Is Linux-on-the-desktop already mainstream?


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Caitlyn Martin at O’Reilly examines the idea that Linux only has a 1% market share on desktops (including laptops), and finds that it’s lacking. This 1% number comes primarily from usage shares detected by web browsers.

However, Martin says that the 1% number simply doesn’t make sense. For example, Linux had 32% of the netbook market in 2009, despite the fact that retail stores tended to only sell Windows notebooks. A third of Dell’s Netbook sales were preloaded with Ubuntu. And if you take the idea that netbooks were around 18% of desktop/laptop sales for 2009, you end up with the conclusion that around 6% of all computers were sold preloaded with Linux. This number doesn’t include people who bought a windows machine and then reformatted and installed Linux on it. This leads Martin to conclude that some observation bias is likely, as certain web sites (like Ars Technica) may attract certain operating system users.

Additionally, it’s possible that Linux users often use multiple operating systems, essentially “splitting their vote.”

Best estimates, according to Martin, is that Linux has a share roughly equal to that of MacOSX; which is certainly not a slouch on the desktop/laptop market.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, people decried the fact that Linux wasn’t mainstream – it’s clear that today, it certainly is. A minority, yes, but a mainstream minority – Linux is not in the same category as, say, IBM AIX. So if you wanted to know “when Linux would be mainstream on the desktop,” the answer is probably “around 2009.”

What are your thoughts?





74 Responses to Is Linux-on-the-desktop already mainstream?

  1. I'll believe it's more than 1% when I know more than zero non-geeks using it. As an IT security manager and the person most people I know ask about tech, I have never had anyone ask me about Linux. Windows, yes, Mac, yes. Linux, no.

    I gave up on Linux after my wife — a non-geek — begged me, in frustration, to remove it from her laptop. She gave it the old college try, though, using it exclusively for almost a year.

    • that joke no longer works, Broadcom have recently open-sourced their drivers and I've not come across a wireless card that doesn't work with Linux (particularly Ubuntu), for a long time.

    • that joke no longer works, Broadcom have recently open-sourced their drivers and I've not come across a wireless card that doesn't work with Linux (particularly Ubuntu), for a long time.

      • Broadcom just announced that when, 1 day ago? For the majority of users, not geeks or technical people, they are and will never be able to get stuff like wifi working without easy installers, etc. it is always "it will be a couple years" but that has been said for 10 years now.

        • No, every install of Linux is not Ubuntu. But if you don't have the expertise to plan your hardware purchases ahead in anticipation of driver compatibility on your distro of choice, you probably belong on… Ubuntu. If you like the convenience of having everything laid out for you (having grown up on Windoze) you probably belong on… Ubuntu. I'm not disparaging Ubuntu, I love it and run it on most of my machines – I'm just saying, bitch about convenience and then exclude the distro that thrives on it from your argument and you're just being obtuse.

        • No, every install of Linux is not Ubuntu. But if you don't have the expertise to plan your hardware purchases ahead in anticipation of driver compatibility on your distro of choice, you probably belong on… Ubuntu. If you like the convenience of having everything laid out for you (having grown up on Windoze) you probably belong on… Ubuntu. I'm not disparaging Ubuntu, I love it and run it on most of my machines – I'm just saying, bitch about convenience and then exclude the distro that thrives on it from your argument and you're just being obtuse.

  2. All those laptops that are pre-loaded with Linux? Yeah, their owners just take ‘em home and put an illegal version of Windows on them. That does not support an assumption of greater market share. Internet use, in my opinion, tells the usage story. The incentives to avoid paying for something that you don’t have taint the other evidence in my opinion.

    Even the people who are “splitting their vote” are doing it because there is something specific they can do on Linux (likely) but they then do their basic operations in a good ol’ stand-by operating system.

    tl;dr color me skeptical

  3. All those laptops that are pre-loaded with Linux? Yeah, their owners just take 'em home and put an illegal version of Windows on them. That does not support an assumption of greater market share. Internet use, in my opinion, tells the usage story. The incentives to avoid paying for something that you don't have taint the other evidence in my opinion.

