Is Linux-on-the-desktop already mainstream?

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?