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Linux is the world’s fastest growing desktop OS – up 64% in 9 months

Even the most hardcore Linux fan would admit that their favorite OS has not captured more than a very small market share on personal computers. And that would include us here at Pingdom: all of our engineers and 50% of or our developers are, in fact, running Linux.

Ubuntu has enjoyed great success, and more recently Mint, as well. But Linux desktop OS doesn’t seem to be able to break free and climb above the low single digits in market share.

But that may be changing if the latest numbers are anything to go by.

Linux beats Windows 7

Linux has been putting up a tough fight on desktops, but it has been lingering around 1%  for years. As sad as it may be for fans of Tux, even Apple’s Mac OS X is usually attributed with many times the market share of Linux.

And Linux on the desktop is still in the low single digits by any measure we can find, but there may be hope as it has, based on one source, increased 64% in market share in the nine months from May 2011 to January 2012.

That made Linux the fastest growing desktop OS during this period. In second place came Microsoft Windows 7, which increased only 37%.

The only way is up

Obviously, the installed base of Linux on desktop computers is still small but if this growth can be sustained, it’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.

There are countless of reasons for why you would select to use Linux as your desktop OS, including it’s free, it’s stable, it’s secure, it can run on almost any hardware, etc. But whatever the reason is that you do run Linux, this news must be exciting and welcome.

So, Linux fans, let’s cheer for our favorite OS and hope that this trend will continue and even increase. Remember, the only way is up.

Linux picture (top) via Shutterstock.



41 comments
tp0x45
tp0x45

It is strangely low. I am still not sure how is this metric accomplished. I am surrounded with computers, all of which run Linux. Seven at home (4 laptops, 2 desktops, and one XBMC media center). It is predominantly Linux Mint 14 and Ubuntu 12.04. In my office, we run Ubuntu 12.04 laptop and servers. 

Pretty much any software can be find, and if you really really need something bad from the Windows world there is Wine, PlayonLinux, CrossOver. LibreOffice, Firefox, Chrome, Dia, Gimp, Thunderbird, FileZilla pretty much cover most of the needs of any "normal" user. Even the gaming is picking up dramatically. 

tp0x45
tp0x45

It is strangely low. I am still not sure how is this metric accomplished. I am surrounded with computers, all of which run Linux. Seven at home (4 laptops, 2 desktops, and one XBMC media center). It is predominantly Linux Mint 14 and Ubuntu 12.04. In my office, we run Ubuntu 12.04 laptop and servers.  Pretty much any software can be find, and if you really really need something bad from the Windows world there is Wine, PlayonLinux, CrossOver. LibreOffice, Firefox, Chrome, Dia, Gimp, Thunderbird, FileZilla pretty much cover most of the needs of any "normal" user. Even the gaming is picking up dramatically.

Fredrik Näs
Fredrik Näs

To be honest, i could really see myself using for example ubunu as desktop solution, want a few more apps first though.

Fredrik Näs
Fredrik Näs

To be honest, i could really see myself using for example ubunu as desktop solution, want a few more apps first though.

Emomilol Österlund
Emomilol Österlund

I knew it! 2012 is the year linux will take over the desktop market! :)

Emomilol Österlund
Emomilol Österlund

I knew it! 2012 is the year linux will take over the desktop market! :)

Doreen S
Doreen S

@Ken: Also using Ubuntu 10.04 LTS and Epson Artisan 50 printer, which was recognized immediately upon installation. Check this site for Linux-compatible printers: http://www.openprinting.org

cirrus
cirrus

@Ken needs to check out PCLinuxOS if he is having issues with his printer, this distro is renkowned for its hardware support and is uncompromising community #just sayin

Doreen S
Doreen S

@Ken: Also using Ubuntu 10.04 LTS with an Epson Artisan 50 printer, which was immediately recognized. Try http://www.openprinting.org for a list of printers by manufacturer to find which ones work well with Linux.

JGJones
JGJones

"Mighty oaks from little acorns grow." Just saying :)

Ron
Ron

I would disagree that Linux OS is less than 2%, a lot of people use their phones which is 50% linux (android) and very little Windows , take that is consideration and Linux is probably 25%

BETurner
BETurner

I'd be more inclined to believe this if it were shown as being from several sources, and not just one. As much as I'd love to see Linux grow. I'd prefer to see it being shown to grow by several reliable and thoroughly vetted sources, instead of one that may be relying on potentially unvetted data. Again, I would love to see Linux grow. But give me reliable, provable data.