    Even the people who are "splitting their vote" are doing it because there is something specific they can do on Linux (likely) but they then do their basic operations in a good ol' stand-by operating system.

    tl;dr color me skeptical

  4. All those laptops that are pre-loaded with Linux? Yeah, their owners just take 'em home and put an illegal version of Windows on them. That does not support an assumption of greater market share. Internet use, in my opinion, tells the usage story. The incentives to avoid paying for something that you don't have taint the other evidence in my opinion.

    Even the people who are "splitting their vote" are doing it because there is something specific they can do on Linux (likely) but they then do their basic operations in a good ol' stand-by operating system.

    tl;dr color me skeptical

    • Uh…no we don't. I have two ZaReason laptops, and my brother has one. Mine run Kubuntu, and his runs Ubuntu. My friends Rich and Jono have ZaReason laptops running Kubuntu and Ubuntu respectively. I know at least 5 people with System76 machines running their original OS (Ubuntu). The OLPC users I know have the Fedora+Sugar combination (either the original or development version) installed. My friend who has an EeePC did reinstall the OS to get rid of Xandros, but she replaced it with Ubuntu.

      System76 and ZaReason make high-quality hardware. Not having Windows isn't saving money since instead of getting Dell's junk full of exploding oozing capacitors and dying motherboards you get hardware that's built to last and darned good customer service.

    • Most of the dual-booters I know keep Windows around for gaming. You either use it and keep Windows around reluctantly for a few bits of software, you install Linux on a whim because your geek friend talked you into it and never use it, or you don't dual-boot. As for netbooks, there's a lot more interest in removing Windows from them and getting Linux in than vice-versa – and there's a whole distro built on the concept (Jolicloud). Cracked Windows doesn't even run on many Linux-native netbooks.

  5. Linux will catch on once the whole Linux community learns that somethings just need to be same. example:
    Its great to have xyz windows manager, but a new user don't care they just want something that works across their application without requiring oh I need to compile what and I need what to compile it.

    Linux GUI applications needs to be able to run across various windows manager…. This should be a basic need for all GUI apps, otherwise Linux will only be know to used by geeks…

    • That's what package management is for. Nothing you can get in a repo is going to require you to compile anything, because all of its dependencies must be met by binary packages also available in repos in order to allow you to install it.

  6. I'm not sure if linux is really mainstream, but at least my whole family uses Ubuntu, hell that's the first OS my mother used, and she really knows her way through it and she's 52 years old. My siblings all suck at computing and hated Vista, I introduced them to Ubuntu and they ditched Vista forever.My older sis has a very old laptop with XP, it was slooow as it can get, until she gave it to me, I installed CCleaner and Auslogics Disk defrag, MS Security essentials and removed all the crap it had, and made it faster. After all of this, I installed Ubuntu next to it (which runs way faster) and she loved it.Linux still has a long way to go in end-user polish department but Ubuntu and some other distros that aim at that demographic are getting there quickly. 10.04 was a great release and 10.10 looks amazing as well.Things will get even better in the future.

    Oh! I almost forgot! Linux is nothing in the States thank's to the monopoly Microsoft has, but it's another story in the rest of the world.

  7. I'm not sure if linux is really mainstream, but at least my whole family uses Ubuntu, hell that's the first OS my mother used, and she really knows her way through it and she's 52 years old. My siblings all suck at computing and hated Vista, I introduced them to Ubuntu and they ditched Vista forever.My older sis has a very old laptop with XP, it was slooow as it can get, until she gave it to me, I installed CCleaner and Auslogics Disk defrag, MS Security essentials and removed all the crap it had, and made it faster. After all of this, I installed Ubuntu next to it (which runs way faster) and she loved it.Linux still has a long way to go in end-user polish department but Ubuntu and some other distros that aim at that demographic are getting there quickly. 10.04 was a great release and 10.10 looks amazing as well.Things will get even better in the future.

    Oh! I almost forgot! Linux is nothing in the States thank's to the monopoly Microsoft has, but it's another story in the rest of the world.

