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The Surprisingly Juicy Desktop Linux Market Share Report

There’s no doubt the Linux world has seen its share of good news over the past year or so, but every once in a while a tidbit comes along that calls for a little extra fanfare.

Case in point: Recent data from research firm Net Applications suggests that desktop Linux’s market share has jumped considerably over the past few months.

Want specifics? Here goes: The company’s NetMarketShare service just recently reported that Linux’s market share on the desktop has steadily increased since the summer, going from 0.97 percent in July to a new high of 1.41 percent last month.

Other data sources have long reported more than the nagging “1 percent” figure for some time already, of course, but to see news like this from none other than Net Applications itself? Well, it’s pretty exciting.

Is the Year of Desktop Linux finally upon us? That’s what bloggers far and wide have been struggling to figure out.

‘100 Percent per Annum’

“I’ve been keeping an eye on Net Applications in particular because they have been the most conservative of the multi-site stats available, and if things are moving there, then something must really be happening,” consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack told Linux Girl.

Even more remarkable than the actual numbers, though, is the rate of increase, blogger Robert Pogson pointed out.

“It’s about 100 percent per annum,” he explained. “I reported on this months ago and the trend continues.”

‘Millions of New Installations’

As for a cause, Pogson says he hasn’t been able to find one.

“It could be that widespread use of GNU/Linux in BRIC countries’ educational system has caused usage to spread to the general population, because the trend started when school was out in many countries,” he suggested.

“It could also be some Dell/Ubuntu machines selling in stores in China — perhaps NetApplications has a partner in China…,” he mused.

Either way, “it is great fun to see NetApplications, usually with the lowest numbers on the planet, finally reflect the dramatic growth we see in the real world,” Pogson concluded. “In terms of numbers of PCs, this reflects millions of new installations or new PCs with GNU/Linux annually.”

‘Any Increase Is a Good Thing’

Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site, was similarly cheered by the report.

“Lies, damn lies, and statistics … who can say what the real numbers are just from web browser stats?” Hudson began. “A more likely source of numbers would be from linux machines that hit the update servers, but even that is fraught with error, this time on the down side, both for boxes that don’t get counted because they are updated from a locally cloned copy of the repositories, and ones that don’t get updated between releases.”

Still, “any increase is a Good Thing, because it means a more diverse ecosystem, and the more people try different things, the more likely those around them are going to as well, so an uptick in the numbers is welcome news,” she concluded.

‘3 Percent by the End of 2012’

Indeed, “one of the huge issues in measuring desktop Linux is finding a way to sample it, and determining what a representative sample is,” agreed Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project. “This is hardly a trivial question and therefore it’s not at all surprising that there is a great deal of difference between some sources.”

To wit: “Using figures from StatCounter Global Stats, Linux Market share in July 2011 was 0.79 percent and for December 2011 it was 0.83 percent,” noted Roberto Lim, a lawyer and blogger on Mobile Raptor.

“The Net Applications statistics, on the other hand, show a steady gain,” he added. “Assuming the increase from 0.97 percent in July 2011 to 1.41 percent in December 2011 is a trend, then we should see Linux with an over 2 percent market share by June this year, and 3 percent by the end of 2012. Those would be some serious numbers.”

Ultimately, “I am not sure how much stock should be placed on reports of market share data about Web browsers, operating systems, search engines, and the like,” Lim concluded. “I generally think they are reliable, but data needs to be tracked for long periods of time. I will be keeping my fingers crossed and watch how things develop over the next year.”

‘That Gets Old REAL Quick’

Similarly, the big question is whether the trend will continue, Slashdot blogger hairyfeet told Linux Girl.

“After all, yours truly ran Linux exclusively on his laptop for nearly two years…until i got tired of things breaking,” he explained.

“The initial install of Linux is fine and dandy — in fact, it’s better than it’s ever been,” hairyfeet asserted. “The sad part is Linux has adopted the Windows ‘You must ALWAYS install clean or enjoy the breakage,’ which wouldn’t be bad if we were talking once every 5 years but every 6 months? That gets old REAL quick.”

‘These Numbers Will Only Increase’

Still, “Linux has a significant long-term advantage over traditional desktop operating systems in terms of flexibility and an ability of a consultant to install systems which are designed around user needs,” Travers pointed out.

“While Apple and Microsoft are all working hard to break current paradigms, Linux and only Linux offers a choice of user interface paradigms,” he explained. “This is a huge factor because it means that many users, when they choose to migrate, will eventually feel more comfortable with Linux than with future versions of the operating systems they are on, so these numbers will only increase, perhaps dramatically.”

Of course, “given how long consumer and business upgrade cycles are, I don’t think this will happen within a given year, but will instead be a surprisingly gradual process,” Travers concluded.

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter.

