark (640295)

          sadly, much hardware is just rebranded common parts and third party licences, and said third party may not like the idea of open source at all...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Good thing then that those dedicated souls who give time and effort for free to develop the software aren't requiring manufacturers to build anything themselves, and in fact have been very clear from day one that all they want are open specifications for the hardware.

          Which is why there wasn't ever a case of manufacturer releasing the specs (or even driver code) to add to the kernel, and then a year down the line it is abandoned and no longer working... right?

    • To some developers, it does matter. The kernel guys know they've made something useful, so sure, they don't care so much if it makes it on the desktop, they know they've made something awesome and people respect them for it.

      But if I had made an awesome distro, or windows manager, or whatever; and no one wanted to use it, I'd feel really lame. What is the problem? I don't know, but eventually Linux will make it.
      • by petrus4 (213815)

        But if I had made an awesome distro, or windows manager, or whatever; and no one wanted to use it, I'd feel really lame.

        I wouldn't, simply because I recognise that the majority have completely screwed up priorities, and generally have no clue how to recognise real quality when they see it.

        If you want to make a popular Linux distro, all you have to do is clone Windows. Case closed.

        The popularity of Linux distros can therefore easily be determined by how closely they resemble Windows. Ubuntu is the one dist

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by phantomfive (622387)
          That's an extremely simplistic argument: 'different priorities than you' is not the same as 'completely screwed up priorities.'

          My favorite distro is Slackware, but it's not easy to use (it IS fun to use). The reason it's unpopular has nothing to do with how similar it is to Windows. In fact, for Linux to take over on the desktop, it CAN'T just copy windows, it has to be better. If you could make it exactly like windows, people would say, "well that's cool, why not get the real thing?" It has to do som
          • by petrus4 (213815)

            They don't do everything the users want, but they don't ignore them. That was HURD.

            Well, yes; we already well know about the FSF's tendency to try and tell other people what they want, rather than listening to said other people. Still, I'm not going to turn this particular post into another foaming-at-the-mouth rant about my unwavering belief that Stallman is the antiChrist; I've already written plenty of those, and they're in my comment history if you're interested. ;)

            Seriously. The day Linux is just like

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by shvytejimas (1083291)

            Seriously. The day Linux is just like Windows is the day I boot OpenBSD.

            As the saying goes - Linux Is for People Who Hate Microsoft, BSD Is for People Who Love UNIX.

    • by eln (21727) on Saturday May 23, 2009 @12:48AM (#28063501) Homepage

      If it was 1993, I would probably agree with you. However, the focus has been all about building market share for Linux for quite a long time now. Yes, many developers would work on it regardless of market share, but many others are working on it primarily because of its popularity. Personally, I think it's absurd to try and make Linux a Windows killer, but it seems like a large majority of the Linux community wants to make that happen. Sure, articles like these come along every so often when it's become obvious that Linux has once again failed to increase its share of the desktop market, but for the most part the community is still trying to beat Microsoft.

      Linux is strong enough in the server market to allow me to make a living working with it. That's good enough for me. Yes, I use Linux on my own desktop (minus the Windows-clone desktop environments like Gnome and KDE), but I don't give a rip how many other people do. So long as Linux pays my bills, I'm happy. If everyone else wants to stick with Windows, that's fine by me. I still use Windows myself for things that require it, and I don't feel any kind of guilt for doing that.

    • by Jurily (900488) <jurily.gmail@com> on Saturday May 23, 2009 @01:00AM (#28063563)

      To the developers, at least, marketshare is absolutely irrelevant to their efforts.

      Nobody wants to program a user application for a platform without users. Except as a training excercise, perhaps.

      • by TeknoHog (164938)
        Developers are also users, there's the old argument about scratching your own itch. I've written stuff solely for my own use, and it's been a nice bonus to find that others are using it too.
        • by Jurily (900488)

          Developers are also users, there's the old argument about scratching your own itch. I've written stuff solely for my own use, and it's been a nice bonus to find that others are using it too.

