Linux Market Share

In the course of a normal work day I take several little breaks to check the news. On my list of news sites are Slashdot, Linux Journal and Linux Today. Frequently I see something that gives me an idea for an article. Sometimes I even find an article on a topic that I was planning to write about myself. Such was the case today when I came across this well-written piece from the Royal Pingdom Blog referenced on Linux Today. It’s about the failure of desktop Linux to break the 1% market share barrier, and I confess that it left me a little depressed. But I decided to add my two cents on the subject anyhow.

Here’s a chart showing the market share of the major OS distributions over the past year, courtesy of, the same place from which the author got his data:

The Pingdom article suggested that there were several reasons for Linux not having gained greater market share than it has:

  • there are too many distributions,
  • there are too many GUIs,
  • the various Linux desktop products are not polished enough,
  • consistency and usability issues exist with the various Linux distros, and
  • the various suppliers of Linux distributions focus too much on heavy duty tech-savvy users, and not enough on normal everyday users.

I pretty much agree with all of these points. Except...

I use Windows, and I use Mac OS X. The Windows UI (XP and Vista, more than Windows 7) is notoriously inconsistent. Polished? Not a word I usually use to describe a Windows product.

Mac OSX? It’s UI is certainly different than Windows, and it seems to be more consistent than XP. It’s also less crash-prone. But...

I’d hold my Mint 9 Gnome desktop up against either of those other two in terms of stability, constancy, and that metric which has not yet been mentioned: security. Usability is harder to judge because that is determined more by one’s familiarity with the product than anything else.

Which brings me to my final point: I think the main reason that Linux has not penetrated the desktop market more than it has is because people tend to stick with what they are used to. So, I guess I’ll just have to get used to being depressed, because people are what they are, and learning a new OS is just is not that high on most folks’ “things to do” list.



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No marketing

stoutimore's picture

I think it largely boils down to marketing. Nobody's trying hard to sell people on Linux because, well, it's free. Linux has no fancy marketing department; no slick ads; no "upgrade now for x% off" schemes. People are skeptical because the adage: "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is". I had barely heard of Linux until I found a library book about free software. It awakened me to the power of Linux, and other free applications like, and I won't go back.

To Average User ... Linux is like WIndows and OSX.

Anonymous's picture

For an "average user" that makes up 99% of the market in the diagram, Linux is just a "proprietary" as Windows and OSX since Open Source still means they need to use the services of professionals.

Just a thought: more and

eleusis's picture

Just a thought: more and more applications are migrating to the web. Soon, Google will release a lightweight operating system that will act as a gateway to Google's online products. In 10 years, operating systems may become obsolete, or nearly obsolete, existing merely as thin bits of firmware that connect your device to the cloud (many people even expect games to be played through browsers in the future, which will solve the problem of "no games on Linux"). So "desktop Linux" won't matter, and neither will Windows. Server operating systems will be everyone's operating systems, and that's where Linux is already thriving.


Doug.Roberts's picture

Good observation, and I mostly agree with your conclusion that the desktop OS will matter less in coming years. However, I still think there will remain a not-insignificant market for the desktop OS, because of trust issues regarding having the cloud protect proprietary, valuable data.

But on the other hand, I'm one of the few I know who actually backs up the roughly 3/4 terabyte (and growing) of my own personal data every night.


Price, pirates and popularity

Barista Uno's picture

"...people tend to stick with what they are used to." You hit the nail right on the head.

To this I'll add one big factor that hasn't been given enough attention: piracy.

Why do many people and even companies in the developing world continue to use Windows operating systems although these don't come cheap? Because you can buy XP, Vista and Seven even on the sidewalks.

Eliminate the software piracy and we just might see a spike in Linux usage in heavily populated and poor countries, including China, the Philippines and Indonesia.

Does this survey count installs, or machines?

Anonymous's picture

I love the client / server nature of *nix and would happily run a single install with DRBL wrapped around it over 10-100 individual windows installs. So if I were to count desktops, would I say I had a single painless install, or would I say I had 10-100 painless installs?

For anyone running a home network (this applies better to desktops than laptops, but could be used for both with some tweaking) set up a DRBL server around your favorite install, then see how many of your machines can be moved over to a single central installation :) Then tell your friends you can upgrade all the machines in your house in 1 step cos they all share the same apps etc. :)

Not so easy with windows, though you can host your windows images via iSCSI and so on and get poor-man's client / server.

What I don't get in my big corporate workplace is why we don't do this in the enterprise - 30000+ desktops managed from a single server farm... I guess being able to throw money at MS to have someone look at it and provide a slightly better than worthless suggestion to fix a problem is the underlying reason :| .

Re: Does this survey count installs, or machines?