6 Comments

    • Because you still get a MAX of three years, with today’s multicore machines that is just a bad joke. i have several systems pushing 8 and 9 out in the field running just fine with nothing but a few hardware upgrades. i can do that because you get a minimum of 10 years on Windows Business but frankly there is ZERO real LTS in Linux. 3 years is based on enterprise which frankly with the economic downturn even many enterprises aren’t tossing every 3 years as there is no point.

      i can’t plan my entire retail business around a lousy 3 years, what’s left on the current LTS, something like 6 months? What should i tell customers who want a system NOW, come back in 6 months? give me a solid 10 years support and we’ll talk, 3 years is a bad joke. oh and home and SMBs will NOT pay for support contracts so the ‘just have them bring it in and YOU do it" won’t fly. Windows home is $89, Windows Pro $119. your solution MUST COST LESS THAN THIS or its a non starter.

      meanwhile the "great XP dieoff’ is in full swing and i’m having to scramble to find a supplier that will sell me Win 7 Starter because the off leases systems are starting to get deep but there still isn’t a "it just works" Linux system that doesn’t puke on its upgrades and die hard. just look at what we’ve seen the past 3 years, PulseAudio (man that’s a mess) the DEs getting gutted and tossed for what is frankly alpha quality code.

      in the server side you have Debian but frankly there is no Debian for home and SMBs, something that is easy to use and "just works". look at a long time contributor here, ms Hudson, who is now gonna go either BSD or Mac OSX because her openSUSE puked on its upgrade AGAIN and this time took 3 years worth of email and left her without a functional home system for a week.

      Remember folks the home and SMBs are NOT geeks, they have NO desires to learn your geek ways. you have to compete with OSX and Win 7, which is simple, easy, and has long support in the case of Windows. Show me a SINGLE distro, just one mind you, where you have an easy to use system that is supported until Apr 2020 like Win 7 is. Give me THAT and we’ll talk as THAT is what I need for the home and SMB markets. this machine i’m typing on? 2004 XP system, fully updated and purring like a kitten. Makes a great low power nettop and is still under support until Apr 2014.

      • "Ubuntu 12.04 to feature extended support period for desktop users
        Five-year Long Term Support (LTS) makes Ubuntu a compelling choice for the business desktop

        London, October 21st, 2011: Canonical today announced it would be extending the support and maintenance period for its upcoming Long Term Support (LTS) release of Ubuntu for desktop users from three years to five years. The move comes in response to increasing demand for Ubuntu desktops in corporate environments where longer maintenance periods are the norm. It brings the desktop product into line with Ubuntu Server which continues with five years of support for LTS releases."

        http://www.canonical.com/content/ubuntu-1204-feature-extended-support-period-desktop-users0

        • Again I said 7 to 10, you give me 5. And take the last LTS, install it, make sure all is working, and then upgrade to the current LTS and see what happens, i’ll wait…..Puked on the drivers didn’t it? i tried it on 3 different office boxes, going from 8 to 10, i lost sound on two, video and wireless on the third. NOT A SINGLE ONE survived an LTS to LTS upgrade without puking.

          Personally i say we should throw flaming pitchforks at Torvalds, he’s the one that won’t let Linux have what BSD, OSX, Solaris, Windows, and OS/2 eComstation has, which is a stable ABI.

          But you say you don’t need one? that having the kernel changing like the shifting sands doesn’t cause driver problems? then show me a FOSS OS where I can pick 3 random off lease systems, slap on the release from 3 releases ago if regular, or the last LTS if you wish to go that route, let me upgrade it to current and if it works I’ll be the first to sing the praises. So far I’ve tried K/X/L/Ubuntu/Mint,PCLOS,OpenSUSE,Kanotix,Knoppix,Slax,Mepis,Puppy,Fedora,Xandros, and a few more i can’t remember without digging out the discs.

          And I’m sorry to report not a single one passed the "is it safe" test which i have explained here before, not one came out with 100% functionality. Something was ALWAYS broken, sound (often, PulseAudio stinks) graphics, (often except on REALLY old Intel chipsets which frankly i couldn’t give a 733Mhz Intel away) ethernet rarely, wireless waaaay too often, and then there are the fun little "glitches" that happen like network manager refusing to having settings "stick" in wireless unless you use CLI or having the resolution stuck at some horrible setting which again can’t be changed without bash because it wouldn’t stick.

          Frankly I wish it weren’t so, i’ll be lucky if i can break even on a few of these units and some i’ll have to let out of here with XP even though its clock is ticking simply because I can’t be sure the machine i let out of here will continue to function come next upgrade. look at the places Linux has made headway, schools and enterprise, what do they have in common? full time IT staff, which is exactly what home users and small businesses DO NOT have.

          Again typing this from the shop on a 2004 fully updated XP, that 8 years with 2 more to go. Show me something like that and I’ll be slapping it on machines tomorrow, Linux could have a support network that makes the Apple stores look like a bad joke but you have to give us a product that normal people can use, and Linux just isn’t there yet, sorry. getting better, loooong way to go yet. Maybe you’ll get lucky and Linus will retire in 5 years.

          • Quote,Again typing this from the shop on a 2004 fully updated XP, that 8 years with 2 more to go.

            One wonders why you have suffered so much of your own free will, Stop ranting, raving and complaining about Linux, Go back to Xp, Maybe you’ll get lucky and Xp won’t crash, freeze up, slow down, or get Viruses. After 10 years it’s still suffering from the same problems BSoD. Xp just isn’t there yet, sorry. Not getting better, Still loooong way to go yet. after 10 years.

          • I wouldn’t bother replying to hairyfeet, with a name like that we can assume he is a Troll nearly everything he wrote was mearly a switched around version of old Linux posts explaining about server up times of years etc. XP stable and reliable ? Mr Hairyfeet Troll I can find you hundreds of very annoyed XP customers who will disagree with you.

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