          I tend to be sloppy when I write stuff for myself. Case in point: an NMDC (p2p protocol) client I've written for myself to chat. It includes support for winamp and amarok, but has no facilities for file transfer, other than sending a pre-generated empty share list on request. Since I don't download, it was not worth the effort. It also includes millisecond-precise logging I've used to prove my ISP's throttling practices to their customer support, since they kept denying it. Extremely useful for my itch, but

    • by SleepingWaterBear (1152169) on Saturday May 23, 2009 @01:10AM (#28063645)

      This isn't quite true. I use Linux primarily because it's such an excellent development environment. However, I'd like to see it get a larger market share so that I can reap the benefits of manufacturers producing and testing drivers for hardware, and software developers releasing versions of their programs for Linux. I don't really care about market share for it's own sake, but market share comes with perks!

      I figure Linux would only need around 5% market share to get me most the advantages I want though. Not everyone needs to use it!

    • Look into the logs on our computing cluster on any given work day ad you'll find between 1,000 and 2,000 users using our hosted software. 9 GNU/Linux systems, lightly loaded. But that's thousands of Windows terminals, and a hundred or two Macs.

      But the work is being done on NINE midrange servers!

      A funny scenario - one of our clients had their own database system running on a dozen Windows servers. Performance was at a crawl, and I can't tell you how many times I had to reassure them that performance wouldn'

    • If man had more of a sense of humor, things might have turned out differently

      I disagree. For FOSS developers market share is pretty much the only way you know that you are making a difference. You can volunteer for all sorts of reasons, fun project, want to learn a new language etc. But "Is anyone using this?" is a very big piece of the puzzle.

      For for profit code, market share translates into revenue and profits, revenue pays your salary, allows the company to grow etc. With out a growing company you have to rely on attritition for advancement. So yeah market share is important. A

    • by Kjella (173770)

      I want more developers to find it useful so they'll develop more for Linux. You do realize the Catch 22 in that, right?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BitZtream (692029)

      I am a developer.

      Market share is EXTREMELY important to me. You are an idiot if as a developer it isn't to you. The only time it doesn't matter to a developer is never.

      Something with 1% market share is not a safe bet to build anything on. If you are large enough, with something like Linux you can take the Google approach which is 'its not a safe bet, but if no one else maintains it going forward, we can'. But for the rest of the normal businesses out there, using an OS with 1% market share is risky as

  • by ark1 (873448) on Saturday May 23, 2009 @12:18AM (#28063253)
    both reveal some interesting things but may hide the essential."
  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by techwizrd (1164023) on Saturday May 23, 2009 @12:20AM (#28063273)

    These statistics seem to a be a bit flawed. Windows has 90% of the market, Mac OS X has 9%, and Linux has 1%. However, Linux is heavily used in servers, handhelds, and other devices. Not to mention, the fact that there is no way reliable way to track Linux installs (100s of dstributions with users installing everywhere and no phoning home to report it).

    I don't think this statistic is meaningful. I think Linux should keep chugging along and show the world that freedom, volunteers, and good will can equal money. Something to tip the scales...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ScrewMaster (602015) *
      Who modded the parent a Troll? Perfectly legitimate comment, and he's right besides.

      The problem is that they assume that the only reasonable metric for evaluating Linux adoption is to compare the number of Linux boxes to the number of Mac or Windows systems. That ignores the fact that millions upon millions of devices are running Linux (mostly embedded systems of one kind or another.) In most cases, it's not even apparent that Linux is under the hood.

      Linux is here to stay, period. Whether or not it ev
    • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Korin43 (881732) on Saturday May 23, 2009 @02:12AM (#28064073) Homepage
      I think it's assumed that we're talking about Linux on the desktop.
    • by dbIII (701233)
      They are probably measuring corporate desktops used for clerical work or something. Some places will have 0%, some close to 100% (eg. places where the software really runs on cluster nodes and you need X to interface to it). Other thing influence choice - for instance if MS Exchange is used for email it is really only compatible with MS Outlook so you are locked in to 100% Microsoft desktops at that site (plus multiple servers so nobody notices MS Exchange falling over).
      No statistic is meaningful if it is
  • Not so difficult (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PleaseFearMe (1549865)
    The market share is not fragmented so evenly as the summary suggests. The majority of the market share is composed of people who only check email, browse the web, etc. I have heard plenty of stories of these people moving seamlessly from Windows to Linux. Linux should be aiming specifically for this group of people because they do not need the proprietary software that musicians/artists/etc. would otherwise need. All their needs can easily be satisfied with Firefox and Thunderbird. There is not much mo
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by zxjio (1475207)
      I was recently watching Hulu and saw an ad for what I first thought might be Firefox. Turns out it was Chrome, which is too bad (we already know Google can advertise). It seems like the perfect space to advertise for Firefox or, better yet, a Linux distribution. You know people there are somewhat tech savvy, and frankly for whatever your friend says, having professionally-produced advertisements on respectable places like Hulu stamp "Ubuntu" into your consciousness means a lot for acceptance.
      • But why should it be Hulu? Hulu is a commercial site. They are not necessarily supporters of Open Source (even though the site is built in Ruby on Rails), if they can get advertising money from someone else. So my guess is that if Google wants to pay to advertise Chrome, you aren't going to see Firefox ads on there anytime soon.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Saturday May 23, 2009 @12:22AM (#28063285) Homepage Journal