Doug.Roberts's picture

The conclusions of this article were based solely on hit count data from Individual users' actual browser usage is reflected in this data. There was no survey conducted of how many actual installs have been performed, the hit count data takes all installed systems into account (at least all installed systems which have users browsing the web).


A computer should work like

Anonymous's picture

A computer should work like an appliance, a refrigerator. You get it from store, plug in and turn it on. You do not want to know how it works. When it goes wrong, you have it serviced and if you are out of warranty, you throw it away and get another one.

People do not even bother to change their oil any more. Why would anyone want to install an OS? A notebook costs you no more than $300-400, and the OS costs no more than $30 (check price difference between identical computer with windows and Linux). It is a cheap commodity.

Cost of an OS is zero given the scale of windows production. What would it cost to allow an OEM to install one more copy of windows? zero.

Linux market share

Anonymous's picture

In a 2007 survey at the University of Applied Sciences Jena, of 283 students desktop computer or laptop or both:
97.6 % of the desktops had MS Windows, 8.0 % Linux and 2.8 % another systm (e.g. Apple).
97.9 % of the laptops ad MS Windows, 6.9 % Linux and 3.2 % another systm (e.g. Apple).
Most Linux user also had a MS windows system.
Hence, I think the market share of Linux is a little better than 1%.

Agreed, but on different basis

Anonymous's picture

Agreed, the Linux market share is grossly understated in

But these people you're talking about are young, fabulously-broke (budget savvy) students with LOTS OF BRAINS (University of Applied Science?) in Jena, clearly in a country which respects copyright (could you imagine all those Chinese paying for MS Windows?). Smarts, copyright respect, budget-savvyness: three important factors not usually present in the average consumer's environment, which is normally a third-world country.

Although I don't consider the study you cite as representative of the mainstream, I do agree that Linux's market share is bigger than what MS wants us to believe it is.

Two years ago I had to explain to everybody what Linux was. Now most smart people have either a positive or negative opinion of it, with the smartest people actively using it.

A little conspirational theory to finish it:

It might be that MS has a huge computer farm in Redmond full with desktops accessing websites in order to increase it's market share.

Or are they just following a stock-value strategy of giving some money to the data-gatherers to paint a flattering portrait?

Linux will become popular

Anonymous penguin's picture

Linux will become popular only when they start offering laptops side by side, the same model, with Windows and with Linux. That's when the price of Windows comes concrete. Also the ethical concerns to use Linux are given more light. But Microsoft prevents this with borderline illegal deals with manufacturers and vendors. EU and USA's government should prevent uncompetitive deals like these but they don't.

OK, as someone who likes

Dazzz's picture

OK, as someone who likes Linux, but uses Windows because that's what pays me wage :o) I can tell you what you're going to have to do to make Linux a success. And by success I mean getting a much bigger marketshare than Mac, hitting 20% would seem reasonable to me.

Now, you're not going to like what I have to say, I know, I was shocked when I read up on this as well. But here goes, and please, don't shoot the messenger.

Read about the history or Windows, see how they dominated a market by being in the right place etc., and actually getting people on board who know how to market a product. because that's what Linux has to be, a product. If you're happy to be a niche OS, then go ahead, play with the hobby OS, and never achieve anything over 1%. But you really need to focus, and the end result is you want bigger market-share, you want to kick Microsoft's butt, and you want to show the world how great and amazing Linux is.

BUT, if all this fills you with dread, you don't want the masses to find your hobby OS, then carry on as you are.

Now, I'm not anti Linux, so before you flame me, just read what I've said once more, and then do some real soul searching before hitting that reply button.


horoscope's picture

I congratulate you for this blog! really interesting and full of useful information.
good luck

I love it

Piyush's picture

I guess I love Linux no matter what.
I can think why it would not be so popular:
1. When you go to buy a Laptop you simply get windows installed on it. So something for which you have to pay in the market comes free, free, free. How can a middle class person uninstall it and think of trying something which is anyway free (many distributions).
2. A child grows up with Windows on the machine, so learning Linux needs a motivation which does not comes very easily specially when he/she is not in the programming world.
3. Used to of using mouse all the time, so thinking to use a shell to install a new software sounds way complicate to many. I being using Linux from 6 years now also have to struggle at times.
4. Not advertised at all. Being a great operating system would not give a market share, the greatness has to be advertised enough to common people to make it grow. I guess no one takes that much effort, as Microsoft does to sell its product, on the Linux side.
5. Microsoft Office is a great product, but K/Open Office (to me) is not. For many people there is no use of a computer without the word processing tools.

Needs improvement

Michael Charlton's picture

Ubuntu doesn't have enough brand recognition to take on MS on a head to head basis. Windows is too well known and people are way too used to Windows.

