Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The extremes of Linux market share

Net Applications's service NetMarketShare tracks browser and operating system market share for several of the most popular websites. The statistics are generated by analyzing data obtained from clients accessing the websites and finding patterns in the data that reveal the client OS. The current data is available here.

The Linux market share of 1.02% looks rather depressing compared to Microsoft's big blue 92% chunk of the cake.

However, there is an important part of the story that the statistics does not show. Which OS is the website host running? Which OS are the computers responsible for transferring the data to the client (routers) running? Most often the answer to these questions will be Linux. The fact is that most of us use Linux, every day! We just don't know about it.

To further add to the argument, many tasks that traditionally were performed with desktop applications is now increasingly performed with online applications. Google's suite of applications such as GMail, Docs, Calender etc. along with other web services such as YouTube, Hulu and last.fm are gradually replacing the desktop OS. On top of that we have "web-enabled" applications like Facebook and Twitter not previously found on the desktop. Increasingly the desktop OS is a platform for running a browser, be it IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari or Opera. The rest takes place online. This technology trend manifests itself clearly in Google Chrome OS: Google's idea of a pure cloud based operating system. In such an OS what happens on the desktop makes little contribution to the user experience. When we are talking about OS market share wouldn't it make sense to also look at which systems actually contribute to the user experience and what OS they are running?

Jim Zemlin, the executive director of The Linux Foundation, answers the question of who is using Linux.

"I am not joking or trying to be trite, but the answer to this question is: every single person in the modern world every day. Everyone who searches Google, picks up a phone and uses telecommunication infrastructure, watches a new televisions, use a new camera, makes a call on many modern cell phones, trades a stock on a major exchange, watches a weather forecast generated on a supercomputer, logs into Facebook, navigates via air traffic control systems, buys a netbook computer, checks out at a cash register, withdraws cash at an ATM machine, fires up a quick-boot desktop (even those with Windows), or uses one of many medical devices; the list goes on and on."

1.02%? No way!

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