    The quote from TFA misses the point entirely. It's not about there "being only one," it's about there being enough users to make Linux (or any OS that isn't from Microsoft) a viable alternative to Windows. If a particular OS has 0.0001% or 0.01% or even 0.1% market share, very few developers are going to develop for that OS. You won't be able to connect your machine running that OS to anyone's network, even if it's technically capable of making the connection, because IT will be paranoid about this unknown platform. Etc. But if you reach 1% or more, that's kind of a magic number. You may still be seen as kind of weird for not following the crowd, but you'll be able to use your computer for the same tasks for which everyone else uses theirs.

    I'd say 1% is about what any non-Windows OS needs, as long as the aggregate of "alternative" OSes stays above 5% or so, as is currently the case with Linux + OS X. When the number gets significantly below that, as it did in the days before Linux took off and when you couldn't say "Apple" without first saying "beleaguered," things are pretty rough for anyone who's not running Windows on the desktop, using IE for the web, and writing everything in Word.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Brandybuck (704397)

      Linux has been a viable operating system for at least ten years now. Ditto for FreeBSD which I use. They have had ample developers to make them viable for a very long time. Don't worry about what other people are using, and make your own decisions.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        I don't know what definition of viable you use, but for eight out of the last ten I disagree with you - and I still use WINE and a virtualbox too. Not to mention I've tweaked it enough that if I didn't want to be tweaking I wouldn't be using it. That said, I still think Linux is catching up rather than the others pulling ahead.

    • by hitmark (640295)

      I fear that open source is its own worst enemy in that regard, as its biggest potential draw is also available on windows and osx...

      I recall pitching the idea of going linux on some school systems, and got the response of why bother when one could just as well run openoffice on windows...

      Basically, both osx and windows have apps that are only available there, but not so with your common linux distro...

  • by Browzer (17971)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistically_significant>

    "In statistics, a result is called statistically significant if it is unlikely to have occurred by chance. "A statistically significant difference" simply means there is statistical evidence that there is a difference; it does not mean the difference is necessarily large, important, or significant in the common meaning of the word....

    The significance level is usually represented by the Greek symbol, (alpha). Popular levels of significance are 5%, 1%

    • by BrentH (1154987) on Saturday May 23, 2009 @06:43AM (#28065303)
      Mod parent down.

      What's tested here isn't a hypthesis, hell, there's even nothing being tested! This is a measurement of the installed base of different OSes. Now, you can argue about the the way it's measured, but expressing a marketshare as a ratio of the total sample has nothing to do with statistcal significance.
  • just has sour grapes because they couldn't figure Linux out on their first (or second, or third..) go around and now they're spewing why it doesn't count. That being said, 1% is a pretty pathetic number. Lets hope this new found high point only leads to better things in the future. Maybe they'll be the proverbial Mozilla of an IE / Netscape consumer market struggle. We all know how that played out now, don't we?

    • Re:The Author... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by afidel (530433) on Saturday May 23, 2009 @12:43AM (#28063447)
      I don't know, I don't think Linux has a huge marketshare on the desktop, it's probably a few percent in corporate desktops and less than one percent for home desktops. That being said Linux is probably has more total OS installs that WIndows, all the virtual hosts and ubiquitous embedded devices that have been moving over to Linux in droves add up to a ton of actual usage.
      • I don't know that Linux ever can be the most prevalent desktop OS. There is a lot of diversity at some very core levels, which makes a broad adoption difficult. i think it's a great fit in a loot of scenarios, especially in business units where you want to limit a lot of functionality to approved apps & plugins. Web based apps in businesses make this an even better proposition.
  • Operating systems aren't immortal beings, and by rights, there can't be (there shouldn't be) only one.