There is, however, a market for people who want a secure OS that doesn't slow their computer down. XP is a security death trap, Vista is a security deathtrap that is slow and annoying, Win 7 is a slow annoying security death trap that looks pretty. I have an AMD 2 gig dual core processor with 1 gb of memory (average computer). Since doing a fresh install of Vista, my computer has only slowed down. It runs fine if I have 1 or 2 programs running, but after that it basically slows to a crawl.

I speak for a lot of people. Ubuntu is my favorite OS, but when I got Ubuntu, I discovered that the video driver support is lousy. To install it, I had to go to the boot program, type in an obscure gibberish command that I had to find by blogging, then finally I got it to work in low graphics mode. For consumers, that would be unacceptable. It's like going to the supermarket to buy a cake, but I have to go online to learn how to decorate it. Well, I'm going to buy the cake that's already decorated because I'm not a frosting enthusiast and I don't have time to mess around with frosting. That's the supermarket's job.

What Linux needs is a well known company that has a reputation of being consumer friendly that can attract support from venders and computer companies. There are only 2 companies that have done that-Apple and Google. Apple's OS is glued to their hardware. That leaves Google. Android is a Linux OS that is already desktop ready with a few adjustments. They've spanked MS in everything else, so it's just a matter of time before Google capitalizes on the market. All they need is itunes.

Still not there

Anonymous's picture

I agree with the author. I just installed Ubuntu on my desktop at home. I was astounded at how intuitive and how well it performed. Basically, from the time it takes me to log off and log onto Windows, I can do the same thing 10 times over with Linux. Linux runs circles around both Windows and Mac. Linux has the capacity to take market share head-to-head with both rivals. It's poorly marketed and still too geek friendly in some areas.

Free doesn't mean better. This is probably Ubuntu's biggest stumbling block. Free means cheap. You get what you pay for. The OS is plenty polished, but people need a good reason to switch from Windows. Charging a price for good software, even if it's not the OS, is a good thing. Ubuntu won't survive. I speculate Google will come up with a version of Android that'll popularize Linux, because they aren't a geek friendly company

good points

shankara's picture

We have several very good and polished distributions, but, still very far behind windows in terms of market share. I feel there are two main reasons behind it. First one is already mentioned above.
1> We are not pumping money to market it.( For a GNU/Linux it is not needed).
2>There are many third party softwares, for technical applications, available for windows. We can not help that.

GNU/Linux is maturing very quickly and now as an operating system it is far more matured than windows. The kind of publicity we can gives return very slowly, but, it works very fine.

Promoting Linux

dana ross's picture

I think the reason that Linux isn't more widespread is that there is no dollar return available for anyone to spend big bucks to market it.

Apple and Microsoft have spend Billions marketing their products and people are comfortable with them and used to seeing them.

Too many?

Barista Uno's picture

Too many Linux distros? I can't understand all the turmoil. It's like entering a supermarket and complaining about the toiletries section having too many different kinds of toothpastes, soaps and toilet paper.

True, some Linux distros make you wonder why the developers even bothered. But there are also very polished distros that could give OSX and Windows 7 a run for the money. It's all about choice. The only people who should be complaining are those who don't like to choose and are unable to choose properly.

Too many!

Joseph G. Mitzen's picture

Those "unable to choose properly" would be most computer users. Too many choices where the choices are very similar overwhelm a customer. Imagine a car dealership with 50 different models. "This one is a dual overhead cam engine, this one is a V6 with summer tires, here's a V6 with all-weather tires, here's a V6 with sports tires, this is a hybrid, this hybrid has continuous variable transmission, this one..." You'd need to be a car expert to understand what things like continuous variable transmission is and to know all the pros and cons of that type of transmission. A car enthusiast/expert might like 50 models, but average consumers like things to be in well-defined categories: they want a model lineup with a full-size van, a pickup, an SUV, a sedan, maybe a luxury sedan and/or sports sedan variant, maybe a convertible. Vehicle models that aren't easy to categorize seldom do well in car or motorcycle lines.

The same is true of an OS. Fedora vs. Ubuntu vs. Red Hat vs. OpenSuse vs. Sabayon vs. Puppy vs. 1000 other distros. You not only have to be a Linux expert, you need to be knowledgeable in the details of a great many distributions and open source software packages to be able to weigh the merits of one vs. another. Just picking from the above you have to understand different packaging systems, pros/cons of source-based distros, Gnome vs. KDE, frequency of security updates, and a zillion other things to make a meaningful selection.

Choice is nice so long as you have the knowledge to make a choice. The more possible choices and the smaller the differences, the more knowledge needed to make a choice. The Linux community would do well to promote only a few distros to new users - those that are easily lumped into a defined category. For instance = minimal system requirements - Puppy. Newbie - Ubuntu. Business desktop - Suse, etc.

variety is beautiful

ballioné's picture

I do not agree with you, because the number of Distributions is not a real barrier to consumers, who are (and we all are) used to have a great choice of products. Even if you buy a mobile phone, there are hundreds of products on the market.