BlueInTheFace
BlueInTheFace

This reminds me of waterworld, when Dennis Hopper was telling his ragged band of rejects "We WILL FIND DRY LAND! Now STROKE!!" Keep stroking guys, keep stroking.

golodh
golodh

Much as I'm sympathetic to the idea of wider Linux presence on the desktop, the "Netmarketshare" data this article refers to doesn't really support any such conclusion. To understand why this is so, consider what Netmarketshare bases its figures on. Netmarketshare collects data from websites that are accessed by browsers, and it counts the times an OS is reported by the browser. That's what it counts as desktop share. This is a roundabout way to measure desktop share because it measures browser use, not desktop use. In fact it's likely that there is bias because the sample is not controlled to be representative (not everyone with every OS is equally likely to visit the sites that are monitored). You could easily get other numbers by choosing a different set of websites, so there is no reason to assume you're measuring the true desktop penetration here. In addition it's not a very precise measure either given that there are lots of random factors that impact observed market share. For this reason, and the graph shown being a zoom-in of this http://netmarketshare.com/operating-system-market-share.aspx?qprid=9&qpcustomb=0 one, you really can't draw the sort of conclusions this article does. Now, all things considered I'd trust such surveys to show the difference between a 1% marketshare and a 5% marketshare, but not the difference between a 1% marketshare and a 2% marketshare.

golodh
golodh

Much as I'm sympathetic to the idea of wider Linux presence on the desktop, the "Netmarketshare" data this article refers to doesn't really support any such conclusion. To understand why this is so, consider what Netmarketshare bases its figures on. Netmarketshare collects data from websites that are accessed by browsers, and it counts the times an OS is reported by the browser. That's what it counts as desktop share. This is a roundabout way to measure desktop share because it measures browser use, not desktop use. In fact it's likely that there is bias because the sample is not controlled to be representative (not everyone with every OS is equally likely to visit the sites that are monitored). You could easily get other numbers by choosing a different set of websites, so there is no reason to assume you're measuring the true desktop penetration here. In addition it's not a very precise measure either given that there are lots of random factors that impact observed market share. For this reason, and the graph shown being a zoom-in of this http://netmarketshare.com/operating-system-market-share.aspx?qprid=9&qpcustomb=0 one, you really can't draw the sort of conclusions this article does. Now, all things considered I'd trust such surveys to show the difference between a 1% marketshare and a 5% marketshare, but not the difference between a 1% marketshare and a 2% marketshare.

e8hffff
e8hffff

The problem was linux have risen from the bog(cli swamp) and people did not want to get dirty with cli when trying to run clean gfx desktop. Now you can do most things without the cli, so Linux has come of age for the average user. Personally I will never return to Windows. I have one Vista install on a virtual partition simply to test web browser compatibility. It stops there. I also use Wine if I want to check out an RPG or other game from time to time. Bye Microsoft.

kttech
kttech

Im using windows 7 with Linux OS's in VM's. I am using Linux more then Windows now. The only thing that is stopping me from going fully bare metal linux is.. the apps. I love it when apps just work, This is one thing windows has going for itself. Im not saying all linux apps are flaky.

digi_owl
digi_owl

Soluweb hits the age old nail on the head. We can see this in how Microsoft scrambled to keep XP on life support when Netbooks first showed up with Linux on hardware that was unable to handle Vista. Any out of the box Linux is bad for MS as it potentially exposes people to alternatives. It also shows Linux from its best side, similar to how OSX have zero issues because the Mac hardware is matched specifically to it. This rather than slapping Linux on some random collection of hand me down hardware that may or may not work.

Robert Pogson
Robert Pogson

NetApplications data is very biased. You can see in it the migration of 10K employees of Google causing a huge shift in California. They now show San Francisco as having 37% GNU/Linux. I think this means they are sampling during business hours only so that most consumers' PCs are not being counted.

Ken
Ken

I´m totally new to Linux (learning on Ubuntu 10.04 -it´s beautiful). I know lots of Win people. They have either tried Linux and given up or read how others have tried. And there is one -ONE single thing that stop them from jumping in and thats the hellish job of getting your printer to work. Instead of making "smart" desktop environments like gnome 3 or unity -spending thousands of hours on development, these great guys/girl developers should fix this one problem first of all. That would make maybe every third or fourth win guy I know start on this great OS. I have read a lot of books on Ubuntu and this problem is delt with: ask the forums! A totally unknown concept for my friends and I. Thats why all my book reading. So -there IS great potential!!

Connie
Connie

The trouble is when there are so small numbers, small changes make a big difference. Sample errors and burst of activity form Windows users can distort the data. There is no doubt in my mind that Linux is getting more popular, and certainly I meet more people who use it or know about it than ever before...it just wont be apparent in the data for several years.

CFWhitman
CFWhitman

NetMarketShare is not a reliable source. It has been underreporting Linux desktop share for years. This is basically a correction to that. Before it seemed like they were almost purposely making it look like Linux use on the desktop wasn't growing. Now that they're reporting a number closer to the truth, it looks like it suddenly started growing ultra fast. Neither thing is true. Linux share on the desktop has doubled in the past few years, not in the past nine months. It's also misleading to compare all of Linux use to one version of Windows. What's really happening is that Windows market share is going down while Linux market share is going up. For the most part, Windows 7 installs are replacements of computers with old versions of Windows. So in reality, Linux is growing at a much faster rate than Windows altogether, regardless of numbers of installations. Windows basically has nowhere to go in market share but down. That happening is inevitable. Whether the trend of Linux desktop share to double every few years will continue or not I don't know, but if it does then there could be a significant number of Linux desktop users in a very relatively short time. Trends like this tend to show geometric progression until the play out.

