27 Mar 2012

Is There any Hope For Desktop Linux?

This article on operating system technologies is written by Paul Barrett, a web developer for www.bathroomrenovationsperth.net, a business helping people find bathroom design in Perth and other bathroom related needs.
The opinion is author's own and may be different from blog owner's.

Linux vs Mac vs Windows
Image by KobraSoft
Around 10 years back, like many IT people at the time I decided I would make a switch to using Linux on my desktop. It wasn’t to be any sort of dual-boot venture where I would simply never boot up into Linux and just use Windows; it was to be a full migration to Linux.
So, in an afternoon I managed to install Redhat Linux and eagerly began to use my new operating system. I used KDE as my desktop environment which seemed pretty polished at the time, and then loaded on a series of applications with which to run my business. Eventually, it was the inability of OpenOffice to 100% work with Microsoft Office data that forced me back to Windows but for a while there I was a glorified fully fledged Linux user.

Current Market Share of Linux on the Desktop

Presently, according to research done by the main search engines, the main operating system in use by far is Windows (at over 90%). Linux has hovered at around 1% of desktops for a number of years now and this does not look set to change. There are some reasons for this.

Why is the share so low?

What many of us may not know is how widespread Linux is in all the other areas of everyday life. A very large percentage of mobile devices run on Linux. GPS systems, DVD and Blu-Ray players, eBook Readers, and all manner of consumer electronics use Linux at their core. In these markets it is actually Windows that operates in the 1% share, and Linux in shares of around 90% for some things.
Chances are, the hosting computer that you are reading this from is running Linux as its operating system.
The problem is not the technical viability of Linux. Nor is the problem the compatibility of applications any more – virtually all compatibility issues have been solved some time ago.
The problem is marketing. The problem is also the business model of Linux. Namely - that there is not one.
We have long been aware of technologies that have lost in the market, despite being better than their competitors, and Linux has fallen into this category for a long time.
The markets where Linux is successful are invisible to the consumer. It is not unreasonable to say that nearly everyone uses Linux, every day, without knowing. Linux has never received the credit for the work it has done.
So, like a loud and bossy sibling, Microsoft will continue to dominate the minds of the market and ability to access their purse strings.
Perhaps one day we will see some hope for Linux, but there is probably still no chance for this until we see some real marketing efforts. And the business model ensures that we never will.


  1. I've always wondered where (or more accurately, when...) this figure of 1% comes from

    Look at the stats of any general purpose site, and it's more like 4-5%

    Case in point

    1. @Anonymous,

      The website that you list answers the question that you ask.

      If you scroll down the page you list you will see a breakdown of the 4.90% listed for Linux.

      3.36 % share goes to 'Linux Android', which means that all other Linux must make up 1.54%. Some of those other Linux numbers may be embedded systems like set top boxes and chumbies.

      But the page that you link to does show the 1 -2 % for desktop Linux that most other sites agree with.

      Thanks for the link, it is very informative.

  2. Desktop will stay in the enterprise area as is but will shrink a lot in the consumer area, already dominated by Linux(partly Android) and iOS. So it's not Linux that isn't getting into the party, it's the Desktop that is on its way out.

    The Desktop is about to became an enterprise commodity just as the server, and *THEN* Linux will have its chance! :)

  3. Sorry, but you deliberately mislead and brainwash readers. You are from Europe, and know very well the wide and true margins of Linux desktop adoption.

    1. First, this is a guest post - see the top of the article.
      Second, why do you assume the author of guest post is from Europe?
      Third, I still don't get your point. Why do you think Europe is anyhow different from USA or Australia?

  4. 1 - Microsoft will continue to dominate the minds of the market

    I don't think so.
    Having asked questions for a few years, no one cares a s*t if it's win or lin.
    And anyway, judging by the answers, I think that half of them don't have a mind anyway.
    You can't dominate something that's absent

    2 - ability to access their purse strings

    Hmm, with 90% pirated copies around at $5 a copy for win7, I wonders if any one feels the pull

    This is Asia , my friend, not USA or Europe.
    btw, up to 60% ( and rising )of computers ( any type ) are here sold with DOS as OS, leaving you free to install whatever you want.

    And asking if they like win on mobile, makes them bursting out with laughter.
    It's ipad and android all the way

    No, forget about M$ having a real effect here

  5. There's one thing that escapes me. What is it with all the numbers and all the statistics? Why and since when does Linux need a Desktop market share?

    It is fortunate and all good and dandy that Linux has its place in server rooms but why do we have to market Linux like it's another product from a company? Linux is a totally different beast and we are trying to treat it like it's OSX or Windows.

    What is needed is not a marketing campaign but an education campaign. Show people what Linux is all about and let them make the choice. Show them that Linux is as bit as easy (and in some cases even easier) than OSX and Linux and get them off the cool-aids and then you'll see people wanting to make the jump.

    Linux does not belong to a corporation to be marketed and sold to people. Linux is different than that. Call me naive but I'd like to think so. That's why I made the jump from Windows 4 years ago and I'm a happy camper.