The huge variety of distros is a result of the freedom you have with Linux and opensource software in general. If you think of the many, many targets, one can have using a computer. To give some examples, why there is a need of different distributions:
- Distributions for old hardware
- Distributions for realtime tasks
- Distributions for mediacenters
- for municipal and governmental usage
- for schools
- for server systems
- for embedded devices
- for routers
- and so on

-> and everything comes ready to use

In contrast to Windows - the community let's the user choose, depending on what the user wants to do. And a user who has decided to look beyond the operating system he has, will not have difficulties to choose the right distro - above all there are live-systems to test.
And too many Desktop-Systems? There are only two or three major Desktop Environments, which all have advantages and disadvantages but fortunately everything is compatible with each other.

So what is wrong to have a Choice. Variety and individuality are one of the best things one can have. Although some OS Vendors teach us the opposite. And I suppose the laws of Darwin count for distros as well. The good ones, which are useful to someone will survive.

yes i think you are wright

Anonymous's picture

yes i think you are wright about that, i have friends that have new phones and don't even know that they are using linux and when i tell them that that is a linux type phone, they say what is linux? they can not believe that their is some thing out there, other then Windows and is free.

Linux is GREAT, but whats about us???

marine02xx's picture


Interesting article and very informative. I’m going to commit some fallacies in my judgments because, frankly, I don’t think you can truly avoid it. As an African American male, newbie to Linux (Ubuntu 10.04), I too use both OSs in my home. I've asked some of my associates if they’ve ever heard of or used Linux and the universal response is “no”. And though race has nothing to do with the functionality of an operating system, minorities do have a tendency to follow main stream communication trends (Facebook, iPhones, Droids, etc.) That said, how many apps are truly attractive to ALL people? Is there a need for a market initiative to target certain groups/cultures that facilitate the ease of sharing information and ideas?

What’s my point? Maybe Linux developers should consider targeting the minority community and spin the benefits of using an OS that’s expanding, less expensive, and provides most, if not all, of the functionality of Windows and Apple products. For example, the iPad, while popular, has left out the AA and other minority communities in relation to apps. Are most apps universal across ethnic lines? Sure, but what about the annual $1 trillion AA market?

I would propose devising a marketing strategy that reaches out to minority centers of education (public and private) and informing them of the practicality, usefulness, and cost of using Linux products. Computer science, communications, IT, and education majors could help Linux expand its market base with products like Edubuntu or OSs for multimedia and smart phones, since AA and Latinos outpace whites in the use of electronic applications and hand held devises (Pew Research Center, July 2010). All I’m saying is that Linux should leave no stone unturned if it is trying to improve its market share. I’m using it, excited about it, and I’m sure my friends and family will be too. But I can’t do it alone…

African American Media Absent from iPad Revolution Despite Our Projected $1 Trillion Buying Power

More Cell Phone Owners Use an App for That

I'm a caucasian and want to

Anonymous's picture

I'm a caucasian and want to comment that, from your writting, you seem to be a very smart person (hey! references!). Congratulations. I bet you have a College education, or soon you will have one.


markh's picture

see the big white conspiracy is that all of us greedy white people will keep FOSS for ourselves and make all the minorities pay for software "keeping them down" and helping us regain some of our tax money as well ;)

....seriously are there any apps that minorities need more than non-minorities??? I guess I could make a fortune if I made an iphone/blackberry app that would track and keep track of food stamps.....especially if I only wrote it with spanish & ebonics language support.

/sarcasm off
good grief Linux IS a minority community.


so tired...'s picture

To answer your question about apps, there are pop culture genres that certain communities are intersted in; your precious tax dollars ain't one of 'em. Oops, was that spanish and ebonics or good ole 'Merican red neck trailor park? I get them thar' mixed up all the time!

Well, so much for trying to have an intelligent conversation. I guess most minorities in computer science, IT, education, and marketing go to college for the SOLE purpose of getting on welfare. And I guess you think the majority of people on welfare are minorities too, huh? Blacks make up less that 14% of the nation's population, yet WE are the most on welfare??? Do the research my friend and you'll see (the results will shock you)!

Fighting the same ol' tired bigotry in 2010. I guess I should expect better. I tried...

/Open mindedness off

so tired myself.....

markh's picture

of everything being about....the blah blah blah community just because we have more melanin blah blah blah determines the brand of socks I wear blah blah blah.

If you like linux or other FOSS use it thats awesome....I dont care what color you are, it has zilch to do with what color someone is.


SimonL's picture

I'm not really that bothered if people want to use windows at home, so long as they don't ask me to fix it when it goes wrong/gets viruses etc.

What irritates me is when public sector institutions (like the one I work for) continue to assist large software companies in maintaining their monopolies when they could avoid large license costs and be able to configure, modify and fix any problems by using free/OS software.