    Love the highlander reference, but does this mean there will be no "Quickening" then? Damn, I thought Windows 7 was gonna work on that...

  • by Casandro (751346) on Saturday May 23, 2009 @12:28AM (#28063327)

    I mean, how is that measured? I mean it certainly must be way more. Do they measure commercial sales of distributions? Well that's certainly misleading. For example I have a laptop which came with a Windows XP license, now it runs Ubuntu. Few Linux users actually buy their distribution and the amount of them has decreased over the years. That would also explain why the market share of Macs seems to be so large. There they simply could count the sold machines.

    Measuring the user-agent strings of web-browsers also isn't verry precise as different sites tend to attract different kinds of users.

  • by Rycross (836649) on Saturday May 23, 2009 @12:44AM (#28063471)

    Overall marketshare? I'm highly doubtful that a 1% marketshare includes servers, much less all the Linux-powered devices (like my router) out there.

    I don't think I've ever seen an OS marketshare report that wasn't flawed in some way.

  • by petrus4 (213815)

    For some intuitive, illogical reason, I feel as though 5% is probably a reasonable current number where desktop Linux is concerned.

    Virtually the only major growth going forward is going to be with Ubuntu. There simply isn't any other distro out there which mimics Windows closely enough for the Lloyd Christmas [wikipedia.org] demographic to be happy with it. So in mainstream terms, we're going to have a Ubuntu monoculture; to the uneducated, Ubuntu and Linux will become synonyms.

    I think however that it's too early to tell

    • by cptnapalm (120276)

      The primary problem with being as much like Windows as possible is that those who are demanding it will eventually realize that if they want something Windows-like, they could, ya know, run Windows.

      Frequently, being significantly different is better than being mostly the same. Extensive similarity causes irritation because it isn't exactly the same. If it is apparent that it definitely is not the same, then people, those who are willing to venture forward, will tend to approach it on its terms.

      • by petrus4 (213815)

        The primary problem with being as much like Windows as possible is that those who are demanding it will eventually realize that if they want something Windows-like, they could, ya know, run Windows.

        Frequently, being significantly different is better than being mostly the same.

        You don't need to tell me that. I'm on my way to becoming a bona fide CLI zealot at this point. Windows might be great from the standpoint of superficial usability, but it's engineering's answer to the Ebola virus.

        I was talking about

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday May 23, 2009 @01:15AM (#28063699) Journal

      The overwhelming mainstream demand of Linux is that it become as much a clone of Windows as possible.

      No no no!!! Please, if anyone gets anything from this let it be that Linux cannot be just a Windows clone, it has to be something better! Why would anyone go through the trouble of installing a completely different operating system that is exactly the same as the one they have? There HAS to be something extra, even for the average user.

      Really, it shouldn't be too hard. Look at what Apple has been doing: they make little applications that draw people in, like photobooth. It is totally silly, and mostly useless, and really easy to make, but I've seen teenagers in the Apple store after school just taking pictures of themselves in photobooth. It's easy to get to and addictive.

      Another example is time machine. It is simple, straightforward, and fun to use. It makes you WANT to go buy a second hard drive, just so you can look at the cool animation. Never mind that you've seen way cooler animations in made-for-TV movies, that animation is seductive.

      The dock was the same way when it first came out, it bounced when you put your mouse by it. It was fun to play with. It drew you in. Linux needs to draw you in.

      And it can. Linux has Compiz, which is graphically the most impressive of any desktop. KDE has some great artists. Now they just need the focus to make Linux sticky, make it draw you in, make you feel happy when you look at the screen. That's what Linux needs to do. Be better than Windows.

    • I've already seen some vague suggestions online that in some cases Ubuntu acts as a gateway drug for Linux

      Not that vague at all; pretty direct, in fact. [xkcd.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Omestes (471991)

      Anything running a GUI could be said to be trying to be like Windows. They all have "windows", some form of "menus" and mouse interaction. This is already pretty much the universal default for ALL OSes. I can't remember the last time I installed Linux, but not a windows manager with it. Hell, I was using "windows" like apps before Windows became ubiquitous. Back in DOS I pretty much only used Xtree, even to execute files.