  8. Well, speaking from Europe (Spain) I have to tell than Linux, in its more friendly versions (Ubuntu, etc.) its getting mainstream. A lot of people is using it because is easy and safe. Nowadays is rare to have a problem with drivers or anything else, or are such small problems that even me (no geek, no IT) can solve them.

    • Interesting that you said ” Linux, in its more friendly versions (Ubuntu, etc.) its getting mainstream.” If I understand you correctly, you are saying that a well designed UI with all the geekery removed makes for a better user experience? When I can go down to the local electronics store, buy a printer/DSLR/video camera that works out of the box with any given Linux installation then we can start talking about Linux becoming mainstream.

    • Interesting that you said " Linux, in its more friendly versions (Ubuntu, etc.) its getting mainstream." If I understand you correctly, you are saying that a well designed UI with all the geekery removed makes for a better user experience? When I can go down to the local electronics store, buy a printer/DSLR/video camera that works out of the box with any given Linux installation then we can start talking about Linux becoming mainstream.

    • Interesting that you said " Linux, in its more friendly versions (Ubuntu, etc.) its getting mainstream." If I understand you correctly, you are saying that a well designed UI with all the geekery removed makes for a better user experience? When I can go down to the local electronics store, buy a printer/DSLR/video camera that works out of the box with any given Linux installation then we can start talking about Linux becoming mainstream.

      • Why with any given installation? You seriously require a printer/camera to be compatible with the GNU/Linux installation on your geek friend's router / toaster / robot experiment in order for Linux to be mainstream?

        At the moment, it is just as likely that this printer/camera will be compatible with the most popular GNU/Linux distribution — Ubuntu 10.04 — as it is that it will be compatible with the most popular proprietary distribution — Windows XP. The difference is just that with Windows you typically have to install a bunch of drivers to get it to work, while on Ubuntu they're typically included.

      • So you expect hardware manufacturers to ensure compatibility with every major distro before linux is "mainstream"? If there were 150 different builds of Windows I bet you most hardware would work out of the box with around 5. I'll say it again, if you want convenience, run a mainstream distro. If you want to run Gentoo or something, don't bitch that you have to work to get things to cooperate with it – that's what you signed on for.

        • But there are NOT 150 builds of Windows or OS X. Just Linux. And that is why I dispute the position that Linux is becoming mainstream. Perhaps the article should have been "Ubuntu becoming mainstream among Linux users".

        • But there are NOT 150 builds of Windows or OS X. Just Linux. And that is why I dispute the position that Linux is becoming mainstream. Perhaps the article should have been "Ubuntu becoming mainstream among Linux users".

  9. I’ve been using Ubuntu Linux for about five years now. Four years exclusively. So I was lucky enough to skip the Vista disaster.
    About the only thing that won’t run on it is a virus. It does everything I need and it does it fast. More bling than I care for. My computer works the way I want it to work and I don’t work the way my computer wants me to anymore. Upgrades are twice a year and free. Not every five years and costly. Updates are regular, almost daily, also for software. No endless rebooting. Bugs are detected and taken care of in at most days, often within hours. Not every month. No crashes anymore. Easy to operate. Friendly and helpful community. Configurable in the extreme.
    There is no way I will ever go back to Windows. I can vividly remember the hours of frustration and all the lost time.
    Is it perfect? No. No OS is. Do you have to learn its ways? Yes. It’s easy and simple and logical. Didn’t you have to learn Windows? Only if you insist doing things the Window way on a Linux box are you in for trouble.
    So, you can tell me all you want. I know, because I’ve lived with it for five years, that Linux is a secure, easy, pliable and reliable OS. For me it has been mainstream for years.

    • I've used Windows, Linux and Mac. In fact, I use those OSes every day. Windows at work to get work done. Linux as a server — not a desktop — OS. And then I come home to use Macs. I've got years of experience with those OS in addition to AIX and other *NIX. The worst one from a user experience perspective has been Linux.

      What I keep hearing from people is that "it's free" (as in free beet).