Most of the managed machines in my workplace just provide a terminal for email, web browsing and document production. Considering the first two are thunderbird and firefox, and the third could be replaced by OpenOffice, all this could be provided by linux machines, or even an enterprise linux distro. I'm not holding my breath though!

I avoid managed xp by using a live USB stick - Its fun to watch my colleagues machines freeze up! Plus I can install whatever I want... for free!

Well, I use Windows XP

Anonymous's picture

Well, I use Windows XP myself, will probably go for Windows 7 as its proving to be a really good OS.

I have dabbled with various Linux distros in the past, but I always come across a showstopper that for me makes me go back to Windows.

But what dissapoints me is the steady decline in Linux marketshare this year, its not really catching on as much as people thought it would, and that has also coloured my choice of development programming language. I like C, and have done some good things with it in Linux Land, but the rewards have been miniscule, the headaches major. So I turned once again to Windows Land, and the rewards have been major, the headaches almost non existant. I'm currently learning C#, and find it so great to use, but people in Linux Land don't like Mono!

So, unless Linux can reach more users than the Mac OS, then its really destined to be that great little hobby OS, that only servers, and some diehards etc use.

A pity, a real pity.

Linux market share

W. Anderson's picture

When even I see an article with this topic and similar conclusions, I always wonder why the writer does not clarify their opinion/report with the demographics of users.

Since many (large) countries in South America, Asia, South Africa and complete, large municipalities in Europe have moved their server and desktop operations to Linux, it behooves these writers to indicate if they mean USA and UK alone, or precisely where.

I am confident they have little or no credible knowledge about Linux use outside the limited scope of their English Language enclaves. I do.

W. Anderson

Strong Words

Doug.Roberts's picture

"I am confident they have little or no credible knowledge about Linux use outside the limited scope of their English Language enclaves. I do."

Strong words.

But wrong. I (author of the article) have worked in an international community for over two decades. Further, the conclusions of this article were based solely on unbiased browser hit data, which were collected without regard to international boundaries. In other words, your "many (large) countries in South America, Asia, South Africa and complete, large municipalities in Europe [...]" are rolled into and represented by the data.

Your confidence, while immensely impressive, is unfortunately baseless.


Retailers don't make money out of Linux

Mad-Malc's picture

There's a very simple reason why Linux hasn't become mainstream and it has absolutely nothing to do with function-ability. It's to do with the fact retailers can't make money out of it.

I'm in the UK and the major PC retailer here took some Linux Netbooks to sell. Now any time I went into that store the Linux netbooks were switched off. So I asked one of the sales people 'are Linux netbooks any good?' The answer mirrored the sales persons reward scheme and they said well the problem with Linux netbooks is that they will not:
Run Windows applications - i.e. I can't sell you any software.
Run anti-virus - I can't sell you any software and get an annual kick back from anti-virus software licence renewals.

This same store charges a fortune to reset customers laptops to their factory default when windows viruses get really bad i.e. the customer can't fix them. It will however offer to sell said customer a USB hard drive to back up their data and quite possibly the viruses before performing the expensive reset.

The thing is with Linux retailers just haven't worked out where to make the next cross-sale whereas with Windows operating systems cross sale opportunities abound.
linux netbooks.

That Major UK retailer no longer sells Linux netbooks their staff couldn't make any commission on cross sales. With the other operating systems they could sell lots of software to the customers on top of the original equipment sale.

Please don't start me on the trial ware loaded onto most laptops.


Why would you need to sell

Dann's picture

Why would you need to sell anti-virus when you can download it? Clam-AV has a native linux client and I'm sure you can get a subscription with it too.

The point you're missing is that when preloading any GNU/Linux distribution by a vendor or reseller, they are making larger profit margins by not having to purchase a license for Windows. It's been said that a Windows license takes up $50-$150 of the total computer's cost when purchasing it retail. That is, until netbooks showed, up, Ballmer got scared and started selling Windows XP licenses on them for $5 a piece. Then there's that neutered version called Windows 7 Starter.

The thing with Windows retailers is that they enjoy the profits from a monopoly and denying consumers choice, instead of letting a free market determine their earnings.

Oh, and before Microsoft started practically giving away Windows XP licenses for the netbook, a minimum 1/3 of all netbooks had a Linux Distribution on it.

Enough of the FUD.
Also: If the people who write bloatware/trialware aren't making linux versions, they are to blame for missing out on an opportunity to innovate.
Again, it's about denying customers choice to give biased results on what people want.

And there's way more software (secure software) for GNU and Linux than Windows. More driver support, etc.

I think his point was not

Anonymous's picture

I think his point was not that the *user* benefits, but that the *store* does not - I (the retailer) can't sell you:
- antivirus (download ClamAV, probably already installed)
- photoshop (Gimp probably there too)
- Office (OO often included)
- ...