    Keep an open mind and help others do so too. Don't serve
    or drink the cool-aids.

    1. Yes, all the talk of market share is a trap of sorts, (forcing the discussions to happen on their terms).

      When Linux is all about freedom, talk of market share clouds the issue. Linux users don't want to be a market, we've opted for freedom instead.

    2. Freedom is part of the markets. (That's why it is called free market). Whatever offers products or services cheap or even at no cost to the consumer (wikipedia, linux etc) is more than welcome and part of the market.

  6. Android is Linux ... so now Linux have 5% market share on browsing the Internet.

    Smartphones and Tablets are PCs (desktops), so why do they not count. Moving forward, tablets are going to be much more pervasive in the desktop market ... and as that happens, Linux will pick up a bigger share of the overall market. (Like it has more than doubled in the last 2 years).

    With Android on smartphones and Kindle Fire, as well as the Linux Tablets that will be out there and will grow, Linux will reach 10% (up from 5% now) very soon.

    Linux is out there, I have been using it effectively on the desktop for 7 years. I do have a KVM version of Windows 7 that I can run if I absolutely have to use something like Excel ... but I use that less and less as time moves on.

  7. I have long since stopped caring whether average joe bloggs from down the street is using Linux. I have seen real progress in the desktop offerings since I first looked at LINUX.

    When I first started like the person who submitted the article I cared whether my OpenOffice documents were compatible with Microsoft Office. Now I just don't care. I never use Microsoft Office outside of work and I hate that ribbon thing thats for sure.

    I don't like the idea of dumbing LINUX down to make it nicer for people to jump across. They have dumbed down Windows so much over the years that it is virtually speak and spell.

    Yes LINUX has moved on. When I first started device drivers were not available for 95% of hardware. Now I can get most hardware working without any effort and connecting to the internet is incredibly easy. (I know this contradicts my idea about dumbing down but somethings are useful out of the box, some things aren't).

    Talking of things out of the box what is the necessity of including OpenOffice and/or LibreOffice with nearly all the distributions. Google Docs works great for most home tasks so why not make the distros lighter to start with to make them quicker to download and then let people decide which office suite to download.

    I look at LINUX today and Windows today and LINUX is by far the more intuitive operating system (Ok, I know in its own right LINUX is not the operating system but you know what I mean).

    You might have noticed that I have ignored the other lot. I can't bare to mention their name. As my nan says "all skirt and no knickers" and for those who do not know what that means "all bells and whistles without any real underlying substance".

    I would definitely try out more distros if they were smaller in size. I cannot be bother downloading another 700 - 800 mb to get another variation on UBUNTU/DEBIAN/MINT which has the same office suites and tools but a slight variation on themes.

  8. Exclusively Linux desktop for 12 years.

    But that's just my 5 systems. I might be the entire 1%.

  9. As another commenter already pointed out, some people seem to forget that Linux is not a product which dies if it doesn't grab the attention of the masses.
    It's a community effort.

    1. Well said, linux is not a product.

    2. Damn right! Linux is a religion. And Linus is our Jesus. And no amount of facts will change how we think. Lying for Jesus FTW!

    3. I finded a wintroll :-)

    4. "Lying for Jesus FTW!"

      Yes, because a person continuing to use Linux even though it's a niche means that person is lying.

  10. The reason that there is no marketing behind Linux is because it does not need it and can not afford it. If profit is not the motive what is the need for marketing? Linux developers measure success not in terms of the number of dollars, but the number of problems they can solve and the number of beneficiaries.

    Sure while a success in the desktop may make Linux users lives easier, it is not why Linux users use Linux. They use it because it works for them. Just because the majority of people feel that desktop presence is the metric that should be used, does not mean I would regard that Linux, a system that works best for me, as having failed.

  11. Proliferation through education. The year before last, it was OLPC. What will be a game changer this year? Probably the Raspberry Pi. Apt name, don't you think?

  12. I think most of these "market-share" discussions whittle down to this; are you a CONSUMER or not? I personally do NOT consider myself a typical consumer. True that I purchased hardware, but I bought computers fully intending to erase their software and replace it.

    Most people are *consumers*. They only want an appliance, and are willing to pay for it. Consumers will always consider software as "the device", because they PAID for it (and are incapable of replacing or repairing it).

    How might these market-share discussions pan out if completely divorced from the idea of monetary exchange? That's what FOSS means to me, I simply removed a large chunk of monetary loss from my life.

    For a compuer aficionado, there is no market-share.

  13. The Windows UI is going to become less sophisticated as the average user continues to become less sophisticated. Linux will fill the resulting void.

    However, I really don't care if the 1% grows or not.