      Makes me wonder why people keeping paying for Windows and OS X if — as the Linux desktop booster swant us to believe — Linux is just as easy and capable?

      • First of all: I don't want you to believe anything. I couldn't care less what you believe. As far as I am concerned you can use an Atari. I only related my experiences and they are other than yours.

        Why people keep paying for Windows? To begin with, a lot of them, like me, don't anymore. Then, for some change is something they fear. Or they don't want to learn something new. Or they believe the FUD that Microsoft is spreading.

        User experience: From Win 1.1 until XP SP2 all versions of Windows were buggy, prone to crashing and generally a pain to work with. XP SP2 almost reconciled me with Windows. The simple truth is that Ubuntu Linux (and several other distributions – but Ubuntu is the one I have experience with) works better for me, is far more stable, easier and more configurable.

        And yes "free" is a factor if you take into account that I have paid a small fortune for Win 1.0, Win 2.0, Win 2.1, Win 3.0, Win 3.1, Win 95, Win 98, Win 98 SE, (luckily skipped that awful disaster Millenium), Win NT & Win XP. They all were awful.

        I have no experience with the Mac. But I've seen a few and they're very nice to look at, the interface is beautiful and they seem very intuitive. Ubuntu could pick up quite a few tips from OS X. It is also very stable, because it is based on BSD, another *nix. What I don't like is that they're even more restrictive than Windows. they're also overpriced. But, hey, for some that is no factor and I can understand what could make them attractive to some.

        You can talk until the cows come home. My experience is that for the first time I am master of my computer and equally for the first time it is a joy to work with and to get work done fast.

        Your millage may vary, of course. Please by all means keep paying Microsoft. And take care, I hear there is a nasty virus on the prowl. Not that I care: it doesn't affect me.

        • "Why people keep paying for Windows? To begin with, a lot of them, like me, don't anymore."

          Given that we are discussing Linux market share here, and we have a "guesstimate" that it's under 10%, then what do you mean by "a lot of them, like me, don't anymore?" That still leaves Microsoft with over 80% of the desktop operating system market.

          By the way, I mentioned I use all three on a regular basis. I've used Windows since 1.0, Linux since 1995, and Mac OS X since 2005. I know my way around a Linux box, can compile my own kernel etc. So I think I can talk with some authority when I say that from my experience Linux has the worst over user experience. I'm not saying it's unusable. Just not the best experience when compared to the other.

          And if your claim is that people are stuck using Windows because they are afraid or unwilling to learn something new then that just proves the point that Linux is NOT becoming mainstream.

        • Coming from 1%, 10% is a huge difference. It's estimated that there are between 900 million and one billion personal computers in the world right now, so 10% qualifies as a lot, a lot, a lot of people.

          Microsoft may still have 80% of the market for now. That may change. What is your point? There was a time they had 99 % of the market.

          As I already said: you can talk until the cows come home. Linux has a lot of standard features I couldn't live without anymore. E.g. the multiple desktops, which give me actually four or more virtual monitors. I occasionally use a Windows box when I'm at a friend's place, and I'm always confirmed in my opinion. Never again am I going back to Windows. You're entitled to your opinion and so am I.

          Your last point is nonsense. I said "some" people. And even those may change their opinion. A lot of them already have. But like I said: if you're happy with Windows and paying for additional programs and having to look for yourself for updates instead of having them delivered to you (OS + software) by one neat Package Manager and only having one desktop and paying for the occasional almost unusable version like Millennium or Vista, etc., etc., by all means stay with it. I simply don't care. I know what I know and I experience it daily. There simply is nothing you can say that can change my experience.

        • But again you go over to an argument about why Linux is better for you. Ok. Great, you made a great choice for you. But … how does that relate to the trend about Linux becoming mainstream? There is no one operating system that is the best choice for everyone. I know how to use three very well.

          But I want to see some actual number and some real research to back up the assertions that Linux is becoming mainstream or that a lot of people are starting to use it.

          "For me it has been mainstream for years" does not mean it's mainstream for others.