      Yes, a minor fringe of people will still insist on CLI only, but they are complete

  • Actually... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 23, 2009 @12:45AM (#28063475)

    Actually, there is no meaningful way to accurately measure how many people (or businesses) are using Linux, or Windows, or BSD. So "market share" is meaningless. Its just a statistic that marketing departments can twist to sound however they want it to sound.

     

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Saturday May 23, 2009 @12:53AM (#28063521)
    Other sources estimated the number to be 5% or even 6%. Which just goes to show how statistics can easily be used in ways that are misleading or distorted.

    But this also bears examining: 1% (or 5% or 6%) of what OS market? Linux is sure as hell a lot higher than that in the server market, and if you are talking about internet servers, higher still.

    So, maybe it doesn't have wonderful desktop penetration yet. But I bet it's higher than those statistics say! My bet is that Linux is the secondary OS for an awful lot of people, often via dual-booting. Just as "one and one only" voting has been shown to be inferior to "instant runoff" and other voting methods, saying that people have only "this or that" OS does not present an accurate picture of the landscape.
    • For example, I have had as many as 4 different OSes on my computer at a given time, each used for specific purposes (mainly because some programs were available for one OS but not another). They are installed in various combinations, sometimes in VMs, sometimes as multiple-boot, or a combination thereof.

      When in school, my laptop was usually dual-boot, Windows and Linux, and on any given week it was a tossup which one I had set to auto-boot when I turned the machine on.
  • Who cares? (Score:5, Informative)

    by atomic-penguin (100835) <wolfe21 AT marshall DOT edu> on Saturday May 23, 2009 @01:17AM (#28063713) Homepage Journal

    Seriously, computing is about more than just desktop users.

    How do various hobbyists, and I.T. professionals use Linux? It would be easier to count the niches that Linux is not filling. According to Netcraft, Apache still had over 50% web server market share, while IIS only had 30% in April 2009. I am sure there are some people running Apache on Windows, but I would venture a guess that it is not the majority.

    Even webserver market share does not represent the whole server market share. Approximately 40% of all hardware in the server room where I work run Linux in some form, only 25% of all the servers run Linux. There are more than a dozen third party network appliances in this room. Third party examples I can think of are load balancers, spam firewalls, content servers, and NAS filers. I cannot think of one third party Windows Server based appliance in our server room, aside from servers. I am sure there are Windows appliances out there, just not in our server room. If it is part of Microsoft's mission to lock customers in to commodity desktop and server hardware, that is not something that really scales for vendors designing and selling specialized appliances and hardware.

    How much Internet infrastructure runs on Linux? I wonder what the percentage of postfix/sendmail servers on Linux versus Exchange servers on Windows is? What is the number of external BIND DNS servers on Linux, versus external Windows DNS servers. What is the market share of Linux iptables/tc routers, load balancers, VPN gateways, or 3rd party appliance running Linux) versus Windows RRAS routers used in small and midsize offices? How many companies are using Asterisk versus the number of companies using Microsoft Office Communicator Suite (Not sure OCS qualifies as a PBX, though)? How many companies are virtualizing their data centers with VMWare ESX, Xen, or KVM, all running on Linux versus Microsoft HyperV?

    How many consumer electronics devices have popped up with Linux on them, versus Windows? I can probably name 20 devices with an ARM processor, and some version of Linux running on it. Here is a short list: Linksys Wireless routers, webcams, Tivo, Roku, Netgear ReadyNas, Sony flatscreen televisions, POS terminals, etc. Windows mobile has notably made its way onto mobile phones and Wasp barcode scanners.

    How about high-performance computing? How many Rocks clusters, and render farms are built on Linux versus Windows HPC servers?

    Seriously who cares if Linux isn't prevalent on the desktop. Linux has filled every other niche, besides the desktop computer, six ways to Sunday. While Microsoft and Apple are laughing at a 1% desktop share, Linux is taking over every other niche which it is able to quickly evolve and adapt. World domination fast, indeed.