    1. I do love using Linux, but sometimes I think it would be better for us if it doesn't get popular. The masses will probably just screw it up :-(

  14. I use GNU/Linux - I love it, and like the poster above? I hope it remains an obscurity on the desktop, really. The masses do mess things up. Besides, Linux dominates web, mail and datacenters - and that's where it really matters. I could care less how Linux rates on the desktop compared to those "other" OS's. Doesn't matter to me in the least, I love my Linux freedom... and I like being different... :) Walking to the same beat as everyone else is a REAL DRAG...

  15. Hi, OP here.

    Here's a cite for the 1% stat for Linux desktops http://www.netmarketshare.com/operating-system-market-share.aspx?qprid=9&qpcustomb=0&qptimeframe=M&qpsp=134&qpnp=25

    This is also backed up on a couple of sites I run, where the desktop Linux percentage is even less, of course the site technology runs on Linux.

    The point of writing this was simply to suggest that everything points to the idea that there won't be a desktop revolution with Linux as I still sometimes hear. I too hoped for it many years ago. Gary Newell and some others summed it up nicely about not caring whether or not Joe Bloggs uses Linux, as well as the fact that Linux doesn't need a desktop market share to survive.

  16. Reading over the years all these musings on "Desktop Linux Market share" and especially funny "This is the year of linux on desktop" I find that responses of linux supporters perfectly match K├╝bler-Ross model. I'm delighted about that. Reason starting to win.

  17. @Gary Newell...
    I like the ribbon bar.

    You gave up on using Linux because of MS Office? Why didn't you run Windows and Office in a VM?

    1. Very good point. I put a Doze VM on my Desktop just in case. Funny thing is I never use it. Don't need to as Open Office is in fact 100% compatible. Some people just can't get away from their Mafiasoft crappy software. I have no clue why.

    2. If you read the post more attentively, you'll notice:
      1) It is a guest post, not written by myself. Disclaimer is at the very top.
      2) OP gave up OOo when he first tried Linux 10 years ago. Thins have changed, haven't they?

  18. I dumped the Mafiasoft Klunk Doze back in 2001 and made it through the years of no drivers etc. Granted it was a bit of work but it was fun and the rewards were incredible speed, stability, radically cookl 3D and just plain fun!

    I agree that Linux on the Desktop is way better off as is with little market share. I also like being one of the smart minority. Everyone who sees my Linux Desktop wants it and so I made my own distro that installs in 3 minutes without requiring any tweaks or even updates!
    It's robolinux.org

    My only issue with Linux on the Desktop today is that Gnome 3 has lost a lot of cool stuff! I used to be an Ubuntu fan until they added that too easy GUI interface. I wish they would ditch it. If not I will have to switch to Debian. To get away from Gnome 3 I have to use an older Ubuntu 10.10 version, which was the last really good Ubuntu running with Gnome 2.

    In closing I love my Linux everything world!
    1. All of my Linux servers
    2. My Android Linux phone
    3. My custom Linux Desktop
    4. My custom Linux distro on my HP laptop.

    My world is 100% WindoZe FREE!!!!!!!!

    I love Linux.


  19. The problem of Window$ desktop dominance will not be solved as long as Redmond has a lock on the PC manufacturers. You can buy a PC here in Bulgaria without any operating system on it, as I recently did. Until you can do that in all the major countries, Linux will be relegated to system-friendly users.
    In order to lock Linux out of the ARM version of Windows 8, Redmond is requiring that no other operating system [spelled "Android"]can be booted on the machine, in order for the manufacturer to obtain "Windows 8 Certification". What an outrage!

  20. Want Linux to become more popular? Do what MS did and make it easier to program for (then, not now). I see to many Noobs asking for advise on what programming language to learn and get hate banged by the Linux C/C++ programmers. I am one of the Noobs, so I know. Command line this and command line that, it's like some medal of honor or something. I have had a Mac for 12 years before I found out it hat a terminal. Apple makes it no fun to program either, object C.....sure, I will jump on that. I finally loaded Windows so I could learn VB. It's free, tons of tuts on the net for it, and just maybe I can jump from there back to Linux.

    As far as loading up Linux for my Mom?......not a chance. I can put up with the @sshole mods and programmers in the forums but I will not put that on my family to deal with. How long do you think it will take for Mom or the SO to launch that netbook/laptop at my head when I tell them to go edit some file with a text editor?

    Yes, Linux has come a long way and that is why I use it now but it is only for the brave at hart and thick skinned. I have seen too many Noobs pick it up and then drop it. I really like Linux but one thing I have observed...........the Linux community is Linux's worst enemy............


  21. The 2 reasons i do not use Linux is because my hardware and software does not work, well not 100% true only 2 software's that i use has linux versions(one of which is planing on dropping it). The second reason is because i have not got time to learn command line to install my software and not all software is on Ubuntu Software Center so you have no choice but to use command line.

    It really is marketing holding it back, just look at android(linux phone os) there is apps/games/tools and no command line what so ever to be used by the user and it has a huge amount of users.

    Linux needs more marketing, get in touch with software developers and make it easier to install software.

    And linux support is a joke they can't even fix 2 of my hardware issues.