        • OK. A lot depends on what you call mainstream. You seemed to argue ("That still leaves Microsoft with over 80% of the desktop operating system market") that only the biggest is mainstream.

          My point is that enough people use Linux to call it mainstream.

          Google seems to like it. France's Gendarmerie Nationale, the country's national police force, says it has saved millions of dollars by migrating its desktop software infrastructure away from Microsoft Windows and replacing it with the Ubuntu Linux distribution.

          You know as well as I do (or you should) that it is impossible to get accurate figures. It will always be guesswork in part. However, trends seem to indicate that Windows has lost users, the Mac has gained some and Linux has gained some as well. While the market used to be 99%-95% Windows ten years ago, it is now probably more 80% Windows, 10% Mac, 10 % Linux (mainly thanks to Ubuntu and its many derivatives — actually thanks to Debian as well). Nothing indicates that this trend is stopping, much less that it is reversing.

          So, when will you call an OS mainstream? When it reaches 20%? Or more than 50%? It all depends. A further point I wanted to make was, as you point out, that it doesn't matter all that much if it works for you.

          It is however a fact that at this moment enough people are using Linux for their daily computing needs to call it mainstream. I agree with the author: "A minority, yes, but a mainstream minority."

        • It’s definitely mainstream. At a local folk festival last year the Ubuntu LoCo Team for my area had a booth. We had tons of people come up and tell us either A) that they use Ubuntu or B) that someone in their family uses Ubuntu. And when I say “tons” I mean over 1/4 of the people who came by our booth which was in the most heavily-trafficked part of the festival.

        • It's definitely mainstream. At a local folk festival last year the Ubuntu LoCo Team for my area had a booth. We had tons of people come up and tell us either A) that they use Ubuntu or B) that someone in their family uses Ubuntu. And when I say "tons" I mean over 1/4 of the people who came by our booth which was in the most heavily-trafficked part of the festival.

        • Not to mention that the vast majority of people have never paid out of pocket for Windows – it was either bundled with a bevy of other crap on their machine or they pirated it (or a crappy crippleware version was bundled but they run a pirated corporate version). When your hardware manufacturer gives you a choice between "Windows" and "Windows with extra stuff" because Microsoft gave them steep discounts for offering no other options, of course you "buy" Windows. If you're building from scratch chances are you pirate. I've actually only met a handful of people in my life that walked into a store and purchased a copy of Windows off the shelf; I know they exist, but I doubt there are many of them in household use – especially from the lower-middle class down.

        • Windows at the office to get work done. Why? Because that is why my employer supports. A Linux desktop at work will not run the enterprise apps that we use and will not be supported by our desktop support vendor.

          Linux (etc) on the sever to support security log analysis and network forensics.

          Mac at home so that I can actually work with a computer that does not require constant tweaking, updating, etc.

      • "The worst one from a user experience perspective has been Linux."

        I really would like you to clarify this. What exactly is worse in the user experience in which Linux distribution?

  10. I've been using Ubuntu Linux for about five years now. Four years exclusively. So I was lucky enough to skip the Vista disaster.
    About the only thing that won't run on it is a virus. It does everything I need and it does it fast. More bling than I care for. My computer works the way I want it to work and I don't work the way my computer wants me to anymore. Upgrades are twice a year and free. Not every five years and costly. Updates are regular, almost daily, also for software. No endless rebooting. Bugs are detected and taken care of in at most days, often within hours. Not every month. No crashes anymore. Easy to operate. Friendly and helpful community. Configurable in the extreme.
    There is no way I will ever go back to Windows. I can vividly remember the hours of frustration and all the lost time.
    Is it perfect? No. No OS is. Do you have to learn its ways? Yes. It's easy and simple and logical. Didn't you have to learn Windows? Only if you insist doing things the Window way on a Linux box are you in for trouble.
    So, you can tell me all you want. I know, because I've lived with it for five years, that Linux is a secure, easy, pliable and reliable OS. For me it has been mainstream for years.

  11. "This number doesn’t include people who bought a windows machine and then reformatted and installed Linux on it."