That's $1000 in sales I the store didn't make (dunno how much they get in markup) cos that slick Ubuntu derivative has ~2500 apps included (tho as a user I don't have a clue what they're called! :/ )... not much of an incentive to just push the hardware :(

I too think the many distros dilute the usefulness of linux (doesn't stop me using it tho!) and that to really push it we ought to bring them together combining all the useful parts of each (which of course would also be a product that wouldn't sell b/c a) it's still free => no markup for store, and b) no central go-to support group - which is critical for enterprises / institutions / govts to adopt it). Speed of Puppy, user-friendlyness of Ubuntu, stability of ??? :) commercial support of Oracle / Canonical / Suse, etc.

As for programming - MS weenies don't know about anything other than Visual Studio, and think its the cat's pyjamas. If they had to use Eclipse they might change their mind, and also adopt Java over C# as a more well-thought out alternative (again for enterprise you need commercial support; dunno if that exists for PHP, Python, Ruby, ...)

In short there are a lot of reasons linux ain't getting more traction; I for 1 am doing my part phasing out windows at home for the family. You should too :) See if your Mom / Dad / Grandma can get by on Puppy or Ubuntu, since they'll call you for support anyway whether it's MS or not, but maybe you can show them the light :)

Why I abandoned linux

philippe's picture

I used linux regularly for years, usually dual-boot systems with whatever the current MS offering was. I actually purchased more than one linux boxed distro back when those were available at, e.g. Future Shop. I went from Caldera to Redhat, and finally used Fedora for quite a while.

Over the years I was frequently frustrated by poor, or very long in coming hardware support under linux. Back in 1996 there was very limited support for ethernet cards. My various high end audio devices (used with Cubase for doing music) were never supported under linux. Moreover, linux audio software (ardour notwithstanding) is pretty makeshift stuff compared to proprietary products.

The various sound servers have played musical chairs under linux; none have been particularly good in my estimation.

Three years ago I became a convert to Mac and OS X. Since then I have spent probably less than an hour fooling around with the kind of stuff that takes dozens of hours a year to get right under linux. I also use Windows 7. At last MS has produced an OS that I am (fairly) happy to use.

A week or so ago I decided to return to my "roots" and install Ubuntu 10.01 to dual-boot on my Windows machine. I had the following troubles:

1. parted could not recognize the partition table on my machine. It was created by Vista prior to my Windows 7 upgrade. I had to back up WIndows, rebuild the partition table, and reinstall.

2. My wireless card (ralink chip) is not really supported under linux, apparently. This problem is, to my knowledge, of long standing. I have neither the time nor the inclination to make a driver from source supplied by the vendor.

3. Once Ubuntu was installed it could not "see" my DVD drive.

4. Two hours ago I decided to give it one last try. When I booted Ubuntu, my Logitech wireless kb and Microsoft wireless mouse would not work.

So I gave up.

I posted this same gripe on the Ubuntu general forum. Only one reply so far, asking why I posted. Apparently only positive feedback is acceptable to linux fanboys.

Anyway, I have given up on linux on the desktop because I have wasted too much time over the years messing around with it. I doubt that even noble attempts to make it work right out of the box will always leave a lot of people dissatisfied. Hardware vendors are just never going to jump on the linux bandwagon enough to make it all effortless.

So, goodbye from me until the next lifetime, linux.

- Phil -

I can see your point

markh's picture

I will be the first to admit the hardware support for many years was nowhere near what it is today....also remember that in the late 90's everyone was trying to put any ol card on the shelf at best buy to profit from the tech boom so it was hard for the linux teams to keep up with all the different chipsets etc. Not to mention windows 98 really was not that bad (at least no BS worms like you get now).

honestly in my book MS isnt really offering anything....the hardware manufactures do all the work for them anyway. Another beef of mine is modems....if your stuck on dialup (or making a faxserver etc) just buy a $35 external modem...they are better anyway, our faxserver at the office has run over 35,000 faxes since I built the server in march and it just keeps trukin.

I can also see the appeal of are getting better made hardware and the OS is still Unix with X11 so its gonna be solid.....I also want to give apple a thumbs up for keeping CUPS going :)

why not get a linux hardware

jza's picture

why you never try to get a linux laptop. most distro have stores not to mention you can get a laptop from large manufacturers like dell or target manufacturers like

i don't see why is so hard to think on getting specialized hardware for osx yet never consider the same treatment for linux?

Linuxer, Rapper, and part time lunatic
Living in the sandy beaches of Cancun

Be encouraged

David Parsons's picture

I suspect there are more people using Linux than stats suggest. I have read varying reports of Linux 'market' share which suggest that between 1% and 5% use linux.

What is this based on?

The number of recorded downloads of a distro? Surveys?