Marco
Marco

I'm a huge FLOSS fan but, if you look the same statistic for February 2012, linux is also the OS with the biggest fall in usage. Linux fell from 1.56% (January 2012) to 1.16% (February 2012), going back to October 2011 levels. Nothing to see here.

Shannon Black
Shannon Black

@David # 1 .. I would not think that Linux would be taking over the market share anytime soon. But to imply that the growth does not beat Windows 7 is also misleading. On an economic front there is a thing called "rate of change" .. If windows keeps at the current rate of change that would mean that Linux would gradually overtake windows. However, on a realistic sense this would take many many many years. Still economics wise, you need to consider quite a few things. Windows vs Linux: Windows already has a great corporate identity with people who aren't fully computer literate. Linux does not. Windows ships preinstalled in almost all devices globally. Linux does not. Windows is advertised by various entities: developers having MSC degrees, XBOX labeling microsoft, PC games bought at retail stores only run on windows. Closest thing for linux is Android but many dont recognize android as linux so its not nearly advertising. In this light, for Linux to have a far greater rate of change is successful in an economic sense. Linux main exposure is a 1-1 relationship. You are exposed to it from another Linux user, guestimate of 98% of the time. Whereas Windows main exposure is all of the above.

przemo_li
przemo_li

@David "Fastest growing" is mathematically and statistically accurate!

dai1313
dai1313

Oh i should of put "Another, another David" as my name." Perhaps the name "David" is having a growth in market share too?

dai1313
dai1313

The statistics are kinda misleading if you put them that way - but growth is definitely better than shrinking.

Another David
Another David

The graph is indeed very selective, but nevertheless encouraging to open source fans.

David
David

Claiming that Linux beats Windows 7 in terms of rate of growth is rather misleading if analised this way. A comparison of plain percentages is not enough, since we must consider that the numbers they apply to are different. Let's say for example that the market share of Windows 7 is 30 times as big as that of Linux. Just to get a taste of the difference keeping the cited growth precentages, if the number of Linux machines were 1000 and that of Windows 7, 30000, the net growth would be 640 machines for Linux and 11100 for Windows 7. Now it doesn't look so impressive in comparison, despite the good news.

Soluweb
Soluweb

Open source is not an option in Latinamerica since older and young people mostly thing about Apple and Microsoft for their laptops or Desktop PCs, but we must change that thoughts Linux is the way to go, we must reeducate our children, offer nuew options.

stathi
stathi

@tp0x45 

Well I think that part of the reason is how you quote the windows user as "normal" this then makes the Linux user "abnormal".  This depiction; if applied to the public, causes a small percentage of use.  Who wants to be considered  abnormal.    

ChrisCarreiro
ChrisCarreiro

Very true @ron; I Would say that there a lot less people using desktops / laptops because the ease of access smart phones. In the past I would pull up a PC to type up a letter or browse the because my smartphone wasn’t as user friendly. Back then would have to use a stylus and type in a 2x1 inch keyboard. Smartphones are progressively getting better and PC’s and laptops have a lot less use. I would maybe run some statistics combining all "Internet accessing devices" to give us a more accurate result of how much Linux is really being used I definitely agree that Linux is not getting the Light that it should. Are we even considering Virtual Operating systems? I’m sure the number would also jump up because the ability to run Virtual systems gives us freedom to get the best of both worlds. Just my 2 Cents…

ChrisCarreiro
ChrisCarreiro

Very true @ron; I Would say that there a lot less people using desktops / laptops because the ease of access smart phones. In the past I would pull up a PC to type up a letter or browse the because my smartphone wasn’t as user friendly. Back then would have to use a stylus and type in a 2x1 inch keyboard. Smartphones are progressively getting better and PC’s and laptops have a lot less use. I would maybe run some statistics combining all "Internet accessing devices" to give us a more accurate result of how much Linux is really being used I definitely agree that Linux is not getting the Light that it should. Are we even considering Virtual Operating systems? I’m sure the number would also jump up because the ability to run Virtual systems gives us freedom to get the best of both worlds. Just my 2 Cents…

ChrisCarreiro
ChrisCarreiro

Very true @ron; I Would say that there a lot less people using desktops / laptops because the ease of access smart phones. In the past I would pull up a PC to type up a letter or browse the because my smartphone wasn’t as user friendly. Back then would have to use a stylus and type in a 2x1 inch keyboard. Smartphones are progressively getting better and PC’s and laptops have a lot less use. I would maybe run some statistics combining all "Internet accessing devices" to give us a more accurate result of how much Linux is really being used I definitely agree that Linux is not getting the Light that it should. Are we even considering Virtual Operating systems? I’m sure the number would also jump up because the ability to run Virtual systems gives us freedom to get the best of both worlds. Just my 2 Cents…

TimothyDuane
TimothyDuane

sorry, but most adults use real computers.if only windows 7 ran as smooth as it does on my phone i would love it, but until then. 

TimothyDuane
TimothyDuane

sorry, but most adults use real computers.if only windows 7 ran as smooth as it does on my phone i would love it, but until then. 

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