    Why would they do this? Surely it'd be cheaper to BUY a Linux laptop and put an old copy of Windows on it, which comes with every Windows PC (which most people will have bought at least one of in their lives).

    Which then brings DOWN the 6% figure, maybe to 1%?

    • I have done this with a discount desktop PC a year ago. It came with Win7, but the price was very good for the value. Win was probably paid for by all the extra programs and offers that were installed with it.

      That's why people do it. So, no go.

    • I have done this with a discount desktop PC a year ago. It came with Win7, but the price was very good for the value. Win was probably paid for by all the extra programs and offers that were installed with it.

      That's why people do it. So, no go.

      • While I'm not doubting it happens sometimes in the geekosphere, in mainstream consumer culture, people hawk for the best deals almost religiously. So if they see a cheap laptop with an OS they do not use (Linux), but have a disk that can easily install their commonly-used OS (Windows) onto it in a matter of clicks, this is far more likely than a casual Windows computer user suddenly wanting to use Linux and going to the effort of learning to use a whole new OS. If they just see a good-value Windows machine, as you did, Linux won't even come into the equation, since they are happy to carry on using what they've always used.

        I only said this because it's what happened with my mother – we, back when we only had one family computer, always used Windows, so when me and my sister got laptops and the family desktop finally packed in, she had to get a new computer. She's not especially keen on dumping a load of money for something she didn't use religiously, so just got a cheap Linux netbook. When she got confused by that, she said "Is there a way to put Windows back on it?" – that's the reality; Windows is the norm for most computer users and most find it easiest using what they know. The cost of a Linux machine is attractive but they soon switch back if they aren't inclined (as geeks often are) to forge ahead with a new OS.

        • No, that's your reality. And it's understandable. There is always resistance to learn new things.

          I did exactly the reverse: a Windows machine was the more attractive deal for the specs it offered. Plugged the thing in, reformatted the hard drive and put Linux on it.

          But I'm not surprised that your mother wants something familiar, certainly if, like you said, she's only a casual user.

          However, I want more from my computer. I want it to do a lot of things fast, easy and dependable. I like a bit of bling. I want to be master of my machine and not have it tell me how I should do things. I don't want all the hassle of Windows, its vulnerability to viruses and its insecurity.

          I can hardly describe myself as a geek, but I am willing to learn a few things, especially with the help of a friendly community.

          After the first of the now five years that I use Linux, every time I had to use a Windows machine, I found it difficult, unresponsive and clunky. I will admit that is partly because that's the reality and partly because I am used to the Linux way of computing. Just like Windows users are used to that way of doing things.

          The reality is that Linux has left the geek-sphere and a lot of people are changing. Like I said: I bought a Windows machine, so Microsoft will claim me as a sale, though I haven't used Windows for five years. Which makes figures hard to come by and difficult to evaluate.

        • I know YOU want more from your computer, and so do a lot of geeks. However, geeks do NOT compromise the mainstream.

          So while, let's say, 75% of geeks buy a Windows machine and put Linux on it, that 75% is only a part of 5% of the computer-using population. That means only 3.75% of the total computer population buy a Windows machine and put Linux on it.

          However, let's say 75% of the mainstream that buy computers end up simply wanting familiarity and end up either ditching the Linux computer entirely and buying another Windows, or putting Windows onto their cheaper Linux computer, that's still pretty much 75% of the total computer-using population doing so.

          Understand now? I'm not talking about geeks here.

        • PS – When I say "geek", I don't mean the sysadmin-style geek with servers in their basement who build their own computers, I just mean the sort of people who are commenting on here. Believe it or not, most people (as in over 50%) do not ever comment on articles online – I read a study saying as much recently. THAT'S the sort of casual computer-using mainstream I'm talking about.

    • I bought a Mac and installed GNU/Linux on it after I was fed up with OS X. The previous laptop I bought had Windows on it before I reformatted. And often the price of a laptop with Windows on it will be lower than one without, because of the deals MicroSoft makes with hardware manufacturers.

      • Yes, but not as cheap as Linux. Think about the logic..

