I have been tracking Linux market share as a desktop operating system for a while and included a fixed graphic on this site. I used the numbers of NetMarketShare for the purpose but had two issues: I asked NetMarketShare twice whether it was ok to show their information on this site with a link and full mention to them but never heard back from them. The other issue was that their figures were jumping up and down too radically. According to their figures Linux reached an impressive world wide market share of 3.61% in June of this year but has since gone down to 1.47% a drop of about 60%. Some people tried to explain the movement with the current pandemic but I am having a hard time digesting these numbers. Something in the methodology seems off to me.
I have decided to switch to Statcounter Globalstats where figures seem more stable. Their Creative Commons license also allows us to share their data without prior authorization.
Here’s the current state of affairs for desktop operating systems:
More interesting, however, is taking a look at how things have developed over the past 10 Years. Keep in mind we’re only talking about market share for desktop operating systems. This includes laptops, of course, but no tablets or phones unless they’re running on one of the full operating systems we’re looking at here.
Windows is the obvious loser while OS X is the big winner having more than tripled it’s market share. Linux was rising at a noticeable pace until 2015 and has been largely stagnant since. In the mean time Chrome OS has been rising slowly but steadily reaching a similar market share as Linux.
What does that tell us? Has Linux reached it’s maximum potential? Will it ever be more than just an enthusiasts’ operating system? The recent rise in the number of systems offering Linux as the pre installed operating system gives a glimpse of hope that momentum is picking up again. The biggest issue with Linux is obviously fragmentation and it has only gotten more in recent years. It is both what makes Linux so interesting but at the same time difficult for new adopters to get their head around. If you ask 10 Linux users what distro they would recommend, you would likely get more than 10 different answers. Ubuntu was the natural choice for a long time but some controversial decisions like going with Unity and Mir weakened their position. They pioneered easy installation and ease of use which both have since been true for so many of the distros available today.
You can nowadays buy laptops with a huge variety of Linux systems preinstalled:
- DELL XPS series with Ubuntu
- Lenovo Thinkpads with Fedora or Ubuntu
- System76 laptops with their own Ubuntu based Pop!_Os
- Star Labs laptops with your pick of Ubuntu, Elementary, Mint, MX-Linux or Zorin OS
- TUXEDO laptops with a choice of Ubuntu, openSUSE (Gnome/KDE/XFCE) or Manjaro (KDE/XFCE)
- Pinebook Pro with Manjaro KDE
Ubuntu had very bold plans which if they had been successful might have pushed Linux adoption to a much larger crowd. A lot of effort was put into Unity 8 with it’s full convergence. One Ubuntu that would run on a desktop, on a tablet and on a phone. Sadly they failed to pull it off. Even the much more powerful Microsoft failed at the same attempt. Canonical has since retreated into a more conservative space, focusing more on profitability. One cannot blame them. They really tried but it seems their charismatic leader Mark Shuttleworth is no longer pushing new ideas as he used to.
Despite the stagnating adoption numbers and the increased fragmentation there is no doubt that Linux as a desktop operating system has gotten better and better. The amount of polish and stability of many of the distros out there today has become impressive. So, for us Linux fans, we’re getting our fix and although we constantly try to introduce others to it, most of us are probably happy to be part of a small exclusive club.
What are your thoughts? Would you rather see Linux reach a much bigger audience or do you prefer to see it stay in it’s niche. Let us know in the comments section below.