I run a small computer business and I'm not quite on a crusade to get people to use Linux, but I'm not far off. I will have opportunity in the Autumn to give a seminar on open source software and will be doing my bit to make people aware that big M is the not the only fish in the sea.

What stats can't reveal is how many people I have installed Linux for. I use a limited range of distros and only download each one once. In theory, if everyone who uses linux installs it on five other people's machines 1% becomes 5% and 5% becomes 25% and if you extrapolate in this way the Linux market share may look a lot different.

In addition, there are those who dual boot. Are they Linux or big M users?

I look forward to the next five years to see how Linux penetrates.

what frosts me......

markh's picture

is that if adobe would put out their CS suites for linux it would really be a game changer. I would think that now would be the time since adobe & apple have been at each other's throats. Not to mention it would be a simple transition for ppl that have apple studios in place since their printers etc are CUPS.

what frosts me even more is that OSX uses X11 and it probobly wouldnt be that complex of a port for a company like adobe. .02

Android -- Success on the palmtop

John Bailo's picture

I don't agree with your argument that they are "used to it".

Most people use Windows because its pre-installed, and they don't see a need, or have the capacity to change.

Conversely, look at Droid. That's a "palmtop" Linux that's selling like anyone going to "load Windows" on a Droid? Doubt it!

I dual boot openSuse and Windows XP on my home desktop which I built myself as a gaming PC. Do I use XP more than Linux?'s why:

1. Cannot use Rhapsody music client with linux.

2. Cannot use Netflix streaming with linux.

3. My favorite game is Unreal Tournment III. Unreal 2 used to have Linux client. In 2007 when UT3 was released they promised a linux client. They have yet to deliver.

4. I just bought Mafia II. Linux client? No.

5. I have an Asus netbook with Win7 and a fastboot linux splashtop. Do I use the linux desktop? Yes, when I'm near wifi. However, I have Clear there a Linux driver for my Wimax USB stick? I can't use mobile Wimax with linux.

You might ask -- what does Linux need?

Most of all executives who understand real world computing and who are afforded the power to make things happen. Where's that Wimax driver? Ok, here it is! And so on...

Candy Store?

obx_ruckle's picture

I agree with the article and most of the comments so far. As for me, I feel like the kid in the candy store. What keeps me FROM being depressed is that I'm NOT limited on the number of choices I make and all my choices are free unless I choose to buy one (which is yet another choice).

I think Doug is right that

"... if people were required to do their own Windows OS installation instead of purchasing the hardware with it already installed, there would be a lot fewer Windows desktops/laptops out there."

I've used many different operating systems. Some installs of Windows went well and some were not fun. Some Linux installs easy and uneventful and some were not fun. Some did not even work. Some worked on one machine and not another. Because I had other choices I moved on to find something that did work.

Searching for the right combo has been much more fun that the time I spent with Windows keeping the system running and fighting malware & viruses.

Too many Linux Distros?

William Hales ( Harpoon, Dthdealer )'s picture

Choice is not an issue, but the English language and how we think about categories is why I believe some people think having so many Linux distributions to choose from is bad.

What this basically means is that the only reason people don't like the idea of having hundreds of lower quality distros and only a few dozen good ones is the belief that the good 'Linux' distros are counterbalanced by the not as appealing lesser useful 'Linux' distros. Read on.

If we did not call them 'Linux' distros, but by their actual names instead ( eg Debian, Gentoo, Puppy ) this problem would not exist, as people would not link them to each other. This is because it is all in your head!

If all Windows operating systems were considered 'Windows', no one would surely use them, thinking the latest is the same as Windows 3.1 or even MS-DOS. If all Intel processors were called 'Intel processors' then no one would want a i7, thinking it is related to the first Pentium. Do you see where I am going?

Imagine if Windows, Macintosh, Amiga, Linux distros and so on were all always called 'operating system X ' instead of their actual names. Now operating systems have a bad name.

Think if one of the most popular distributions, Ubuntu, if it were named not as 'Ubuntu Linux' but just as 'Ubuntu'. Break every link to the 'idea of Linux' and voila, people judge it on its own.

The whole idea of 'governing' who and who cannot create their own distribution is against the whole idea of open source. And you know what would happen? Someone would fork the kernel and call it something other than Linux.

Perhaps the only foreseeable solution is to simply call distributions by their name, and then say secondarily they are a Linux based project.

Regards, William Hales

As a footnote, I reference the Linux kernel in this comment as an entity on its own here only to represent what most people will see it as. In reality there is no such thing as 'Just Linux' apart from several thousand lines of code and a system that boots and then hangs with nothing else ( no other software ) to do or run. If you disagree with this, then you need to read up what 'Linux' actually is on the web :)

I agree with this article

Anonymous's picture

I agree with this article 100%. I am also not in agreement with the 'polished' point of the original article. Now Shuttleworth with the announcement of Natty has given a heads up that 'polished' is what the world can expect.