        Linux machine price = Hardware + Production costs
        Windows machine price = Hardware + Production costs + OS (even if it is discounted)

        So a machine with Linux on will always be cheaper than the same machine with Windows on.

      • Yes, but not as cheap as Linux. Think about the logic..

        Linux machine price = Hardware + Production costs
        Windows machine price = Hardware + Production costs + OS (even if it is discounted)

        So a machine with Linux on will always be cheaper than the same machine with Windows on.

        • You forgot to subtract out all of the money the OEMs get for installing trialware on the Windows systems. All that junk that comes installed when you buy a machine with Windows? That cuts out a lot of the price. They don't have trialware to put on the Linux machines to try to sell you, so they don't get the $100 or whatever it is per machine from external software companies that they get for the Windows machines, leading them to pass the lack of savings on to you, the consumer.

          Dell often also has special sales on certain hardware but only on the Windows version of a specific model.

        • This may be the only point that is valid in the whole of this thread. However, the main point still overrides it:

          However cheap it is, however less-bloaty it is, the mainstream public prefer Windows because it's familiar. The mainstream public do not even understand why their computers run slow and assume it'll be like that whatever the operating system, and so stick to Windows. Or simply don't care that it runs slow, because they prefer Windows. You may not like it, and it runs against your geeky sensibilities, but the mainstream public don't have these sensibilities and it's a bit egocentric (I mean that in the psychological bias way, not the arrogance way) to think that they do.

    • To all those that replied to my original comment, think about it like this: This is a website read by geeks and geeks tend to like Linux, so I don’t doubt your stories.So while I’m not doubting it happens sometimes in the geekosphere, in mainstream consumer culture, people hawk for the best deals almost religiously. So if they see a cheap laptop with an OS they do not use (Linux), but have a disk that can easily install their commonly-used OS (Windows) onto it in a matter of clicks, this is far more likely than a casual Windows computer user suddenly wanting to use Linux and going to the effort of learning to use a whole new OS.

      I only said this because it’s what happened with my mother – we, back when we only had one family computer, always used Windows, so when me and my sister got laptops and the family desktop finally packed in, she had to get a new computer. She’s not especially keen on dumping a load of money for something she didn’t use religiously, so just got a cheap Linux netbook. When she got confused by that, she said “Is there a way to put Windows back on it?” – that’s the reality; Windows is the norm for most computer users and most find it easiest using what they know. The cost of a Linux machine is attractive but they soon switch back if they aren’t inclined (as geeks often are) to forge ahead with a new OS.

    • To all those that replied to my original comment, think about it like this: This is a website read by geeks and geeks tend to like Linux, so I don't doubt your stories.So while I'm not doubting it happens sometimes in the geekosphere, in mainstream consumer culture, people hawk for the best deals almost religiously. So if they see a cheap laptop with an OS they do not use (Linux), but have a disk that can easily install their commonly-used OS (Windows) onto it in a matter of clicks, this is far more likely than a casual Windows computer user suddenly wanting to use Linux and going to the effort of learning to use a whole new OS.

      I only said this because it's what happened with my mother – we, back when we only had one family computer, always used Windows, so when me and my sister got laptops and the family desktop finally packed in, she had to get a new computer. She's not especially keen on dumping a load of money for something she didn't use religiously, so just got a cheap Linux netbook. When she got confused by that, she said "Is there a way to put Windows back on it?" – that's the reality; Windows is the norm for most computer users and most find it easiest using what they know. The cost of a Linux machine is attractive but they soon switch back if they aren't inclined (as geeks often are) to forge ahead with a new OS.

  12. I like Linux, but the conclusion that Linux has market share similar to OSX does not hold water. Acer, HP. Dell know how many Linux boxes they sell. If the market share of such boxes approached that of OSX we would be inundated with ads for Linux PCs. Doesn’t ring true.

    • First thing I do on every laptop and netbook I buy is rip out Windows and install Linux. Why? I use Tablet PCs. They *never* come with a Linux option (though for the past year tablet and touch support has been working out of the box, with multitouch support around the corner in Ubuntu 10.10). Netbooks do if you are willing to buy specific brands, but I happen to like Acer netbooks which don't offer a Linux option.