  • by nomadic (141991)
    Whatever Linux's actual marketshare is, I think we can all agree that it is far lower than anyone expected 15 or 10 or even 5 years ago. By this point most people in the linux community expected a significant marketshare.
  • when I, on linux, make a saas/web application. Customers log on with IE or Firefox and do their thing.

    They are using linux?

    My idea of the future is: no more applications at the desktop (except for word,excel,browsers,...).

    The desktop is irrelevant, it's the net.

  • by mysidia (191772) on Saturday May 23, 2009 @01:50AM (#28063945)

    You really have to cross 1% before you can achieve better proportions like 100%.

    Market share implies usefulness, or that people use, want to use, or are forced into using it.

    For Linux to have 1% market usage would mean that there is also a decent sized pool for community.

    A 98% market share for Linux would be great; it would mean a massive pool of users to form community, to find issues, test new versions, etc.

    Resulting in an even better product that more people will find beneficial and easy to use in an advantageous way.

  • [How] Linux is used in various business settings answers an actual question -- and the answer can be used to ask further questions, form opinions -- and maybe one day even explain to some degree what 1% of the market share really means

    Net Applications is all about the mass consumer market.

    Users with unrestricted access to the web. Shopping at Amazon. Playing games. Watching the videos on YouTube. The news on CNN.

    This is where the Net Applications client spends its money. This is where the Net Applications

  • by gdshaw (1015745) on Saturday May 23, 2009 @02:04AM (#28064013) Homepage

    I agree completely that you cannot place much trust in the percentage, for all of the reasons that get mentioned whenever we talk about OS or browser market share.

    The trend, however, is much more interesting because it cancels out much of the systematic bias that will be present in any given series of results.

    In this particular case Linux shows a fairly steady increase from 0.43% to 1.02% over the last two years, a compound annual growth rate of about 50% (albeit from a low starting point). I think that's good news.

    (In fact the actual figure may be even better than that, because there was a suspicious 25% decline in October 2008. It could be that they changed methodology in some way, perhaps by reclassifying one of the embedded Linux-based platforms, because that month's change stands out as being very unusual.)

  • by shish (588640) on Saturday May 23, 2009 @02:05AM (#28064023) Homepage
    It means "the overall share of the market". If you're using it to measure quality or reliability or developer's dick size then you're doing it wrong, and that's not the statistic's fault...
  • by stox (131684) on Saturday May 23, 2009 @02:45AM (#28064283) Homepage

    It would be interesting to come up with a metric that evaluated "real" work done under each platform. The numbers might be surprising.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Compare this (this article is based on this data):

    http://marketshare.hitslink.com/os-market-share.aspx?qprid=9

    which doesn't give any hint how the data has been obtained with this:

    http://www.heise.de/open/Linux-knackt-auf-dem-Desktop-die-1-Prozent-Marke--/news/meldung/137137

    (Win XP: 55.5%, Linux: 14.8%, Vista: 14,4%, Apple: 7,7%)

    with this:

    http://www.handy-mc.de/handy-bestenliste/toplist-bewertung.html

    Toshiba Portege G910 (#1), a handy which doesn't exist yet, is much more popular than the iPhone (#200).

    There

  • Drivers (Score:2, Informative)

    by skegg (666571)
    It is meaningful if you want to draw the attention of hardware manufacturers and have them develop drivers.
  • Just my thoughts as Linux user and advocate:
    1) 1% is much more than 50% in the begining of the nineties. So Windows and OS X is still more - so what? If 1% constitutes about ~ 50 milion users, That's a heck of the user base on which to grow on;
    2) More or less market share statistics started to become less meaningful (but not meaningless) after globalisation - these numbers fits more for Western sphere, but Linux based OSes have good adaptation rate in Asia and Northen/Eastern Europe;
    3) I think it is meaning

  • by DeanFox (729620) * <spam.myname@g m a i l.com> on Saturday May 23, 2009 @10:49AM (#28066707)

    Linux has enough market share that there are 10s of thousands of people supporting it. Linux has enough market share that I get an outstanding Desktop OS. An OS that I gladly pay for through donations and purchasing vendor products. Linux has enough market share to provide me with the most stable, safe and feature rich platform available. It has enough market share that Linksys, nVidia and other high-end hardware manufactures support it.

    1%, 10% or 90%... Linux has enough market share for me.

    -[d]-

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