1. But to make the linux desktop popular we need to think beyond the geeks. The world is somehow stuck to the geeks when it comes to linux. How many user conferences do we have for linux distros versus geek conferences (well i attend some of them myself ;-)

2. There are too many distros. There needs to be a governing body of some sort which will approve / qualify distros based on their business viability. Right now the only factor is submitting a request on some websites - and yeah you have your distro. Linux is free (as in freedom) but too many people are using this freeway and there is no control right now. Viable business needs to be a criteria. Otherwise people can always create a distribution which they can advertise & distribute on their own. No support systems like distrowatch should be available for them

3. Focus on fixing all bugs (high, medium, low in severity) for apps/functions that come with your default install. There is a bare minimum that the user expects to work. No one expects Microsoft to fix a vulnerability for Openoffice or Winzip quickly; but they do expect a fix for IE, etc.

business viability

markh's picture

"There needs to be a governing body of some sort which will approve / qualify distros based on their business viability."

I dont really see the point of this....any business using linux already checks out the viability before the put it in place RHEL sells and Novell are taking up marketshare with Suse. And if a business in on a shoestring they use either CentOS or Opensuse (which centOS has some good penetration out there).

At our small office (which I am the IT guy) we are running 2 debian servers. One as a hylafax system the other as our main file server via samba (and yes both are mission critical)......I chose debian because I use *buntu on the desktop but wanted total control and MEGA-stability so I went with Debian.

And I did look at centOS and some other but one pet peeve of mine with some distros is the DVD install download....seriously a server OS should not take more than one CD.

Look to the edges

jefurii's picture

Just stumbled across this great Ben Franklin quote this morning in a different context:

[A] great Empire, like a great Cake, is most easily diminished at the Edges.

My wife is starting up her own small business law practice. I've been talking for years about how great Linux is and it never changed anything. Recently when I was repairing her Mac I set her up with an account on my laptop (running Ubuntu 10.04) and she kept talking about how "beautiful" it was and how easy it was to use. Soon after that she "happened" to stumble across some web sites by lawyers who are using Linux. Now she's decided she wants to give it a try.

It was almost impossible for her to make that change while she was working at a large organization where everyone is using M$ Office, but it's different now that she's doing her own thing. Being exposed to Linux and seeing some other people like her using it helped make it a live option.

Maybe we need to start a "Linux success stories" site where we can share examples of normal non-geeks doing useful things using Linux?

Linux success stories website

ArthurP's picture

Good idea! I'm on 56k modem out here in the woods or I would take you up on the idea of a creating a "Linux success story" website! Any others out there who could do this?

Where do I put my $0.02?

Michael Peek's picture

I have to agree with the "Er... Well..." anonymous post above. I'm the IT manager for a small national research institute (NIMBioS). Before that I was (and still am) the one-man IT staff for a number of small research groups. While we don't have many machines, collectively what we do have has been running Linux on the desktop for at least the last 7yrs. --And yet no one has ever asked me to partake in a poll about what our desktop OS actually is. Most of the machines we have bought came with either Windows or OSX, so if that contributes to the numbers rather than what people are running right now then that's likely to be terribly inaccurate.

Sources of statistics

Doug.Roberts's picture


Several commenters have mentioned that they have never participated in a "What desktop OS do you run?". To my knowledge no such survey has ever been conducted. All of the OS stats that I have seen come from web sites like which sniff out the visiting browser's user agent. All in all, this is a pretty unbiased way of determining market share.

Other commenters here have stated that these browser-sniffing data sources are not accurate because some users turn off or spoof their user agent. I contend that users who do this are probably evenly distributed over the various OS's, and represent a minority of the total users anyhow.


Statistics are ever rarely

Anonymous's picture

Statistics are ever rarely (if at all) 'unbiased'. Mind you, I fully understand what are saying in terms of noscript. It would make sense to make such an extrapolation (ie: The percentage of users using noscript is similar across all OS'). Mind you, I actually tend to disagree with it. Much like the approach to many things concerning Windows, its users care very little about what is going on 'So long as that goddamned thing works when I click on it!'. I think there would be a greater percentage of people using noscript in Linux. The average user from the community is slightly more knowledgable about such matters (or for that matter aware). Not to mention all the ones using Tor (Which yes, ultimately might still have statcounter take into account that the boxes running Tor in the chain are Linux, but I'm not sure how it handles 'proxy' or similar calculations).

Compare that to an average user from Windoze and you'll see there's a bit of a gap. I believe the percentages vary.

Sure, they might represent the minority (even at 10% of all users, let's say, they would be the minority) but in the long run this makes ample difference.


Doug.Roberts's picture

Michael, I've visited NIMBios; been in several meetings with Lou Gross. Tell him I said "Hi" if you see him.