  13. I like Linux, but the conclusion that Linux has market share similar to OSX does not hold water. Acer, HP. Dell know how many Linux boxes they sell. If the market share of such boxes approached that of OSX we would be inundated with ads for Linux PCs. Doesn't ring true.

  14. That's not even accounting for the millions of android phones running Linux, the huge number of embedded Linux devices, the vast majority of the machines *serving* the websites. Yeah that's not "desktop" usage but fact is Microsoft's so-called dominance is a much smaller slice of the pie than their marketing people would like you to believe whilst pitching their crap software to the clueless executives who will foist it on your IT departments ;)

    As for me, I run Linux exclusively. I'm typing right now on a nice HP TouchSmart with a fully functional multitouch screen in Ubuntu (waiting for the software to make use of it, but the hardware + drivers work great). My desktop machines all run Linux, my wife's netbook runs Linux. My web servers run Linux. Hell, my Nook runs Linux (Android). About the only thing in my house that isn't running some kind of Linux is my XBOX 360 and, believe me, it would if it could.

    • This is a discussion around Linux desktop being mainstream. Server and embedded Linux are not part of this.

  15. As much as I love the idea the Linux is more popular.
    I wished the 6% or similar to OSX share claim would be supported by some evidence.
    If some websites have a biased user base, can't we take -say- Google which everybody uses? What are their statistics?

    • They will most likely use the very same web browser stats this article dismissed to prove their case. They are too busy defening their OS choice to even debate the issue at hand – whether or not their is factual (not anecdotal) evidence to support the claim that Linux is mainstream.

    • Google could probably work in certain regions, but it's by far not the most popular search engine in, say, China. Baidu is the most popular there, and Linux systems are common.

      • Good point about the browser usage differences across countries. Your point also reinforces his point about the data being biased based on the type of user visiting a site.

  16. FTA: "This 1% number comes primarily from usage shares detected by web browsers."

    So we're not talking about market share in this case – we're talking about people who actually use Linux on a regular basis, thus my point: Linux market share might be rising, but a lot of non-geeks just switch it back to the OS they've always used: Windows.

    • Or about people who bother to actually visit the webpage rather than use their RSS reader… I only visit blogs' homepages when I'm commenting.

      RSS feeds are commonly used by geeks, but I don't know any nontechnical people who know what that orange symbol is.

      And the percentages vary widely from site to site. I linked above to where someone shows a graph for an adventure sports website's visitor stats, and Linux is at 15%. I'd find sites unrelated to technology to be the most-telling since each tech site will have its own bias in terms of visitors.

      Hmm I wonder what a lot of sites do about the "other UNIX" category? Some Linux browsers get counted into there instead of into Linux (depending on the browser and distro, the User Agent String varies), and KDE browsers (Konqueror, Rekonq, Arora) are often counted as Safari on OSX.

    • Once again, the mainstream do not use RSS readers. We aren't all like this. I'm guessing the majority of people do not even know what RSS is, much less use an RSS reader. Is it really that hard to understand that the majority of computer users aren't like us?

      They like Windows. You may not like it, but it's the state of the computer-buying mainstream public. While they might try out a cheap deal, and some may stick to it, most people will prefer going back to what they've always used.

    • Nevermind, I read your comment wrong. However, just because you read ARTICLE SITES using your RSS reader does not mean you never use a browser. Therefore your stats should still have been picked up, as should the masses of Linux users that apparently exist, according to you.

  17. I bought a ASUS 1005PE. I was surprised to find that it has two Power On buttons.

    The left one starts a simplied Linux fast boot option called Splashtop.

    Just enough to run a browser (Mozilla) and a few other web apps.

    And yes, the WiFi driver works just great as I often use this option in Starbucks as it takes 7 seconds (instead of 7 minutes) to load and I can be browsing faster!
    http://www.splashtop.com/

    So that means you have to include probably every ASUS netbook sold that has that option…which means, a lot since netbooks probably outsell desktops at this point.